These are two things that can turn a concert from enjoyable to transcendent. While listening to NPR's All Songs Considered (NPR's music podcast) coverage of the recent South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, I noticed that they kept commenting on how this year's festival was really strong due to these two elements. So I'm going to agree with NPR (like any good, young progressive should and would) and reiterate that great percussion and vocals make for a great concert.
With that said, Kenan and I (above) attended a Local Natives concert at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor on Monday night. Luckily, great percussion and vocals were present as well.
The opening band were the Brooklynites, Suckers. I didn't bother checking out their music beforehand but these guys put on a really great opening act. Their set included a lot of energy and their lead vocalist (while reminding me of little of Jack Black) had a lot of character to his voice. I was also impressed by how multi-instrumental these guys were (as were Local Natives). There were times when the lead singer was strumming his guitar, banging a drum, and alternately whistling and singing, all at the same time. And everyone in the band did this to some degree or another. All this to say, they were really fun and their music, while foreign to just about everyone in the crowd, was very engaging.
Now onto Local Natives. After multiple recommendations of this band, I finally checked them out a couple weeks ago and, after a couple listens, I was hooked. Amidst other admirable attributes, they have great harmonies that beckon the listener to sing along, forcing me to fall in love with them. I also saw that they were playing the Blind Pig and my brother had been a mega-fan of their song, Airplanes since MySpace was cool/used, so we bought tickets to the show.
The show eventually sold out, making for a crowded standing area but which also made for a very energetic crowd. Going back to the opening line of this blog... this band knows how to sing. And not only that, they know how to get everyone in on the singing. The band had 4 of its 5 members mic'ed, adding to the group mentality of the vocals and they often had at least two members singing, even during the verses. This also encouraged the enthusiastic crowd to sing along with all of the choruses. The following is the shaky (I had to groove!) video of their crowd favorite, Airplanes:
I'm a sucker for great drums as well. So when I see that a band has a drummer plus someone else on another drum/cymbal, I know there's going to be some great beats. And I was certainly satisfied with the percussion the Local Natives provided. They often just went to town on the drums and this, coupled with the vocals, made for some incredible moments. The drum solo later on in the song Who Knows, Who Cares is one of my favorite moments on the album and, although I don't think I caught it on tape, here's part of that song:
The band played all the songs I was hoping for (not surprising considering they only have one album) but it was a good length of a concert. They repositioned themselves for a few songs in the middle (showcasing their ability to play any instrument), slowing it down a little bit, only to pick it up at the end with the song above and then an encore performance of Sun Hands.
OK, enough of my blabbing about my concert going experience. My final verdict: if at all possible, see this band live.