The Retrospective

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Three Part Harmony in The Belly of The Whale: Local Natives Take Madrid

March 2nd, 2010 by

Photo Credit Caitlin Schiller

Some artists rest and regroup before shows, but Los Angeles quintet Local Natives took straight to the stage of Madrid’s packed-to-the-gills Moby Dick after a 2,000 km drive from Rome. Van time and a dizzying array of European cities aside, Local Natives really ought to’ve been too wiped to muster much above a subdued eight song set, yet what ensued was sustained sonic magic that belied sleeplessness and grueling drives.

The California five dove headlong into a vivacious version of “Camera Talk,” coaxing to life an audience slightly traumatized by Spanish opening act The Secret Society (who, sadly, probably would’ve done better on all counts by having remained a secret). “World News” was up next, and was received by a fully awake and engaged international crowd, already beginning to jiggle and grin. I must admit that this, dear readers, is the point at which I stopped keeping a list. I, too, fell under the spell, far too busy dancing and enthralled to faithfully notate songs.

Photo Credit Caitlin Schiller

While I might not be capable of providing a fact-checkable set list, what I can tell you is that Local Natives puts on an impressive live show. Live music can be disappointing: you show up to the venue to find four dudes with guitars and drums set up on a ramshackle platform. Aforementioned dudes jangle along and limp their choruses up and down stage for forty-five minutes or so, evading the more challenging vocal acrobatics and complicated string solos, understandably invested in minimizing cracked voices and the potential of a humiliating crash and burn. After a few beers you feel more generous and decide that the music’s all right, but you’d have been just as content having stayed at home listening to the album. With Local Natives, however, nothing could be farther from the truth. Since two Thursdays ago, I’ve suffered intense concert nostalgia, fervently wishing that I could get all five of them back for an encore performance. In a word, the live show is unforgettable–a whole lot like Gorilla Manor, their debut album. All harmonies, both vocal and instrumental, were astonishingly precise and worthy of any angelic chorus, to say nothing of their superb musicianship. Ryan, Taylor and Kelcey switched instruments and lineups numerous times throughout the set, reconfiguring the guitaring, sangin’ and keyboarding to equally great effect. I conclude that, despite the fact that Gorilla Manor is a fantastic recording, Local Natives is a band that is simply better live.

Photo Credit Caitlin Schiller

But it’s not just the accomplished musicianship that explains why Local Natives were the darlings of 2009’s SXSW. It’s the burbling, throttling energy that extends from the band to the audience’s soul; it’s the warmth, the enthusiasm and, perhaps most of all, the open-armed camaraderie that’s evident in every facet of the performance, from the seamless way the five work together to their truly charming habit of coming down after the music’s done to chat with the crowd, hawk some merch, and put autographs to vinyls. Fans, be they British, Irish, American or Spanish, got what was essentially super friendly, warm hangtime with the five guys as they disassembled their equipment, and one man even left Taylor with a CD of his tunes.

“Isn’t that supposed to work the other way around?” I asked, having watched the entire exchange from afar.

“I dunno, but that’s cool. I’ll listen to it!” he replied with what was definitely real enthusiasm.

See? How nice is that?

I loitered in swoony fangirldom long enough to chat with manager, Chris, teach the mustachioed Taylor how to say “hipster” en Español, and weasel out of the ever-egalitarian drummer, Matt, his favorite city on tour thus far (Keep this on the DL, but it’s Sweden. Actually, he asserted that each city they’d visited on the European tour had merit, but “Sweden was really interesting.”).

Courtesy of Local Natives

Every Local Native, from graphic-designer-cum-bassist, Andy (who designed Gorilla Manor’s cover and does much of the band’s art), to Taylor, who managed to employ his new vocabulary for the night (“Yo soy gafapasta” is a direct quote), to the affably beardy Kelcey and mellow, smiley Ryan, was genuine, grounded and, in general, really, truly nice. After hinting that they’d be back through Madrid in June, at which point I’ll have the opportunity to introduce them to my city without a curfew, I’m thinking I’ll take my chances with expired visas and border patrol, if just to relive the night.

Local Natives will be in Belfast the 11th of March, putting an end to their UK/European tour. Their March 18th show at SXSW marks the beginning of what promises to be a phenomenal touring season in North America, during which they’ll make stops across the United States, playing Coachella and Bonnaroo along the way. The US release of Gorilla Manor is finally available, so get on iTunes and snap it up or, better yet, head out to a show near you, grab a vinyl emblazoned with a sick Andy Hamm special and enjoy what could very well be the best live show you’ve seen.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bruce Mar 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    You made me feel like I was there – wish I had been. Now I’m going to have to give Gorilla Manor a listen! Thanks Caitlin!

  • 2 Caitlin Schiller Mar 24, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Glad I could impart even a fraction of the magic of the band’s live presence, Bruce! Definitely check out Gorilla Manor, but even more definitely see them live if you’ve got the opportunity!