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In concert: Local Natives at the Rock 'n' Roll Hotel

localnatives-454px002.JPGLocal Natives brought breezy but all-too-familiar tunes to H St. Wednesday night. (All photos by Mark Abramson/TWP)

By Patrick Foster

Are the Vampire Weekend-alikes here already?

Ok, it is a bit unfair to dismiss Local Natives as a simple knockoff, but at their very sold-out show at the Rock and Roll Hotel last night, the California quintet’s breezy tones, swooping melodies, rumbling percussion and college-party choruses felt eerily similar to VW. The fact that their cool new band buzz (Pitchfork approved, natch) often overwhelmed their music only heightened the sense of déjà vu.

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On their lone album, “Gorilla Manor,” the Natives occasionally (“Who Knows Who Cares” especially) sound like dental office music. Those same songs sounded brawnier on stage, though, roughed up by Kelcey Ayer’s percussion and their main calling card, massed three-part harmonies. When Ayer and guitarists Taylor Rice and Ryan Hahn leaned into the choruses of songs like “Wide Eyes,” “Camera Talk” and “World News” their real savvy showed, as flecks of Arcade Fire, Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes coursed through the Vampire Weekend framework. Which might explain the Natives appeal: their catchiest songs feel familiar, requiring little more than a few ‘ooh oohs’ to have you singing along with the cool kids.

The Natives weren’t much visually (not surprising for a young band), but smart enough not to try too hard. They wisely placed their most anthemic tunes “Airplanes,” “Sun Hands” near the end of the set, which led to many cans of PBR being raised in salute. Yet, despite a semi-rousing conclusion and enthusiastic fans, the set never felt particularly authentic or engaging. But Local Natives seem more concerned at present with continuing to perform their best trick: getting people to pay attention.

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By Ally Schweitzer  |  May 6, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Local Natives  
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Next: In concert: OK Go at 9:30 club

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