Local Natives

Local Natives


Remember when things seemed a little more optimistic? When everything hadn’t seemingly gone to shit? When Prince was still funky and Bowie was still confounding expectations? When actual politicians were in charge of major countries? When hate wasn’t the ruling emotion? When the baby boomers weren’t making terrible decisions in huge numbers that a) half of them won’t live to see the consequences of and b) my generation and the generations that follow will have to fight to clear up? Little did I know that Tuesday 9th November 2016, stood in the Academy 2, was to be the last time I felt a shred of hope for the world, blissfully ignorant of the millions of Americans changing the course of the world in the polling booths over the water, pint in hand, about to watch LA band Local Natives take to the stage. 

Local Natives made one of my favourite albums of the last five years in Hummingbird, an album written in the back drop of singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother’s death, an incredibly sad yet ultimately wonderfully uplifting album that surpassed their brilliant debut Gorilla Manor, and which new album Sunlit Youth couldn’t quite top. It’s that new album that they are here in support of tonight, an American band displaced on the eve of possibly the biggest election in recent history; a band who have encouraged fans to go out and vote by offering a new song that could only be unlocked at polling booths, a small gesture perhaps, but a positive one all the same; a band who’s brand of heartfelt indie has seen people through some tough times. I’m looking forward to it with a sense that it could be an emotional one, and boy do they deliver.

The band can, at anyone time, have four members harmonising, playing four guitars to create a grand crescendo, strip down to a couple of members to a guitar and keys combo, or bash away at various percussion to create an unholy amalgamation of noise. They play songs from across their three albums; ‘Wide Eyes’ from Gorilla Manor an early crowd favourite; a stunning rendition of Hummingbird highlight ‘You & I’; a gorgeous  ‘Villainy’ and ‘Mother Emmanuel’ from Sunlit Youth: it’s a real tour through everything that makes the band great. 

There are a couple of incredible standout numbers. ‘Columbia’ is my favourite song of theirs, indeed it’s one of my favourite songs ever, and tonight they strip it back to just Ayer and Taylor Rice on piano and guitar, and it’s utterly beguiling. The song is specifically about the death of Ayer’s mother Patricia, and has one of the most heartbreaking opening lines, ‘the day after I/ had counted down all of your breaths/ down, down, down/ until there were none’, which immediately sets the tears flowing, and when he asks ‘Patricia/ every night I ask myself/ am I giving enough/ I am loving enough’ towards the end as the rest of the band rejoin the pair, I’m a blubbering mess. It’s a special moment and one which I’ll remember for a long time. The other standout is newbie ‘Fountains of Youth’, in which Rice tells us ‘I think we should listen to these kids/ we can’t keep pretending we know what we’re doing’ and the biggest cheer of the night goes up for the line ‘I have waited for so long, Mrs. President’, which, unbeknownst to us, are probably the last optimistic cheers about that line we’ll hear for a while. 

Encore ‘Sun Hands’ sees the band go feral, Rice letting down his long hair from his man bun and thrashing it around, a cathartic, almost heavy metal ending to an emotional night as the band smash away at their instruments, lost in the noise and tribal rhythms being beaten out. It’s nice to be lost in it with them, to think that tomorrow is going to be the day that the world turns a corner, a big wrong banished forever. Little did we know, gathered together in that modest room, that Tuesday 9th November was to be the day that everything went completely to shit. Thank fuck for the power of music and bands like Local Natives who are able to transport you away from reality for even a little while; I have a feeling over the next four years we’re going to need that escape even more.

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