I’m standing in a near-pitch black venue, surrounded by bodies twitching with anticipation, when for a moment, I hear it:
There’s a silence within the wall of sound, but it’s an audible one. A paradox, I grant you, but anyone who’s ever sought nature as a refuge will know it well: the noise of the world recedes until it is you and the trees. And then nature begins to speak.
It is when I hear it clearly, plucked out from beyond the din, that the solitary light bulbs framing the stage begin to blink, one by one, as Markham band Future History takes the stage to celebrate the physical release of their latest album, Lungs.
The decision to abandon all traditional stage lighting for the isolated illuminations is what is immediately striking about the performance. Setting out by performing the new album from start to finish, the venue is awash in sound – tightly layered guitar, bass and percussion, vocal harmonies as strong as the band has ever delivered – but the darkness remains. It’s a direct challenge to listen, to hear the words of one lost who then finds himself. It’s also a well-played artistic choice: given the album’s “isolated cabin in the woods” creation, it seems only fitting to strip The Garrison just as bare.
Opener “With Haste” quickly wins over first time listeners and those already familiar with the track, each moment building upon the last until the song swells like a storm-borne wave and crashes over the crowd. Like any good tale, it’s the prologue that sets up the journey for the evening — foreboding but not hopeless — and like the greatest books, many already know it line for line. The number of moments where the crowd chimes in and sings along also is striking, particularly for an indie band, and the call and response only seems to feed into the energy on stage. “Take Two” and “A Lie To Bare” resonate with the crowd, although “My Lungs Don’t Feel Right” and the impromptu encouragement to film the performance for a collaborative video (think Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his hitREC●rd approach) is absolutely a high point of the night.
By the time Future History shifts into mini-set of tracks from Loss:/self, the sound is symphonic. I am again in awe of how intricate and rich a sound the band produces live, as well as the scattering of people who will reenact the stomping circles of the recording sessions for set highlight “Surrounded By Faces”. But it’s the one-two punch of “Ornamental State” — our welcome to this two-album journey, now our farewell reflection — and “In This Sleep:/Creatures” that leaves us lulled into a cocoon of chords and chorus. We’re free of the darkness and the toll that society exacts upon us as the lights come on overhead.
Or are we still on that path in the woods, ever hungry?
Future History play a special acoustic set for your senses at 11pm on Friday, May 9th, 2014 at Cameron House. To learn more about the band, visit futurehistory.ca.