Local Natives make the leap at Sasquatch! 2011

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Local Natives at Sasquatch! 2011. Christopher Nelson photo

When Local Natives was announced for the Sasquatch! 2010 lineup, I’d never even heard of them. By the time they played that year on the Bigfoot stage, I’d all but worn out my copy of Gorilla Manor, and they were the buzziest buzz band in all of Buzztown, U.S.A. And boy almighty, did they deliver with their set.

Now fast-forward one year to Sasquatch! 2011.

When Local Natives was announced for this year’s Sasquatch! main stage I didn’t bat an eye. By the time the festival came around, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to watch more than a few minutes of their set (they played against Aloe Blacc and Dan Mangan). But I didn’t move an inch after their first note, and boy almighty, did they deliver with their set.

Local Natives is the exact reason why attending the same festival year in and year out is so rewarding; one year you can discover an act playing early on a side stage, and the next year they make the jump, and you can be singing along to their every word in a crowd of up to 20,000 at the main stage.

In the case of Local Natives, the jump up to the main stage felt like a monumental step in the band’s career. They even exclaimed that it was the biggest show they’d ever played, and you could tell they were genuinely touched by the reaction they received. By the second song, the west side of the lawn broke out into a “spontaneous” dance party (which is now a Sasquatch! tradition, since it was the third “spontaneous” dance party I’ve witnessed in as many years), and no less than five of their eight songs were met with an enthusiastic response upon the opening chords from the continuously-growing crowd.

So, why did Local Natives make the jump so gracefully? I think it’s because they’re the prototypical Sasquatch! band, which is to say they’re probably the next Arcade Fire. They don’t necessarily sound like them — Local Natives are more of an unconventional folk-rock hybrid with a lot of emphasis on percussion and off-kilter harmonies (as opposed to Arcade Fire’s all-hands-on-deck instrumental assault) — but the vocals have the same stratospheric reach that causes everybody to shout along to the heavens. “Who Knows, Who Cares” came across like the new-school reaction to Arcade Fire’s classic “Wake Up”; even though it’s a much more laid-back song lyrically, the “oh-OHHHHHH” part still turned the crowd into a massive choir (and helped make The Head and the Heart, who played the main stage just beforehand, look silly in comparison).

By the time the finale came around, Local Natives had already conquered the crowd, converting any doubters into believers (and the funny thing is, I’m pretty sure they did it with an almost identical set to what they played in 2010). As a result, closer “Sun Hands” became a victory lap, taking the audience through peaks and valleys, lifting off with those amazing screamed vocals (“and when I can’t feel with my sun hands, I promise not to lose her again!”) and an aggressive guitar riff bridge after a lengthy drum circle and explorative noodling session. The whole area erupted, only to be set back down to earth safely by softly sung harmonies at the end.

But the best part came from frontman Taylor Rice (or as I like to call him, Baby Freddie Mercury — look at that mustache!) as the band was beginning to play “Sun Hands.”

“This is a dream-come true for us, thank you … After this, we’re going back to Los Angeles to make a new record.”

I, for one, cannot wait.


Brent Stecker

About Brent Stecker

Brent is a journalist and small-time musician based in Wenatchee, Wash. His passion for music wasn’t discovered until his teenage years, however, when he first got his hands on a Rage Against the Machine CD. He spent the rest of his adolescence broadening his musical tastes, obsessively learning guitar, and harnessing his writing abilities in journalism classes.