“Lo-cal Na-tives, Lo-cal Na-tives!” The chant went up about ten minutes before the OC expats were scheduled to take the stage in the Gobi Tent. A gaggle of girls in front of me, whose median age couldn't have been higher than 16, chatted among themselves about how they were going to call a friend of theirs when “Airplanes” came on. Next to them, a fratty looking guy in a tank top was singing one of the “whoa-oh-oh” choruses from Gorilla Manor.
The Gypsy Lounge, this was not.
The quintet more than rose to the occasion. Tearing through the highlights of their debut, they harmonized impeccably and laid down rhythms that thumped in the chest far more than they do on CD. Seeing them in this setting makes you understand how they've gotten so big. With three guys on percussion and four guys on vocals, Local Natives specialize in the two most enjoyable aspects of seeing live music: singalong potential and move-along potential. That's not so say this is KROQ material; Local Natives aim for a sort of spiritualized synthesis over too-easy thrills. And you get the sense that they can go anywhere. When they closed the set with “Sun Hands,” the climax of the song–surging distorted guitars and a shouted chorus–sounded more metal than indie. The backwards hatted, square-framed-glasses-wearing masses hopped furiously. Playing Coachella is a big milestone; in a few years, though, we expect Local Natives to hit another one by playing one of the bigger stages here. They sound ready for it already.
One of those bigger stages–the Outdoor Theatre–today held Deerhunter, who delivered a solid set that reminds us again of the central contradiction of the band. If you listen to the Atlanta act's albums, you get the impression of a songwriter obsessed with darkness, fearful of the world and frustrated he can't return to childhood. In person, though, Bradford Cox is known to be the most gregarious, friendly guy in the indie rock world. Deerhunter has played a ton of festivals like this, and it showed today: The guys were laid back, tight and entertaining, heavy on kraut rhythms and swelling guitar jams.
At one point, the band had to stop to deal with some sound problems. Cox, though, knew just what to do. He improvised an ode to Coachella. One sample verse:
How many kids OD'd in the medical tent last night?
How many condoms broke in the hotels last night?
Supplying festivals of the future with their audiences…
Fatalistic and funny, just like Cox.