I am feeling a little spoiled lately here in the Twin Cities. Maybe it’s the nicer weather that is finally thawing us out of hibernation or maybe it’s the slew of amazing shows that have been swinging through town. Last week I got to cover three great acts that have really impacted my life in deep and profound ways (funny how music can do that). Last week I covered Passion Pit at The Palace Theater – a band who helped me understand my brother’s bipolar disorder. Betty Who at First Avenue – an artist who was the soundtrack to some of my favorite weekends in college in Los Angeles, dancing with roommates and drinking cocktails we couldn’t afford. And Fred Armisen – whose show Portlandia has been a warm blanket of humor and joy in some of my darker times. And last night – Local Natives – whose music has also been the soundtrack to much of my 20s. Their debut album Gorilla Manor came out the year I graduated from high school and has since been an album I repeatedly come back to and fall in love with time and time again. It’s an album that every time I listen – I am taken back to college in California, driving up the coast to go camping in Big Sur, blasting that album and singing along to Sun Hands. I’m reminded of summers on patios in Minneapolis, drinking good beer with better people. Not just Gorilla Manor, but the breadth and depth of Local Natives music, really has served as the soundtrack to so much of my adult life. And watching them absolutely command a nearly sold-out First Avenue last night, it’s clear their music has impacted a lot more people than just me.
Like I said – I’m feeling spoiled. I adore the Twin Cities and our vibrant music and arts scene. But I think this past week of shows, including Local Natives have reminded me of something – other people, not just people from Minnesota, love the Twin Cities too. Maybe their stroking my ego too much – but every artist I’ve covered in the past week has talked about their love for Minneapolis and the Twin Cities in general and what this place means to them. These artists who music and art have affected my life, have been affected by hometown. How special is that? Local Natives at First Avenue’s set was flawless. How could it not be? But what stood out to me the most – was their love and regard for this city. Artists they have collaborated with for music videos and merchandise are from here. This city has affected them in a special way. And because of that – Local Natives treated the nearly sold out crowd to a little bit of a different set. They played songs from Gorilla Manor they don’t normally play on this tour. They of course played a handful of tracks from their latest release Violet Street.
Frontman Taylor Rice is a force to be reckoned with – he is absolutely captivating to watch live. Switching between vocals, guitar, maracas or whatever else they have on stage. Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Matt Frazier and Nik Ewing round out Local Natives – creating the infectious, hooky harmonies Local Natives are perhaps best known for. Their set was loud, booming, bright, infectious. For a group who been making music for the better part of a decade – it’s clear these guys have no signs of slowing down. Their energy on stage is one you don’t experience often. There’s something contagious about it – it draws you in to their set, making you wish it would never. But end it did. We hope to see Local Natives back on that iconic stage very soon. And selfishly, I hope they keep making music that can be the soundtrack to the next decade of my life.Opening up the evening for Local Natives was another act I’ve had on heavy rotation lately – Middle Kids. Hailing from Sydney, Australia – this four piece has been making major waves since their 2017 self-titled debut EP featuring the infectiously catchy bop Edge of Town. Since 2017 – Middle Kids have been touring heavily, playing the festival circuit, making their late night talk show debuts and released their first full length album Lost Friends. Much like Local Natives – there is an energy to Middle Kids that is contagious. I first saw Middle Kids in the fall of 2017 to a packed 7th Street Entry. Frontwoman Hannah Joy joked that every other time they have played Minneapolis it’s been in the winter so it was nice to be in town in the Spring (though it was a cold and rainy night – we do have summer, I promise). Middle Kids is fronted by Hannah Joy and her husband, Tim Fitz. There’s of course a chemistry in their live performance, but the is not what takes center stage. What takes center stage is their catchy tunes that have a way of getting stuck in your head for days after listening. The crowd was vibing off the energy of Middle Kids and they made for the perfect start to the evening. After last night I have feeling we are going to see Middle Kids headlining that same stage very soon.