Local Natives exude a tactile presence of emotions with ample vocal dexterity and a keen sense of musicianship. In short: they make people feel what they often ignore. Fans of Local Natives often cite this as a main reason for their adoration of Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Matt Frazier and Nik Ewing.
The sentiment also appears true for Moses Sumney. The Los Angeles native cited his American tour in support of Local Natives as his very first -- which elicited rueful sighs from the St. Louis musicians in the crowd who aspire to Local Natives' heights. He also enabled a myriad of texts from friends at the show who exclaimed, "THOSE RIFFS THO!" Sumney's sonic alchemy moved his show of acrobatically looped vocals and pixilated riffs from the wormwood and into an ethereal sphere. It was noted, and appreciated by those who arrived early enough at the Pageant to witness his set.
I promised my editor I would not make Local Natives' set sound like "the second coming of Christ." So, I'll do my best to swaddle any purple or hyperbolic tendencies in realism. Back in September, Local Natives were my favorite act at LouFest. I new it would turn out that way, but I was not ready for the crowd's reaction, which was ferocious with urgency, shouts and enjoyment. This time, in a more intimate, indoor setting, the crowd was docile in comparison. Nuzzled up to the nape of silence's neck, it appeared. Peering around, mouths were motionless and eyes were huge -- bulged out with a clean mental sweep. Just honed in on the five men on stage. There was a sense people knew the words, but more often than not, they listened during the front half of the set.
Really, the mix settled when the band took up "Warning Signs," a Talking Heads cover that snuck onto Local Natives' first record, "Gorilla Manor." Hahn, Rice and Ayer morphed into a three-part a cappella troupe that swept through the first verse. Around that time, the band discussed LouFest. Namely, after it was mentioned that they had yet to play a solo show in St. Louis. Guitarist Hahn gamely charged to the mic and asked who saw the band at LouFest. The result sounded like a barrage of relieved bellows. They hadn't forgotten us after all.
Hahn is an interesting figure in the Local Native vocal dynamic. He has evolved from the Fraggle Rocker of the group to a handsome focal and listening point behind Ayer and Rice. His Medusa-like springs of curls have been shorn into a comely skull-hugging blanket of hair that gives him a serious countenance. His timbre has a punk-rock vibrato that makes his come-hither vocals sound more like a dare than an invitation. Mixed with Ayer and Rice, both with voices of liquid gold, Hahn's vocals supplement the harmonies, which gives their three voices a tubular sound. Ayer and Rice have exchanged lead vocals on Local Natives' first and second albums. I would be intrigued to hear Hahn take lead once or twice on Local Natives' yet-to-be-recorded third record.
For all the gorgeous vocal altercations, there was an equally impressive musician seated behind a rather larger drum kit. During "You & I" it became clear that drummer Matt Frazier plays with the precision of a brain surgeon. His crash symbals and toms were tuned and mixed into plump but clean orbs of sound. Frazier was delicate on "Columbia," which is Ayer's moment to break open his heart and sing with the despair of self-doubt. His tom work on "Wooly Mammoth" had a scalpel-like sharpness. Several times he was given the freedom to bang away to his own accord. His own style is African-inspired and riffs on the percussion of '80s brit-pop. If Local Natives ever cover "Electric Barbarella," Frazier is going to slay dragons. As another audience member said, he is "without limits."
The band's last song was "Sun Hands." "Sun Hands" has always been a galvanizing force during Local Natives' shows. The band seems to get that it is its chief crowd pleaser. There was no shortage on the wallop "Sun Hands" gave the crowd. It was a doozy of frenetic guitar tone mixing and matching with a mid-section that plowed through any semblance of sanity. Rice embodied the chaos when he left the stage and climbed over the barrier and scurried onto the crowd and purred the tension-building refrain, "And when I can feel with my Sun Hands/I promise not to lose her again." The band just screamed with him. Bassist Nik Ewing had veins snaking up his long neck. Just as with LouFest, everyone went ape and we all sang with the band how we too would never lose love again.