By Shannon Carlin
Ask Sam Herring and he’ll tell you his band Future Islands’ first performance on the Late Show with David Letterman was polarizing.
“I mean, some people think it is a joke,” Herring told Radio.com last year when asked about his television debut that introduced most of the world to his dance moves, moves that were old hat for anyone who has ever seen the Baltimore band live in the past nine years. “They’re like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ But that’s a good thing…Art should be polarizing at its best and draw people in different directions.”
Future Islands’ divisiveness may be why David Letterman was such a fan, even attempting to turn Herring’s dance moves into an internet meme of sorts after they performed their song “Seasons (Waiting On You)” last March. Letterman’s brand of comedy has always been polarizing, and it’s what’s made him the late night host that’s had the most influence over the genre. If Johnny Carson is the King of Late Night, than Letterman is late night’s court jester, who would do anything for a laugh.
Letterman led with the same reckless abandon when it came to picking his show’s musical guests. He wasn’t interested in just having the same run-of-the-mill mainstream artists that would play Carson’s Tonight Show, he wanted to invite lesser known acts to play and make musical memories that would last past that one night.
In the age of the Jimmys, Fallon and Kimmel, who seem break bands left and right by giving them their late-night debut, it’s hard to believe that music was not always a late night staple. But in its golden age it was more a haven for up-and-coming comedians, until Letterman made a point to make his show on NBC the place to go for new music.