The Local Natives hadn’t played any official shows yet in 2012, but Champion called them out of California to be the special guests at Bowery Ballroom last night. The band has spent the last three months in the studio with the National’s Aaron Dessner, working on tracks for a new album due out in 2013. New material previews were promised, as were performances of the stellar songs from Local Natives’ first album. But before getting to the night’s headliners, I had four other bands watch.
The night was kicked off with the melodic indie rock of Solid Gold, who performed dramatically soaring electro pop that was quite soulful and kept me engaged throughout the whole performance. Following them was SoCal’s Pacific Air. The band’s members dressed like they were in a Good Charlotte cover band, but thankfully the music didn’t follow that pattern as they played straightforward, melodic indie rock.
Aussie’s San Cisco put on a bubbly performance filled with songs about first relationships, broken hearts and all the dah–dah and do-do lines they could sing. The songs were super catchy and a lot of fun, with standout moments coming during the ecstatically happy “Rocket Ships” and the back-and-forth guy/ girl vocals of “Awkward.”
Next up was NYC’s SKATERS, who put on a pretty damn good performance with their energetic mix of Brit pop and punk rock. The lead singer had some stellar swagger tearing through killer tunes that at times were reminiscent of early Strokes and at other points the Libertines. Their track “Fear Of The Knife” was a reggae track with dance hall drumbeats that was an excellent ode to the Clash. They were fun and high energy, which was exactly what I needed to jump-start that second wind for the night.
Finally the Local Natives took the stage and went straight into some new mind-blowing tracks. Their new stuff had a completely different feel from the first album. These songs were more brooding and intensely emotional. They had a slow build to them, which usually went from a quiet solo by Kelcey Ayer into that explosive three-part harmony for which the Local Natives have become so well known. Along with the new tunes, they mixed in crowd favorites like “Wide Eyes,” “World News” and “Who Know Who Cares.”
Local Natives’ performance was an amazing mix of sing-a-longs to old tracks and patient listening to new ones that the audience had been waiting three years to hear. Although the tone of the new songs was much darker, they still were Local Natives through and through with their insanely intricate drumming and rich harmonies. Though I love the old materials, I was more impressed with the new and absolutely honored to be one of the first people to hear it performed live.