June 8, 2009

Review: Local Natives at the Black Cat

Watching California's Local Natives perform Sunday night at DC's Black Cat was like standing on the outskirts of a drum circle. Out of the band's six musicians, five contributed to the heavy tribal-influenced pounding and clacking of drum sticks. The only instrument used more often was the voice—something every band member contributed at one point, whether it was singing or shouting during the climactic breakdown of the energetic "Sun Hands." 

I've written before that the Local Natives are a mellifluous harmony-driven group. After seeing them perform live, that almost seems like an understatement. The band is a vocal group that performs like a small orchestra; a contemporary Zombies that might not be as pretty, but plays with more bite. Precise instrumentation—that comes in the form of a keyboard, bass, violin, and two guitars—mimics and riffs on the melodies sung by the band's core of singers: the mustached and guitar-swinging Taylor Rice, the deftly reserved Ryan Hahn, and the bearded Kelcey Ayer with his seemingly whale-sized lungs. 

Nearly every moment of the performance featured some sort of collaboration. During the band's two best songs, "World News" and "Airplanes," that collaboration was seamless with the various voices and instruments delivering a tightly woven tapestry of choral soul and marching band-sized percussion. Whether it was the cover of the Talking Heads' "Warning Sign" or "Stranger Things"—which at one point was broken down to nothing but vocals and hand-clapping by all six musicians—the Local Natives delivered a clear vision of songs uniquely their own. 

Make sure to catch the Natives in the US and Canada this month. UK dates will be announced for July, when the band releases its seven-inch featuring "Sun Hands" and a live performance of "Cards and Quarters." Pre-order it here

June 9 @ Johnny Brenda’s (21+) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 10 @ T.T. the Bear’s Place (allages) Boston, Massachusetts
June 11 @ Il Motore (allages) Montreal, Quebec
June 12 @ El Mocambo Toronto, Ontario
June 13 @ Mohawk Place Buffalo, New York
June 14 @ The Pike Room (allages) Pontiac, Michigan
June 16 @ High Noon (18+) Madison, Wisconsin
June 17 @ 400 Bar (18+) Minneapolis, Minnesota

Local Natives — "Sun Hands" (from Gorilla Manor)

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