It's kind of hard not to notice that SXSW has become, for the most part, a festival celebrating (and sometimes setting the trend for) the past and future six or so months of Pitchfork-friendly indie music; and for the past at least five years there has been that one band that sort of set the context for almost the entire five days.
In the past five years we've seen bands like Tapes N' Tapes, Beirut, Menomena, Noah and the Whale and Mae Shi become household indie names (quick, someone think of a punchline to the joke "What kind of house does an indie hold"?), and this year it's Local Natives. Aftermath would love to talk about the bands we saw at Emo's leading up to the stalwart of the night, like Rogue Wave - the only band we can think of who pre-date the genre we now lazily call chill-wave with a brand of music that sounds funnily similar to the bands who critics now swear invented the genre, like Neon Indian and Toro y Moi.
Mostly, though, Rogue Wave sounds like Seth Cohen driving by the ocean probably to meet some girl he knows he won't score with. Or we could talk about Adam Green, who followed Local Natives with a singular infatuation with some sort of vehement anti-hipster vibe shown to audiences with an irony only they can understand, one in which he plays the role of over-exaggerated white guy making fun of himself in a self-referential, "No really, I actually do read these 700 page-books in my backpack" kind of way, but to talk about Adam Green would take away from really the only band that matters this SXSW: Local Natives.
The Fire Marshal was inside, the audience couldn't move, couldn't turn around, but could still bob the fuck out of their heads to drums that only Yeasayer can rival these days, singing songs from their debut record released only a month ago in the states, Gorilla Manor. The mood at Emo's was one of joyful anticipation, even as the set was coming to a close, almost like we assumed these guys would go on all night. We were dying for them to, really.
Not an eye shifted from the stage the entire hour set, Local Natives jumping seamlessly through songs like, "Airplanes," "Shape Shifter," Talking Heads cover "Warning Sign" and by far the star of the night, "Sun Hands" - seven minutes of tribal-like chants set to banging drums on top of bangier drums all encompassed in a vacuum of smiles inside a venue with a blocks-long line outside waiting to get inside for just the small chance to see a band well on its way to becoming the only indie band that really matters anymore.
Oh, and Local Natives are coming to Mango's in April. Mango's. You'll be there, we know you will.
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