Local Natives’ new album, “Violet Street,” is nothing short of anthemic. The moment they hit the 9:30 Club stage on June 4 for the second night in a row, the band members brought a striking amount of energy along with a gorgeous swirl of sounds, beats and harmonies. Vocalist and guitarist Tyler Rice took the main stage for the first few songs, swinging his head from side to side and shaking maracas. Vocalist and keyboardist Kelcey Ayer stood next to Rice, belting out the lyrics. Vocalist and guitarist Ryan Hahn stood to Rice’s right, and bassist Nik Ewing and drummer Matt Frazier were set up towards the back of the stage.
The album, which came out in April 2019, begins with “Vogue” which eases the listener into the album with stirring strings. The song slides right into their new hit, “When Am I Gonna Lose You,” with a few piano notes and harmonizing voices so cosmically in tune with one another that they’re almost indistinguishable. Rice paints a picture of nighttime drives on the cliff sides in California, singing, “Trace the curving on the coastline/The Santa Lucia cliffside/We’ll stay here for the night.”
One of Local Natives’ strengths is utilizing their harmonizing as an instrument itself, not just as a supplement to their already excellent instrumentation. Consistent throughout “Violet Street” is the use of stringed instruments which smoothly feed into their anthemic feel, especially in “Cafe Amarillo” and their short instrumental track, “Munich II.”
The apparent camaraderie among the bandmates truly made Local Natives’ stage presence stand out in a refreshing way. Unlike other bands that oftentimes overlook other band members in favor of the lead, Local Natives seemed to equally distribute the attention on stage. Throughout the concert, the band members swapped positions and instruments more than five times, specifically calling attention to the personal touches that Hahn, Rice and Ayer put on different songs.
Rice was quick to somberly note that the band’s last album, “Sunlit Youth,” came out in September 2016 when the United States entered a new chapter of political and racial turmoil. Before beginning “Fountain of Youth,” he explained how important it was to register to vote, referencing their partnership with HeadCount and their booth in the corner of the venue, aiming to help increase voter registration.
At the 9:30 Club, the band beamed, grateful for their sold out show. Rice waved to the full crowd, explaining they had performed at this venue more times than any other. Their manager was fully ready for the band to directly engage with the crowd, showing me the setlist on his phone, “After this song [Past Lives],” he said, “things get crazy.”
And he was not wrong. Rice dove into the front row, crowd surfing and singing on his back while the entire venue shook with screams of delight.
After three encore songs, Rice leaned into the mic, “This is our last song, for real. Thank you D.C.!” he said before launching into a breathtaking rendition of “Who Knows Who Cares,” from their first album, “Gorilla Manor.” All of the members stood in a line, sweaty and with toothy grins, taking a group bow before ducking off stage, grateful and satisfied.
Depicted: Taylor Rice, guitarist and vocalist, brought boundless energy to the 9:30 Club stage. Photo taken by Anjali DasSarma.