Local Natives’ “Hummingbird” Sings on Stage

Local Natives' Taylor Rice at the Fox Theater.Photos by Brett Brownell


Local Natives, the mesmerizing, harmonizing, Los Angeles-based four-piece, has successfully avoided the sophomore slump with the release, last week, of its second album, Hummingbird. It follows their bright and bouncy 2010 debut Gorilla Manor, which landed them tours with the likes of Arcade Fire and The National. In fact, The National’s Aaron Dressner was so enamored with Local Natives that he decided to help them produce Hummingbird.

The night after the album’s release, a sold-out crowd greeted Local Natives at Oakland’s 2,800-seat Fox Theater. “This is a big night for us,” vocalist/guitarist Taylor Rice said from the stage. “Our second record came out yesterday. This is the first time we’ve played Oakland. And this is the biggest show we’ve ever played.” He was visibly humbled by the size and reaction of the audience.

The streamed preview of the new album provided by the PR folks sounded pretty good, but it felt like something was missing. Maybe the songs weren’t grand enough, or personal enough—or maybe being tethered to a computer was the wrong way to listen? Or my headphones didn’t have enough bass?

So I decided to come out to the show, because sometimes it takes a live performance to solidify your opinion of an album—you need to to share it with a few thousand other people. As soon as the band began filling the historic downtown theater with “You & I,” the first track off Hummingbird, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time.

Image: Local Natives

Local Natives at the Fox.

Hummingbird is not as immediate as Gorilla Manor. It feels nostalgic, retrospective, and at times frustrated. If Gorilla Manor was the theme to your back yard barbeque in 2010, Hummingbird might be your group therapy after getting burned. Songs like “Wooly Mammoth” and especially “Beakers” have catchy grooves, while “Ceilings,” “Black Spot,” and the apparent Sigur Ros ode “Three Months,” are close-your-eyes dreamy.

But “Colombia” will remain one of the most sobering songs of the year. Vocalist/keyboardist Kelcey Ayer lost his mother in 2012. The song, named after her home country, finds Ayer sharing his quest for reassurance. “You gave and gave and gave and gave…Every night I ask myself, am I giving enough?”

By the end, as he’s calling her out by name, be prepared to feel a sharp chill and desire to respond with “Yes.”

Image: Kelcey Ayer

Vocalist/Keyboardist Kelcey Ayer.

Image: Fox Theater crowd

The Oakland crowd cheers for Local Natives.

Click here for more music coverage from Mother Jones.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate