This year’s MEC Spring Concert welcomed Los Angeles alt-rockers Local Natives to campus. The band’s April 5 performance came the night before they played their sold-out show at First Avenue, and the concert’s relatively low attendance spoke to the band’s small but enthusiastic Ole following. Known for its afro-pop and psych-folk influences, Local Natives has been compared to everything from Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend to Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes.
Before the band took the stage, two opening acts warmed up the crowd with varying degrees of success. St. Olaf campus band Toast kicked off the event with a short set that successfully projected its acoustic, vaguely folk-rock sound. Although the group seemed to be fairly new, their assuredness on stage spoke to their compatibility as a group. Further, Toast engaged the crowd with personal anecdotes and attracted a group of fans near the front of the crowd who cheered for each member by name at several points during the set.
Less engaging was the second opener, Aero Flynn, which serves as a permanent part of Local Native’s national tour. It sounded as if the band’s front man told the crowd that this was “our first show as a band,” which could have explained their lackluster and stiff stage presence.
The large amount of reverb on the microphone also made their echo-y sound difficult to relate to at times. While the band was a step up from Toast in terms of musical proficiency, their polarizing musical style made for an uninspired set.
The energetic atmosphere returned at 10 p.m. when Local Natives finally took the stage. Met with loud cheers from a growing crowd of Oles, the band launched into their dynamic, rhythm-heavy hour of music right away. The opening song “Breakers” from their 2013 album “Hummingbird,” with its propulsive rhythm and forceful guitar, made for an impressive introduction. Front man Taylor Rice was anything but stiff as he lurched around the stage, working up a sweat in the process.
Heavy with dedicated fans, the crowd sang along to several songs but was probably most audible during songs from the band’s first album, 2010’s “Gorilla Manor.” “Airplanes” and “Who Knows Who Cares,” the last song before the encore, both elicited especially loud cheers from an audience that only grew more energetic as the set went on.
The band’s least-successful effort came close to the end of their set. “Bowery” featured keyboardist Kelcey Ayer on lead vocals and, while in keeping with the band’s overall sound, was not as distinctive rhythmically and almost
lazy in comparison to their preceding songs.
Yells of “no” could be heard during the band’s initial exit from the stage after “Who Knows,” and 30 seconds or so of the crowd chanting “one more song,” prompted Local Natives to do just that. Their encore “Sun Hands” was easily the concert’s highlight. With drummer Matt Frazier’s rhythms amplified to twice the volume they are given in the recording, the band fed off the crowd’s energy and delivered a rousing closer to an already lively night of music.
While Local Natives did not leave the stage until around 11:15 p.m., their captivating set seemed to fly by in half that time. Although the turnout was relatively small, the band undoubtedly gained several new fans during their lively and engaging 75-minute performance.