Hipsters. Not gonna lie, that was one of the first words that came to mind when Local Natives took the stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday. I wasn’t sure whether it was guitarist Ryan Hahn’s floral skinny jeans, the luscious mustache of singer/guitarist Taylor Rice, or singer/keyboardist Kelcey Ayer’s flannel — buttoned all the way up, which seems to be the latest amendment to hipster fashion these days— or all of the above.
But then again, almost every young person these days seems to have absorbed some of the styles characteristic of hipsterdom, and Local Natives seem to do so in an unpretentious way. They’re cool. And, more importantly, their music is awesome.
Throughout the entire night the band seemed almost completely caught up in what they were playing, which in turn seemed to engage the audience more. Only a few times did Taylor Rice address and engage the crowd, but that didn’t stop people from lifting their hands and shouting the lyrics to their Local Natives favorites.
The passage that immediately came to mind when stepping out of the experience and simply observing the guys was one from Frederick Buechner on salvation:
“Doing the work you're best at doing and like to do best, hearing great music, having great fun, seeing something very beautiful, weeping at somebody else's tragedy-all these experiences are related to the experience of salvation because in all of them two things happen: (1) you lose yourself, and(2) you find that you are more fully yourself than usual.”
These guys were certainly losing themselves but paradoxically appeared to be incredibly at home with who they were and what they were doing.
On “Columbia,” Ayer’s tribute to his late mother, he almost violently strummed the guitar after the song swelled and finally settled down. It looked like he almost had to snap out of it.
The passion translates into fresh, catchy indie rock laden with eclectic beats, rich harmonies, huge swells, and lots of “Ohs” that may eventually have — dare I say it — mainstream success. In a culture that’s saturated with music, that’s really hard to do.
Brandon Hook is the Online Assistant at Sojourners.
Photo: Jareed  / Flickr