Review: Local Natives; June 20, 2009 at House of Blues; San Diego

Local Natives - House of Blues

L.A.’s Local Natives played their first show in San Diego on Saturday, and they sounded great—even though lead guys Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer seemed astounded that they’d pulled it off. It wasn’t because of band discord or unfamiliar material, though; in fact, Local Natives are nothing if not tight-knit and talented. Rather, the troubles that plagued the band were more ethereal—and possibly supernatural.

Fortunately, the faux voodoo vibe at House of Blues was strong enough to diffuse what the band chillingly called the curse.

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Ayer was especially glad to have finally made it to San Diego, after past attempts to play here had been thwarted by various acts of God.

That’s not to say the curse had finally worn off: just hours before the doors opened, House of Blues downgraded the show (headlined by Ben Kweller) from their normal large theater to a banquet room with bad sound, no bathrooms, and no booze.

During sound check, the venue’s less-than-durable soundboard blew out, which forced HOB’s engineers to buy a new one from the Apple Store—or at least that’s what it looked like. I also believe that the curse briefly affected me: earlier, when I went to the nearby cupcakery, Heavenly Cupcakes, I was forced to leave empty-handed after discovering that a single cupcake cost $3.00, which was well outside my price range.

Despite this, good spirits were maintained. When I talked to bassist Andy Hamm after the show, he said “Hey, I got a meal out of it; I can’t complain.” Lucky bastard.

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The unfazed Local Natives happily played to an exuberant crowd. Normally a five-piece band, this time they brought a talented violinist, who faithfully accompanied the excellent “Stranger Things“, among other songs. When she wasn’t on violin, she helped out with the percussion, as on “Airplanes“.

Throughout the show, every band member contributed to the vocals, whether the songs were led by Ayer or Rice. Members also rotated instruments; occasionally Ayer took Rice’s spot with the guitar, and vice versa, and guitarist Ryan Hahn also doubled as a keyboard player. More interestingly, Ayer often switched from his usual keys to a nearby snare, supplementing Matt Frazier’s regular drumming. Even more interestingly, their violinist also took a hand at Ayer’s snare, so at times three people were contributing to the percussion. It was pretty cool.

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The band members didn’t show any sign of weariness from a long tour with Kweller—or their 30-hour drive from Minnesota—but after the show, they did seem ready to be off the road. But who would blame them for wanting to relax and play a few shows back home—before they hit the jetstream for July’s string of London gigs.



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