[For more photos from this show, see the Timothy Norris' slideshow “Local Natives, The Love Language @ The Music Box”]
The air hummed with anticipation inside the Music Box on Friday evening. This show had sold out before the tickets had even gone on sale to the general public. Los Angeles' darlings, Local Natives were playing the first of two sold-out shows this weekend at their biggest headlining venue to date.
So who had to go on before the hometown heroes went on stage? Who had to try and win the hearts of a room full of Angelenos? A little band from North Carolina, newly signed to Merge Records this year, called The Love Language. Were they up to the challenge? Absolutely.
And who wouldn't be when you're front man was born with pipes like Stu McLamb? If there were any hint of nerves on that stage, these kids didn't show it. Dual disco balls began spinning above the crowd, bathing everyone in sparkling purple and green flecks as The Love Language launched into the first few bars of “Nocturne.” The minute McLamb let out his first yell, all side conversations ceased. By the third song, people had pulled away from the bar and were staring openly in wonder at this man with side swept hair whose voice flowed like strong, sticky molasses over the crowd.
The set was comprised of a healthy mixture of songs from their self-titled, self-recorded debut and their sophomore disk, released in July. Blending garage rock and '60s influenced pop, The Love Language have put together a repertoire of hugely ambitious pop songs that feel oddly familiar. “Blue Angel” sounds just like something that would appear in an Elvis movie from the '50s and one could see “Lalita” or “Heart to Tell” being on a Dave Clark Five set list. McLamb has managed to take vintage ideas and rework them into something that is distinctly his. There is no mistaking a Love Language song and the band plays them with such unbridled joy that its near impossible not to shimmy along.
By the end of the Love Language's set the Music Box was twenty degrees hotter than when it started–by the time Local Natives took the stage everyone was glistening. This was a far cry from last year when they were playing at the much smaller Spaceland on Monday nights for free, but the temperature was the same.
The curtains rose and shadowy figures painted the words Local Natives on a screen while Prince's “I Would Die 4 U” came on the speakers. Then through a giant cloud of white smoke, the men of the hour strode out on stage and jumped right into “Camera Talk.” Local Natives have built their sound on the solid foundation of four-part harmonies, lsparkling melodies and heavy drumming that pounds into your chest with all of the tenderness of a sledgehammer.
This crowd was ready and clapped and stomped along to the beat, building and even louder percussive base. It's been almost six months since their debut album came out on Frenchkiss Records, but Los Angeles has been privy to Local Natives' material for slightly longer than that. This crowd knew most of the lyrics and what words they didn't know they more than made up for when it came to the choruses.
Hundreds of people bellowed out the “oh”s in “World News,” the “I want you back”s in “Airplanes,” and the “To see it with my own eyes” in “Wide Eyes,” each song building upon the last until the night ended with a giant raucous “Sun Hands.” The adoration did not go unnoticed. “I'm going to die in Los Angeles,” Taylor Rice announced, “I hope you do too. We'll see you around.” One can only hope that they manage to put out another album as spectacular as Gorilla Manor before they kick the bucket.