Aftermath: Three (Count 'Em) Takes On SXSW Heroes Local Natives At Mango's
Ed. Note: As anyone who followed our SXSW coverage would know, perhaps no band got as much critical love thrown its way as L.A.'s Local Natives. So much so that, when the Natives returned to Mango's this past Saturday, somehow Rocks Off wound up with three reviewers at the show. It might have been four, but on our own way to Mango's, we got a text-message from promoter Jagi Katial saying "No more please." First up, Brandon K. Hernsberger...
Storms, as they do, propagate. This one started in Austin a few weeks ago at SXSW, when music lovers (or waiting in line lovers at the very least) from across the state got their first live taste of Local Natives. The Los Angeles five-piece brought with them the drum-lovery of Talking Heads fused seamlessly with a dance-popperation that in a weird way reminds Aftermath of what it might feel like if Grizzly Bear turned into a hobo sucking Quaaludes mixed inside a meth-Slurpee in some kind of bizarro urban barn-house under a sky of blurry pink raindrops. The galvanizing storm that started in Austin has finally made its way to us, and it is one that, at least judging by Saturday night's performance, has exploded through the X's of electrical tape affixed to the minds of even the most "I've heard it all before, come on and gimme something new, wouldja?" type music cynic. Call it Hurricane Like.
Similar to the joy you experience when finding two Doritos stuck together at the bottom of the bag when you could have sworn there was only one left, Local Natives playing at a venue like Mango's is something that was just not supposed to happen. It felt too great; too out of place for a band on the brink of mega-stardom to play on a stage built for forgetting rather than a stage that knows the impact of what stands above it.
In the sometimes blasé musical climate Houston finds itself, Local Natives are supposed to play somewhere cleaner than this, somewhere that drinks cost as much as a DUI, somewhere that the sound guy doesn't double as the person bringing you a water refill (not really, but almost). If you think about it, Mangos is really the only venue in Houston worth going to. The (way, way over) sold-out and juiced-up crowd came early and stayed late, many of them telling Aftermath that they had been waiting for this show for months. It is not all that often that Houston gets a chance to see this kind of buzzy band, particularly at a venue as small and acoustically spot-on as Mangos; but when we do, shows quickly elevate to a position of an inhale, helping us realize what it means to say so this is what we've been waiting for. Local Natives, with their infectious style of stomp-pop-fast-forward-nu-gaze-ditty-ditty, didn't let even one person forget that spring nights like this are meant for dancin', jetting through every single song on their unforgettable debut record, Gorilla Manor. Co-lead singers Taylor Rice and Kelsey Ayer went back and forth and back and forth in the manner or a high-five on the flippy-dip, interweaving the fast with the medium on songs like "Wide Eyes" and "Shape Shifter, then "Camera Talk" and "Who Knows Who Cares," and then again with "World News" and "Cubism Dream."
One of the most obvious highlights of the night, though, was when Ayer took lead on "Airplanes," the song he wrote about the death of his grandfather, and what will henceforth be known as four minutes where it's okay to twirl fist pumps to the morose. The undeniable end to an undeniable night was "Sun Hands," a song so catchy it should have its own flu. A drum-jam like nothing else in indie rock, it brought the halcyon night to a fitting close and had every single person in the audience jumping up and up while screaming at the top of their sweat-stained throats hoping that tomorrow could please pretty please be today because this is what it means to be in love.
For those who didn't get a chance to see Local Natives at a place like Mango's - and there were dozens waiting outside the venue in hopes that some ticket holders didn't show up - it's a shame. It felt like a rock show should feel - raw and adorative and organic and free. It was something to behold, and something that may never be duplicated in Houston. And though they promised to be back soon, Aftermath suspects that their next stop is House of Blues, which is okay and not okay. Okay because they can and should be enjoyed by a larger audience; not okay because House of Blues is not a place for music but a place where music goes to take a nap. At the same time, it's only once or twice when we can be the collective fuse that lights the firecracker - Saturday was one. Savor it, Houston. Next up, Adam P. Newton...
It took catching a mere two performances at SXSW 2010 for one member of Aftermath to name Local Natives the only band that mattered at March's musical maelstrom. Thus, we decided to take a bit of our own advice and head over to Mango's Café on Saturday night so as to decide for ourselves if we should heed the hype over this group and its buzzed-about debut LP, Gorilla Manor.
Suffice to say, by the time midnight rolled around, we definitely became believers. Playing to a sold-out venue that was packed to the gills, Local Natives and Suckers spent over two hours entertaining a wildly appreciative and adoring throng. Suckers started things off with its peculiar brand of arty, indie-fied psych-pop, one that blurred the line between Yeasayer, early Of Montreal and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Along with a traditional guitar-guitar-bass-drums setup, a small fleet of samplers and synths littered the stage, making each guy responsible for creating a wide range of sounds. Such an arrangement delivered a visually engaging performance: for example, it was impressive to watch the drummer play a tidy melody line on a creaky Korg with his left hand while keeping time on the high-hat and snare with his right hand. On the whole, the band put on a fun, upbeat eight-song set, splitting the difference between its 2009 debut EP and its debut full-length set for release this June.
Though the crowd was enjoying the music of Suckers, it was quite obvious that it was Local Natives that brought them there on this pleasant spring evening. The talented quintet rushed headlong through all twelve tracks on its record, including fan favorites "Shape Shifter," "Wide Eyes," "Cards & Quarters," and "Sticky Thread," and a cover of "Warning Sign" by Talking Heads.
Mandolins appeared, guitar players shifted about the stage seamlessly, tight Afro-beat rhythms and riffs were performed with ease, vocal harmonies shone out brightly, and smiles adorned the faces of the band for the entire show. In short, these five gentlemen had no difficulty skewering the strawman that is pretty, perfectionist, fey indie-pop. The result was a stunned Aftermath - sure, it's easy to pick on hipsters who stand around with crossed arms at most shows, content with just bobbing their heads and trying look cool. Thankfully, those jaded assholes weren't at Mango's on this night: People cheered and jumped themselves into a sweaty mess, sang along loudly and lustily at every opportunity, spilled beer, chattered about earlier shows they've seen from the band, bought all sorts of merchandise, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves - ya know, acting like a decent crowd at a rock show should. Thus, we tip our hat to Local Natives and Suckers for putting on an exemplary night of excellent music. We look forward to their return. And finally, Dan Oko...
When youve got a winning formula, theres no real reason to tinker. And at their sold-out Saturday night show, the Local Natives for the most part stuck to the script that launched them to the top of the SXSW buzz heap last month. That meant that the Silverlake-based California quintet rocked an extremely efficient set - clocking just over an hour on stage - yet the outfit did not do much beyond reprising its kicking debut Gorilla Manor.
Outside of rearranging the song order, indeed, there were few surprises, and disappointingly there was no encore. The Local Natives did get to air out their studio-friendly venture, though, stretching solos and roughing-up more energetic tracks, including the swirling Talking Heads cover "Warning Signs." Despite occasional feedback squawk, it was easy to hear why the harmony-happy group has garnered raves from NPR to Pitchfork (insert comparisons to Vampire Weekend, Iron & Wine and vintage Meat Puppets here). Happy fans roared for familiar singles such as "Camera Talk," "Wide Eyes" and "Airplanes." Less happily, the show underscored that the Natives softer numbers remain more than a little interchangeable; it didnt help that Mango's low ceiling dampened their sonic elevations. Ultimately, the tribal vibe did shine through thanks to the band's tight musical and vocal interplay. When the Natives return - and they said they would - we hope the band finds a way to stay on stage a little longer.
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