Outshine beer sipping, confused opening act
by Caitlin Hufnagle
Upon my introduction to Local Natives about a year ago, amidst the release of their second record Hummingbird, I found myself enamored, and immediately counted them as a band I would enjoy seeing live. I was entirely correct, as my September 24th trip to see them play Terminal 5 so adamantly proved. Not only did they meet their own musical standards; they surpassed them, showcasing even tighter harmonies, and more intense instrumentals in re-imagined or augmented versions of their songs.
The night started out with a performance from Wild Nothings—an indie-rock band I had previously heard in passing, but never really gotten the chance to know. Overall, their music was pleasurable, and performed quite well live, but they unfortunately didn’t “own” the stage in the way I soon learned Local Natives could. They didn’t seem to feel the music, or be very into it at all for that matter. The lead singer often retreated to the side of the stage to casually sip his beer during the musical interludes. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against bands drinking on stage, but it took away from the “experience” of the music, since the band seemed disconnected from the crowd. The bassist also started playing the wrong song at one point, and after a brief, but confused conversation, the band figured out the miscommunication and got back on track. Despite these minor setbacks, Wild Nothings produced a solid musical performance, which I enjoyed.
After a brief interlude, Local Natives epically took the stage with an impressive rendition of “Breakers.” Within moments, the venue filled with energy as the band hypnotized with their beautifully tight harmonies and intense percussive notes. The set was a fluid mixture of songs from both albums, incorporating the innocent and more pop-tinged elements of their first album, Gorilla Manor, seamlessly with the more somber and mature components of Hummingbird. After a strong start, the group launched into some crowd favorites with “World News” and “Wide Eyes,” during which it was impossible to find a member of the crowd not singing or swaying along. Also, while I’m not typically hung up on presentation, I have to say the lighting really added to the show. At first, multi-colored lights backlit the band so that all you could see were their shadows as they played—and not to sound cliché or anything, but it was beautiful and made for a spectacular start to the show.
The LA-based group made it no secret that this was their first time playing Terminal 5, as Taylor Rice, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist proclaimed many times that this was their “first big NY show.” However, you never would have known. As the band flawlessly proceeded through their set, their ability to take control of the stage, and the large crowd, was obvious. Even their slower songs like “Mt Washington” or “Black Spot” were played with a vigor that engaged the crowd.
One of my favorite songs performed was “Warning Sign,” a Talking Heads cover that they played early in their set. As a Talking Heads fan, I found this particularly entertaining; it was not only a brave move, but it was also interesting to hear their take on the song. It was percussion heavy, and of course featured the three-part harmonies Local Natives are know for in a way that gave the song its own distinctive style while still retaining the basic elements of the original.
To honor their Terminal 5 debut, Rice said they wanted to “make the night special” and played an awesome acoustic version of one of my favorites “Who Knows, Who Cares” before leaving the stage. The colorful lights that once filled the room went black, and all that could be seen were large low-watt light bulbs swinging from behind the stage. Then, amid the whole venue chanting “one more song”, Local Natives took the stage again for an encore, the perfect musical concoction to send the crowd off. After an strong performance of “Columbia” and “Heavy Feet,” multi-instrumentalist Kelcey Ayer said, “if you know the words, sing along”—but there was no need. The crowd already knew what to do as soon as they heard the first recognizable drums beats of “Sun Hands” and went wild when the guitar and vocals joined in. They played the song with an energy that was honestly unparalleled by any other live performance I have witnessed, and the whole crowd felt this as they clapped and sang along.
After the song ended, the band thanked the crowd again, saying that Hummingbird was a New York album, and it felt great to be playing it in the city it was written in. This was honestly one of the best shows I have ever been to, and I highly recommend that everyone check out Local Natives, and, if possible, see them live.