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Mind yr openers: Future Islands and Titus Andronicus upstage Okkervil River

Mind yr openers: Future Islands and Titus Andronicus upstage Okkervil River (photo)

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Last night, Okkervil River headlined a sold-out concert at the Cat’s Cradle, the long-time and legendary North Carolina stopover between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The Cat’s Cradle holds just more than 500 people, meaning that any two of the three bands on Wednesday night’s bill–Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus and Future Islands, combining for one of the summer’s biggest indie tours–could have sold out the show just fine. The Cradle appearance was the second of the month-long tour, and excitement was high. After all, Future Islands are a Baltimore band, but they’re actually kids from nearby Raleigh. What’s more, neighboring Durham was one of the first towns outside of New England to fall for Titus Andronicus, back before a big record deal and Pitchfork laurels. This was the kind of show, then, where tickets were sold in parking lots, where long-faced indie kids stood close to the entrance in hopes of someone having a spare. It was also the sort of show where you wondered just what Okkervil River is thinking.

Musically, the bill made no sense from the start: Okkervil River makes finely orchestrated, careful indie folk, led by proudly loquacious frontman Will Sheff. It’s well-rehearsed stuff, with little room for error or improvisation. The set was a carousel of instruments, with members swapping out guitars and positions between songs as though they were playing a public game of hot potato.

But Titus Andronicus makes willfully sloppy music, backing their Springsteen-meets-Danzig rants about life in New Jersey with a shoegazer’s feedback, Sousa-sized melodies and a rhythm section that only acknowledges the difference between loud and louder. Patrick Stickles howls and swears and slurs, sometimes only barely clinging to coherence. At one point, a guitar amplifier started feeding back uncontrollably, but no one cared; they just went for it.

Future Islands is three dudes–a keyboardist who stares at his hands, a bassist who stares straight ahead, and Sam Herring, who sings like a cross between Jack Black, Baby Huey and David Tibet. They make electronic soul with a big, thumping pulse, shaping the perfect frame for Herring’s onstage antics. He dances, growls and slaps himself, pushing the emotional hurt of his electronic songs to a visceral hope. They’re one of the most thrilling bands on the road right now.

So, sonically, it didn’t fit, but there was the hope–or the thought, at least–that the bill might gel on the strength of its respective frontpeople. Sheff, Stickles and Herring are a proud triumvirate of leaders, each at the center of their own universe of sound and story. When Herring sings about the woman whose infidelity became the inspiration for these songs, you get the sense that he’s pondered the situation just as much as Stickles has dissected and analyzed his youth, or as much as Sheff has catalogued and parlayed the neuroses he finds in his orbit. But Sheff came off as precious and stiff, with none of the aplomb, ease or enthusiasm of the bands before him.

Neither Titus Andronicus nor Future Islands had ever headlined the Cat’s Cradle; for them, it was a new treat, a chance to see how they sounded in the big room, how they looked for the large crowd. Honestly, they looked inspiring, two bands doing what they have long done with disregard for the careful nature of their hosts. The crowd expelled more energy for the short opening sets than they did for the long headlining performance. They clapped when Stickles demanded it, went crazy when Herring implied it with a slap to his own face and a dip of the hip to the left or right. For Sheff and his perfectly rehearsed pathos, they listened until they started to leave, the exhaustion of a dance party and a shout-along ostensibly leaving no room for introspection. Nominally, it was Okkervil River’s night; in actuality, you sort of pitied their folly.

So, have you ever gone to a show in hopes of seeing the headliner, only to be stunned by the opener and bored by the time the main act hit the stage? Tell us about it.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…