L.A. Quintet Makes It to NYC

May 7th, 2010

Local Natives – The Bowery Ballroom – May 6, 2010

Several months ago, my “guy who knows these things” hipped me to Local Natives, so I checked out their debut album, Gorilla Manor, and, as usual, he was correct. Seems it wasn’t much of a secret, though, as last night, in their first trip to NYC, the Los Angeles band played the first of not one but two sold-out shows at The Bowery Ballroom. It wasn’t the “merely curious” either, it was a crowd full of early adopters, belting out lyrics to every song like they’d been listening to them for years. And why not? Their music was made for the giddy sing-along.

With just one disc, it was almost certain that everyone got to hear his or her favorite tune, no matter what it was. There was no clear consensus: Gorilla Manor is the kind of album that invites repeated listens and each time through a different song might catch one’s ear. There is something satisfying seeing a band exhaust their entire repertoire in a single set, like driving a car until the gas truly runs out so you know how far below the E you can let the needle go.

Local Natives did the album justice from beginning to end, propelled by groovy, perpetual bass lines and tribal drumming and beefed up by perfect vocal harmonies. A second fractional kit at the front of the stage, which the keyboardist and others would pound away on, augmented the drummer, providing a constant extra kick of energy and volume. For one song (and again in the encore), a string quartet materialized, helping the band remain true to their studio versions. The keystone of the set was its lone cover, the Talking Heads’ “Warning Sign.” If you’re going to play a cover (and really, every set should feature at least one) you better make it count, and Local Natives did just that, nicely contrasting the rhythms and elastic-band bass with exquisite Beach Boys harmonies. —A. Stein

(Tonight’s Local Natives show is sold out, but they play The Beach at Governors Island on 8/7.)