Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Coming live from a distant subwoofer: Local Natives at the Forum, 23rd Nov 2010

From London Student, December 2010

Even avoiding my usual two-for-one cocktail deal up the road, there is just no getting past the fact that the sound quality at one of London's few remaining mid-sized venues is utterly, unforgivably woeful. Think of the bands who have played here this year – Jόnsi, Wolf Parade, Liquid Liquid,
Einstürzende Neubauten – and it seems bonkers that the Forum can get away with this half-arsed set-up; a feeble rig aimed straight into the ears of the front row and no further.

Local Natives' particular brand of finely balanced and tightly harmonised indie, like a cheerier Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes, is treated with asbestos mittens by the muddifying speakers. Standing in what should be a prime spot, 10 rows back and smack in the middle, the L.A. band's set comes off like listening to their precocious debut, Gorilla Manor, through a single subwoofer.

But! Local Natives are bigger than this sonic set-back. Their amazing too-tidy harmonies and fractured afro-popisms almost crave the shitty sound to make the thing sound like a live performance at all, so tight and polished is their set – but whereas a Grizzly Bear show leaves you open-mouthed at the fidelity to the record, Local Natives reanimate their songs with a welcome dash of vim and vigour.

The band seem genuinely chuffed to be playing their final show of 2010 here in London, where their following has grown exponentially since a tiny gig at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in January. The unexpected disco dénouement of closer 'Sun Hands' ties up Local Natives' year just so, before they bow out gratefully to a satiated crowd.

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