Local Natives: Worth Staying Up Past Curfew For

Categories: Last Night
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Local Natives
Local Natives
The Love Language
The Union Line 
September 22, 2010 
@ The Fillmore 

Better than: Other popular indie boy bands.

Last night's crowd at the Fillmore was shockingly underage. Standing in the first three rows, I felt incredibly uncomfortable when I realized I was the oldest person by a lot. But the young fans were excited enough to rock Local Natives T-shirts and initiate awkward high school almost dancing almost every time a band played a song -- a nice counterpoint to the "cool" crowd lingering in the back.

The audience was primed to adore the first two acts, The Union Line and The Love Language, an adorable group from Raleigh, North Carolina. The Love Language's self-titled album employs lots of fuzzy distortion, but live, the band lost its lo-fi edge. Its set quickly turned into a collection of saccharine songs about love. Even so, the tunes were crafted to make you bop along even if you really didn't want to, and most of the audience seemed to know enough to sing along to the band's brand of enthusiastic and innocuous "creative pop." 

From start to finish, last night was about accessibility. Local Natives is a kind of mishmash of all the "of the moment" sounds -- its sound is vaguely tribal, fond of sharp percussive drumming, and reliant on complex harmonies that favor minor tones. The group gets a lot of comparisons to Grizzly Bear/Arcade Fire/Insert other Important Indie Band here. Which is not to discredit it: the band members are talented. The music they play is hip, but in a way that's immediately and easily likeable.

The first two songs Local Natives played were the peppy sing-along-numbers "Camera Talk" and "World News." Both are easy entry points into the album Gorilla Manor. Later the band slipped into its only mildly esoteric number, a cover of the Talking Heads' "Warning Sign", which was introduced with, "This is not our song, it's a cover of a song. By the Talking Heads." Thanks for educating the audience members; I'm sure a good number didn't know. 

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Local Natives
The show definitely had a high point: When the group hit "Wide Eyes," its most recent single, the band members seemed to be at their best. Their multi-dimensional harmonies were rich and on pitch, proving that Local Natives is a tight quintet whose members understand how to play well together. "Wide Eyes" was a crowd favorite, and the fivesome played it like they knew it was their best song.

The drums played both by a traditional drummer and by vocalist Kelcey Ayer are really the backbone of the band. On songs like "Shape Shifter," a hidden gem on the album, it was obvious that percussion is the glue that holds the songs together. This translated quite well into a larger venue. Without the quick and persistent drumming, the trademark Local Natives sound crashed into aural chaos. Certain lyrics, like "steal away to a cave of sheets" in "Cards and Quarters", felt unsettlingly similar to Coldplay when heard over the giant sound system at the Fillmore.

The pacing took a turn for the worst toward the end of the show as songs were slowed-down. "Cubism Dream," a surprisingly arresting, quirky ballad, sounded like a dull adult contemporary song. "Airplanes," a song about Ayer's grandfather that was dedicated to his brother, Spencer, garnered a lot of cheers from the crowd, but never took off. The tempo was too quick, causing the song to fall apart and lose its sweetness.

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Local Natives
Despite a lackluster encore and a short set -- Local Natives only has one album -- it was a cent show by a good band that maybe doesn't yet know how good it could be. But that didn't even matter: last night, fans were determined to have a great night -- before curfew.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I liked 2009's Gorilla Manor so much I was afraid to see the band live its first time around at Bottom of the Hill.

Overheard: Local Natives Fanboy: "I mean they just toured Europe, they have to be better than the first time I saw them."   Different Fanboy: "The guitarist has a really good left hand." Different Fanboy's friend: "Yeah, it is a really good left hand."

Random Fact: Local Natives' Taylor Rice Kelcey Ayer went to S.F. State for one year before leaving to join the other Local Natives in Silverlake, L.A. (Accompanying PSA: Dropping out of college does not automatically get you a record deal, youth in the audience.) 

Setlist: 
Camera Talk 
World News 
Warning Sign (Talking Heads cover) 
Cards and Quarters 
Sticky Thread 
Wide Eyes 
Shape Shifter 
Cubism Dream 
Who Knows Who Cares 
----  
Stranger Things 
Sun Hands 

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