Suckers & Local Natives at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH, 5.11.10

Local Natives (in-store performance at Music Saves)

Wide Eyes
Cards & Quarters
Warning Sign

I may be a big puss and a little too easily affected by music, but as soon as Local Natives broke into their trademark harmonizing at the beginning of their Music Saves pre-gig in-store performance, I felt a little moisture trying to escape from my face. I wasn’t crying – just… leaking a little awe.

This was quite a turnaround considering it hadn’t been that long ago that I was finding myself unable to get into the Local Natives groove (it was that backyard SXSW performance captured by Yours Truly that finally got me to tap in). Lucky for me that there’s no expiration date on good music.

It struck me that Local Natives’ performance was almost the antithesis of the Felice Brothers’ performance I had just experienced the night before. I am a big fan of slopping, emotional music, which the Felice Brothers are pros at creating, but there is certainly something to be said for the ability of a band like Local Natives. As a unit, they are so tight and their talents s complement each other so well that it’s easy to tell that some of these guys have been playing together half their lives. Though that’s certainly not to say that Local Natives’ music lacks emotion. Their song subject matter often sprouts from a very personal level and the musical accompaniment can tap straight into the listener’s center. Plus, Kelcey Ayer has a howl that makes you want to give him a hug and ask if he’s okay.

Experiencing the music of Local Natives in the small space of Music Saves, with acoustic instruments and no mics, mere feet from where you stand, accentuating their immaculate vocals and the warm heart of their music, is extraordinary. If you have the chance to hear them this way, jump on it.


A guy who looks like he just escaped from a John Hughes movie casting call walks out on stage. He’s wearing a striped shirt with a red tie screen printed on the front, red sneakers, and he has straggly designs markered across his face.

“My name is Brian, and my talent is drumming.”

He sits down behind his kit (also red) and goes to work. After a little showing off, his compatriots take the stage. There is another refugee from the John Hughes extras pool (guitarist Austin Fisher), someone’s dad (bass player Pan) and a spectacularly colorful grunge glam rocker (singer Quinn Walker). This is Suckers, and they’re going to go straight to the good stuff with “Before Your Birthday Ends”.

I had heard Suckers around the ‘net thanks to the likes of Daytrotter and Stereogum and liked what I heard, but by the time I was standing in front of the stage, I had forgotten what they sounded like. I couldn’t have been more happily reminded when they broke into “Birthday” with its bouncing groove and Walker’s falsetto vocals (not to detract from his normal voice, but I almost wish Walker sang in falsetto all the time).

Keeping up the groove through the show, the band members did double- and sometimes triple-duty on vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion percussion percussion and even a little brass, Fisher being the only one who didn’t seem like he was going to jump out of his skin with ebullience. Even without Walker telling us what a “great space” we had in the Beachland and how much fun he was having, their joy was apparent. The audience felt the joy and returned it, giving the band some of the biggest parting cheers I’ve ever heard for an opening act. If Suckers aren’t headlining their own tour the next time around, it’ll be a surprise.

Other songs played (in lieu of an actual set list): “Black Sheep”, “It Gets Your Body Moving”, “Roman Candles”.

Local Natives

Camera Talk
World News
Wide Eyes
Cards & Quarters
Shape Shifter
Warning Sign
Cubism Dream
Stranger Things
Who Knows Who Cares
Sun Hands

After experiencing the beauty of the Music Saves acoustic performance, there was a little part of my mind concerned that the big, plugged-in show would not be as invigorating. But when Local Natives took the Beachland stage, they proceeded to give that little part of my mind a smack in its metaphorical face. Like their tour mates, Local Natives bring a lot of percussion and a lot of joy to the stage. Their amplified performance, while three times more energetic than their acoustic performance, is no less tight and no less affecting.

There was a little instrument switching off between songs, Ryan Hahn putting down the guitar for drums for a little while and Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer trading off guitar and keyboard duties (Ayer sometimes playing keys and percussion while singing), while bass player Andy Hamm and drummer Matt Frazier kept mostly to their posts (though Hamm did join Frazier a couple of times to add to the percussion). His time behind the keyboard was the only time Rice stopped bouncing around the stage, sweating all over the place.

While their songs benefit from quieter, stripped down playing, their versatility means they also benefit from big, loud amplification, keeping the crowd bouncing along throughout the show. And you can bet everyone was shouting along to the big chorus on “Sun Hands”.

The drawback of being a headlining band with one album is that you’re left with no songs to encore with, and even though the audience really wanted Local Natives back for some more, there was no more to give. But there was no feeling that we hadn’t been given our money’s worth and then some.

Here’s a video from the Local Natives’ in-store performance of my current favorite from them, “Cards & Quarters”:

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