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Local Natives return to Fox Theater Oakland with bag of new tricks

Local-NativesPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash //

Local Natives with Wild Nothing //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
September 12th, 2013 //

Local Natives kicked off the first show of their new tour by returning to the Fox Theater Oakland on Thursday, the same Bay Area venue the group graced in February (see our photos from the show here). While there may have been a dose of déjà vu for super-fans that caught both shows, Local Natives’ super-charged lighting is now grander and the headliners surprised the faithful with a couple acoustic numbers for the first time.

Slow-building, three-part harmony and layered instrumentals signify the LA natives, and the group has enhanced their live performance through a strikingly new light show. Staggered floodlights are now placed behind the five performers as smoke machines continuously billowed wispy textures toward the center of the stage.

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One consistent element that can be found in Local Natives’ song structures is a mid-song break, a quiet lull that gives context and more meaning to the high-decibel crescendos. Then, to end the brief respite, the thunderous wall of sound returns — but now it’s not simply the listener’s ears that are barraged. The back lighting is blinding, almost seizer-inducing — and maybe this is what the group is going for. The absence of sight does make the process of hearing sound (including music if you are at a concert) more critical to the brain. The timing and tone of the lighting matches the music perfectly, but sunglasses would still have been useful.

My Bloody Valentine might be the loudest show I’ve ever heard, and without hesitation, it’s easy to proclaim this was the brightest show I’ve ever seen. Dangling firefly lights descended from above the stage toward the end of the set and remained for the evening. The bulbs would light in unison, then blip randomly at times to reflect sonically chaotic performance parts. The firefly lights made their biggest impact during the final encore song, “Sun Hands”, when the hanging light bulbs twirled around like a whirling dervish — this made Local Natives’ last song more memorable than usual, sending the young audience onto Telegraph Street en fuego.

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Mustachioed frontman Taylor Rice announced they would be “trying something new,” as two acoustic songs ended the main set. “Warning Sign” was first, but it was a stripped-down version of “Who Knows Who Cares” that brought pure glee to many faces in the crowd. Rice pointed out they had performed the song for La Blogotheque in 2011, but this was the first time they performed the acoustic version live.

One of the best attributes a live music group can have is passion, but if an artist doesn’t put enthusiasm front and center, what good is it? Local Natives get this concept. They seem spiritually invested in the music they have created and give to people on stage, and physically they couldn’t try any harder. Cheers to Local Natives for being one of the most enthusiastic outfits in indie rock.

Wild Nothing did a bang-up job opening to an empty-ish house, and their positively toned psych-rock is oh-so-delightful live. “Paradise”, one of Wild Nothing’s best songs, was jaw-droppingly wonderful and surprisingly heavy. Swirling instrumentals allow for floaty mind-wandering, and lead singer/songwriter Jack Tatum uses both a high and low vocal range in his singing, often in the same song. Hopefully the group swings by SF again soon for a proper show.

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