Local Natives prove they're more than hype

Categories: Concert Review
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photo by: Erik Hess

I'll be the first to acknowledge that on paper there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about Local Natives, both practical (blog buzz bands often fail to live up to the hype generated by web-hot singles), and petty (singer Taylor Rice looks uncomfortably similar to John Oates thanks to a ridiculous mustache).

That being acknowledged, last night's rock solid show before a sold-out crowd at the 400 Bar proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the L.A.-based quintet's three-part harmonies and twitching rhythms are indeed the real deal. With the crowd melting in a collective pool of sweat due to the air conditioning being turned off despite unseasonably warm temperatures, it's a testament to the band's acumen that they were able to hold the entire audience rapt enough that nary a soul was bellying up to the bar for a cold beer during the entirety of their set.


If you're going to headline a sold-out show with only one album to your credit, it certainly helps if it's a gem. As expected the band tore through all dozen cuts off of February's Gorilla Manor, replicating the album's dense percussive play, taut rhythms and gossamer guitar lines with admirable precision even as they dialed-up its rock elements. By this point the band has been playing the songs from Gorilla Manor on the road non-stop for more than a year, plenty of time to turn into a well-oiled machine and torque the tunes for maximum crowd impact by letting Kelcey Ayer go ape-shit on his mini-standing drum kit with regularity and switching out parts played by acoustic guitars on the album for electric six strings.

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photo: Erik Hess

Bands like Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes have made classically tuneful singers an in vogue indie-rock commodity and while Local Natives clearly belong in the "aren't our voices pretty" camp thanks to the combination of co-frontmen Kelcey Ayer and Taylor Rice's impeccable close-huddled harmonies, they bring a welcome manic verve to their vocals their well-mannered contemporaries lack. While much is made of the band's killer three part harmonies (guitarist Ryan Hahn joins Ayer and Rice on nearly every chorus), Rice and Ayer are compelling enough singers by their own rights to carry songs alone (as Ayer prove on a darn near transcendent version of Gorilla Manor standout "Cubism Dream" ¾ of the way through their set).

The only lapses in energy during the band's hour-long set stemmed from a temporary power failure and their still-head-scratching cover of the Talking Heads "Warning Sign" (when your own songs are this good why cover one of David Byrne's most mediocre efforts?). By the time the night closed with a rousing rendition of fan favorite "Sun Hands" - replete with the kind of king-sized extended jamming outro that shows the band already has the rock theatrics necessary to conquer larger venues on lock-down - Local Natves had revealed to all in attendance the fuel behind their hype machine is premium grade talent.


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