Local Natives, Wild Nothing House of Blues October 9, 2013
Fall is officially upon us, and with the cooler weather comes a host of touring bands hitting venues throughout Texas. For the first time, Austin mega-festival Austin City Limits scheduled two weekends in a row. Usually, ACL brings a smattering of acts our way, but with the extra weekend, even more bands are in the area filling up venues in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio in their off time.
While there are numerous offerings in Houston all week, one show stood out above the rest. Local Natives chose the main stage at House of Blues as their venue, closing out their headlining tour in support of sophomore LP Hummingbird. Even on a school night, with several other musical offerings in town, the Angelenos packed the room and filled it with their effortless indie jams.
Local Natives have come a long way since they first hit the scene just a short four years ago. They've always given a ton of love to Houston along their gradual rise, performing here at least once a year since 2009. Most memorably, though, in 2010, when they filled Mango's from front to back for one of the sweatiest and most remarkable performances Rocks Off has ever been a part of. Still to this day, friends and fanatics alike still talk about the importance of that show to Houston's live-music scene. It was the turning point of Houston becoming a music city, and it showed the intensity that we as fans can bring to any given performance.
This gig, however, was a different animal than that of just three and a half years ago. As it should be, the band has generously grown in size. While it took quite a while for them to release a follow up to their critically acclaimed debut, Gorilla Manor, their fanbase certainly didn't go anywhere, as the room was packed all the way from the front to the very back, even the balcony too. It didn't take long for the room's collective energy to come to a head, happening upon the first notes of the bands 90-minute set.
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With only two (short) albums of material to work with, it was pretty easy to guess what songs we would hear. It was an even split of Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird, delighting both old and new fans alike. The set started with "Breakers," which is pretty much the perfect opening song.
Following up with a trio of older songs in "World News," "Wide Eyes" and Talking Heads cover "Warning Sign," Local Natives started hot and never looked back. They reworked versions of those older tunes, mostly staying true to form, but changing them up ever so slightly to keep them fresh.
You could definitely tell that most people in attendance were there to hear the newer material, which for a band like Local Natives that got so much love and support for their first release, was a welcoming experience. They brought an unbridled energy to most of the new songs, which was quite the surprise as Hummingbird doesn't have that same percussive rowdiness as their first LP.
"You and I," "Black Balloons" and "Mt. Washington" were all burners, though, and with a bit of extra charisma from the band, they brought the proverbial house down.
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For this reporter, a general fan of the band, the old stuff was where it was at. It was a treat to hear songs like "Airplanes" and "Who Knows Who Cares" again -- a stripped-down version of the latter closed the set -- but it was the show-ending version of "Sun Hands" that really brought it all home. They really know what they're doing onstage, and now, with years of touring under their hats, have all but perfected their live performance.
It's been only four years since Local Natives have been on the scene, yet this show seemed somewhat nostalgic. I'm not sure if four years is a long enough time to warrant nostalgia, but hearing those songs again brought me back to a simpler time -- a time where I was still in my twenties.
It brought me back to that crowded Friday night in the heart of Montrose, where people were clamoring to get into the way too-sold-out Mango's, only to be turned away at the makeshift gate outside the venue. Those who were there, who actually made it inside and shouted along to every song at the top of their lungs, can attest to the surrealism of the evening. Those folks hold that same special little place in their hearts for them as I do.
This show, however, just reminded me of how great of a band Local Natives really are. It showed that they have an undeniable staying power and will without question be making A-plus records and performing to packed houses for many years.
They're a talented bunch of chaps, and have everything going for them to build a super-successful future in the business. All they have to do is continue performing to the best of their abilities, and they'll be in this game for a long time to come.
Personal Bias: I think I made it pretty clear that I like this band. It was my eighth time seeing them. So damn good!
Overheard In the Crowd: From one friend talking to another friend who obviously couldn't hear what he was saying: "We're picking up your date, and you're gonna get slapped tonight. Don't worry, you're gonna get slapped at some point tonight. I'm gonna get high back here."
The Crowd: A bunch of youngsters out on a school night. Shouldn't you be at home studying?
Random Notebook Dump: It was a nice surprise to find out Wild Nothing were the opening band. I've heard really good things about the four-piece leading up to this show, and planned on checking out their performance at ACL this weekend. After seeing them kick all sorts of ass last night, I'll definitely be making my way over to their set.
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