On Sunday night, just over a year after their most recent performance at First Avenue, Local Natives took to the stage as usual: eternally hip, relatively somber, and genuinely pleased to be there. Had the show been three days earlier—with Minnesota in the grip of an April snowstorm—the mood might not have been quite as rosy, but on Sunday everyone was riding high on the euphoria of bypassing the coat check in the balmy night. The applause was deafening—Local Natives fans really like Local Natives.
The opener, Aero Flynn, made their First Avenue debut, with hushed melodies and emotive vocals. You’ll likely be hearing more about this band, which includes Josh Scott (Amateur Love), Adam Hurlburt (Solid Gold), Mike Noyce (Bon Iver), and Jake and Jeremy Hanson (Solid Gold, Actual Wolf, Tapes ‘n Tapes).
Local Natives opened their set with the infectious “Breakers” from 2013’s Hummingbird before launching into a couple of crowd-pleasers; “Wide Eyes” and “World News” from their first album, Gorilla Manor (2009). Despite having released only two studio albums, the California quintet managed to compose a setlist that flowed nicely up and down, consistently bouncing back and forth between Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird.
It was almost guaranteed the songs from Gorilla Manor would please—their catchy guitar, driving drums, and memorable hooks have captivated an incredibly loyal fan base—so the real question was Hummingbird. Would the darker, more contemplative aspects of the group’s new release translate well into their live show? Would the audience lose interest? While some of the intricacies of the newer songs may have been lost in the sheer noise of a live performance, the band infused such energy into the new tracks that they did not feel out of place. The harmonies and layered guitar filled the space with a lush sound that stayed true to the new album’s thoughtfulness without growing dull.
At times the speedy drums, twangy guitar hooks, and vocal melodies began to resemble each other—I found myself thinking a song had already been played, or noticing the tag sticking out of the sweatshirt on the guy in front of me—but for the most part the band’s careful, focused performance held my attention. Each member of the band was on their game, delivering studio-level renditions of every track. Tenor Kelcey Ayer delivered soulful vocals and Taylor Rice played some energetic guitar while singing rich harmonies. The crowd was generally rapt, even through slower songs like “Columbia” or “You & I,” which Rice revealed was played for him for the first time by Ayer in the First Ave parking lot after their first show there.
As the show neared its end, the crowd paid even closer attention, allowing songs like Hummingbird’s “Heavy Feet” and “Columbia” to shine in all their melancholy glory. And, like last year, Local Natives closed out the show with their most energetic track, “Sun Hands,” which inspired top-of-the-lungs shouting from the entire crowd. Before leaving they hinted at a new album that will be in the works following the tour and promised to make it back as soon as possible—something I’m sure most of the audience members were very glad to hear.
Luke Muyskens attends St. John’s University. He previously wrote for aboveGround Magazine and UGSMAG.