Since the release of their debut album Gorilla Manor, Silver Lake California-based indie rockers Local Natives have steadily risen in popularity and built a dedicated fan base through persistent touring. With 2013’s introspective sophomore album Hummingbird, the band reached a new level of maturity and even more mainstream success. This past fall, Local Natives released Sunlit Youth, their third album and first for Loma Vista Recordings. Sunlit Youth, as the name would suggest, moves the Local Native’s sound into a sunnier more upbeat tone. The album feels familiar, but explores new textures and adds a synth-driven aesthetic to the melody-heavy pop formula. The band have been on the road steadily behind the release and kicked off a new run of headlining US dates that included a stop at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw NC.
Fans started lining up early in anticipation of Local Natives first visit to Haw River Ballroom. By the time the band took the stage, the completely sold-out venue was packed to capacity with a wildly enthusiastic crowd. As the lights dropped and The band kicked off with “Past Lives,” from the new album, the room erupted into a giant sing-along and dance party. Showing their willingness to mix it up and not completely focus on new songs, they dipped back to their first album for a run through “Wide Eyes.” The dichotomy of new material and fan favorites would continue for the rest of the evening. Early highlights included “You & I,” “Villainy,” “Breakers,” and an especially joyful romp through “Airplanes” that was met with thunderous approval from the crowd.
Lead singer Taylor Rice seemed to be absorbing the energy from the crowd and was dancing, playing, and singing up a storm. He rarely stopped moving, his infectious enthusiasm spreading throughout the band, generating smiles and a fizzing energy. The playing was tight and driven by the pounding rhythms of drummer Matt Frazier and the bass lines of bassist Nik Ewing. Multi-instrumentalist and co-lead singer Kelcey Ayer also augmented the beat from time to time with some added percussion. The dazzling light show was an added bonus that highlighted the band and crowd locked in an ever upward spiral of energy and emotion. Toward the end of the set, the momentum was paused for a moment of devastating beauty as Kelcey Ayer and Taylor Rice stood alone on stage for a quiet and haunting rendition of “Colombia” before the band came back out to storm through “Fountain of Youth,” and the set ending “Who Knows, Who cares.” Haw River Ballroom was echoing with loud raucous cheers and deafening applause as the band came back out for a two song encore, playing “Masters” before ending the evening with “Sun Hands.”
Whether performing at a huge venue or more intimate settings, Local Natives seem to always deliver a top notch emotional performance, sending the crowd out into the night feeling Optimistic, hopeful, and thoroughly entertained.
The evening started with a performance from Montreal-based Little Scream, the stage name of multi-instrumentalist and artist Laurel Sprengelmeyer. Little scream played a focused set that pulled songs from recent album “Cult Following,” which was released by local indie powerhouse Merge Records. Despite some technical issues with her guitar, Little Scream remained engaging and downright charming. The highlight of the all to brief set was the stand alone single “People,” which was released in support of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.