Local Natives: Exceeding Expectations

Local Natives
The Fox
Berkeley, CA
January 30, 2013

Local Natives: Exceeding Expectations

Heading to the Fox Theater to hear Local Natives, my attitude was lacking.  Another night, another indie band.  I should have had far more enthusiasm, particularly considering that the last two shows I attended (at the Freight & Salvage, see below) were both winners.  And when you’re on a streak, you have to respect the streak.  But I was lukewarm about the proceedings.  Even the excellent company and good grub at Rudy’s Can’t Fail CafĂ© wasn’t enough for me to achieve normal preshow levels of excitement.  In retrospect, I think it may have been my low expectations that allowed me to better appreciate Local Native’s limited offerings - because the offerings were limited, but I still enjoyed the show.

Local Natives has been around now for about 5 years. Their first album, ‘Gorilla Manor,’ was released in 2009 and garnered a fair amount of attention and spawned several minor hits: ‘Sun Hands’ and ‘Who Knows, Who Cares’ being the biggest and best.  The complexity and confidence of the musicianship in these songs belied their youth and inexperience and kick-started an expectations game.  There was a consensus that the band was destined for even brighter times.  Their sophomore album, ‘Hummingbird,’ was released the day before the show and is a surprisingly mature effort that avoids much of the sophomore jinx where bands try to over-elaborate and end up with bombastic noise that they think is art.  LN’s sound is often compared to Fleet Foxes, because of the over-indulgence in three-part harmonies, and Talking Heads, because of the complex structure of songs that is nevertheless accessible. 

Their performance at the Fox was also a fairly mature and accomplished effort.  For a young band, this is impressive.  Yet, my own impression is that the band may have reached their limits.  I just don’t see them drawing any bigger crowds then they did last night.  But there are plenty of bands that make a career out of playing midsize theaters.  One negative: the show was short, just over an hour.  But the band genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves.  The bottom line: exceeding expectations, even if they’re low, still makes for a fun night.

Songs to check out: Sun Hands, Who Knows

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