Photo Credit: Lior Phillips
2016 has been a year of real doom and gloom – and with a potential Trump-fuelled world apocalypse coming our way in only a few hours’ time, it’s not difficult to feel pretty cynical about the current state of the universe. The fact that a man who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women in so-called “locker room banter” is a serious contender for US presidency is enough to send anyone into a downwards spiral of misery, despair, etc. etc.
Last Friday night, however, Taylor Rice (one fifth of California indie-rockers Local Natives) encouraged hope in the audience gathered at Bristol’s Motion nightclub. “What with everything going on in America at the moment – and we know you guys have been dealing with your own issues over here… it can be easy to be a little cynical,” he commented, halfway through the band’s hour and a half-long set. “But our generation and the younger generation – we see the world better, and sees where it’s supposed to be going. This is our world and we do have a chance to push it in the direction that we want.”
His sentiments were met with raucous applause, and understandably so – Rice’s words of wisdom serve as an incredibly important reminder and one we should be spreading. With any luck, Hillary will take home tonight’s election in a landslide victory – still, whatever happens, it’s crucial that we remain defiantly optimistic. As the audience cheered, the band broke into Fountains of Youth – one of the lead tracks off their latest album and an ode to the political leanings of younger generations. It’s a power anthem if you ever heard one, behind a – and the energy of the track translated beautifully in a live setting, the audience singing along to its hopeful chorus – “we can do whatever we want, we can say whatever we mean”.
Anyone who’s been a fan of the band since their beginnings in ’09 should know that a key part of the Local Natives brand is their reputation for being fantastic live. It was what first swayed me to go see them on their Hummingbird tour in 2013, and it was what made me so determined to see them again this year – the California quintet burst with a certain joie de vivre on stage that is. Set up in Motion nightclub, a huge converted warehouse (freezing cold, but had a very edgy aesthetic, so swings and roundabouts really), Rice and bandmates Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Nik Ewing and Matt Frazier and their trademark entrancing three-part harmonies.
The setlist was incredibly generous, too – playing songs from both Sunlit Youth (Villainy, Past Lives, Jellyfish, Coins, Masters, Mother Emanuel) and their previous two albums (Wide Eyes, You & I, Breakers, Airplanes, Who Knows Who Cares), the band dabbled in fan-favourites both old and new. Set against a single spotlight, Ayer’s beautiful performance of Colombia - the most heart-breaking song from their back-catalogue – was a real show highlight. Local Natives always promise fans a good show – and, true to form, delivered as much as ever on Friday. I came out of the gig with a lost voice from all the singing along and a face hurting from smiling so much – always a good sign.
Whilst tonight will hopefully mark a turnaround in another wise incredibly depressing year in politics (don’t even get me started on Brexit), it might be useful to remember Local Natives’ message in the hours to come - finding hope in the face of adversity can sometimes be the bravest thing of them all.