The UnRecorded | Live Music: Local Natives and Suckers at Schubas
Posted on May 16, 2010 by Greg
Local Natives and Suckers
At Schubas Tavern, Chicago, 5-14-2010
We get to Schubas right on time for the 7pm early show and notice something odd right away: while the place only has about 30 people inside, all 30 are crammed up at the very front of the stage. And nobody is playing yet. Local Natives has built such a following that people are getting there early to stake out their spot in advance of the sellout crowd… something we usually see at much larger venues for much larger bands, not a group with one album (Gorilla Manor) that technically came out three months ago.
Those of us who come early are treated to the opening band, Suckers, who hail from—you guessed it—Brooklyn, home of all things indie and buzzworthy these days. Luckily, the band is beyond buzzworthy; they are actually pretty fucking terrific. If I were cool, I would have known about these guys last February when Stereogum called them a “Band to Watch.” But I am not cool (I just read that article this morning,) and therefore am wowed when about a minute into their first song, Suckers’ team of four frontmen explode in gorgeous gang-chorus vocal harmonies. They sound like four David Byrnes singing for the Polyphonic Spree with a little Madness thrown in.
Suckers is a percussive-heavy band: almost every member plays drums, cymbals or maracas…sometimes all at the same time. And just to keep things even, drummer Matt Frazier also sings and plays keyboards while drumming. The other players, Quinn Walker, Brian Aiken, Austin Fisher and “Pan”(the only name he has publicly provided) switch instruments often, playing guitar, keys, bass or trumpet depending on the song. At one point, Aiken uses a drumstick to alternately strum his bass and bang an electronic drum. Walker uses the same technique with his guitar on a later song, but with a maraca. The whole performance was shot through with improvisational energy and glorious pop crescendos. A great surprise. Suckers “Wild Smile” Due out June 8 on Frenchkiss Records
Local Natives has a lot to live up to by the time they get to the stage. It’s a confident move putting a band that good ahead of you. Their confidence is warranted, though, as they deliver a complex and energetic show. LN is like the older brother band to Suckers: five guys, very percussive, gang vocals, beautiful harmonies, and most of the guys trade off instruments. Interestingly, while Suckers’ album is produced by Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder, I hear a lot more of Yeasayer’s sound in LN’s music. I also hear some early Police, which is both cool and pretty rare these days.
Three different guys switch lead vocals, but the greater portion seems to go to the impressively-mustachioed guitarist/singer, Taylor Rice. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kelcey Ayer could also lead a band on his own, as could guitarist/vocalist Ryan Hahn. Bassist Andy Hamm and drummer Matt Frazier hold down the intricate rhythm section, which often has two or three guys drumming at the same time, blending rim clicks, cymbals, toms, kick…whatever they can put a stick on.
I figure Local Natives might reserve their energy somewhat for the 10pm show, but it seems full-on to me, and we get 55 minutes, which is three minutes longer than their only album, so no complaints there. Everything sounds as clear and clean as the record, with highlights including “Airplanes,” “Wide Eyes,” “World News,” the closer, “Who Knows Who Cares” (with Suckers’ Pan guesting on trumpet) and the haunting, tribal, Yeasayer-esque “Sun Hands” as an encore. Then we clear out for the next sold-out house.
As I write this, I’d say it’s a toss-up as to who put on the better show. LN and Suckers complement each other extraordinarily well and are ideal touring partners. If they are coming to your city this summer, see them. You can see Local Natives in Chicago again on July 18th in Union Park, as part of the Pitchfork Music Festival.
Just make sure to work your way up to the stage early; it’ll be a lot more full than Schubas.
– Greg from The UnCool
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