Most indie rock bands are meant to be appreciated at a distance, with arms either crossed or busy assembling IKEA furniture. Not Local Natives.
The band had a breakthrough set at ACL 2010, an early afternoon romp on the Austin Ventures stage – assisted by local fiddler Ruby Jane on two songs – that was both infectious and engaging. This year’s Hummingbird only expanded the L.A. quintet’s scope. It’s heavier, expansive, and deceptively complex, ripe with tracks that make you think of a significant other even though they’re about a recently deceased family member.
Early Friday morning, Local Natives played an acoustic set for KUTX at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown, a subdued affair that highlighted the group’s pristine harmonies, which hinted at the Beach Boys by-way-of Fleet Foxes or the angular complexity of Grizzly Bear. Yet where their contemporaries are about as entertaining live as mowing Zilker’s lawn, Local Natives possess a jittery earnestness that’s impossible to ignore. You find yourself clapping and singing along even if you didn’t intend to.
Part of that has to do with the rallying, choppy percussion in standouts like “Sun Hands” and the impossible-to-ignore hooks reinforced by commanding four-part harmonies. The band also finds strength in the shared lead responsibilities of guitarist/singer Taylor Rise and Kelcey Ayer, who does a little bit of everything live. The latter carries a heavier burden. His tracks, like “You and I,” address mortality and lost love. It sounded like a rallying cry, not a distress signal.
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