That Local Natives show was a TRIP.
First of all, I had a great time.
Secondly, they are very nice and good at what they do.
Thirdly, man – I didn’t get it at all.
A friend I was hanging out with said it best: “This sounds like Christian Contemporary music.” And it did. It was all big, pseudo-inspiring choruses, anodyne vocal harmonies, guitars with no jagged edges and drums that were processed to sound like the muted thump of a drum machine. Vaguely like electronic music, even though there were instruments present, with a sheen of Mumford And Sons-type vocal bombast and wide-eyed sincerity.
It was like living in a car commercial featuring beautiful young people cruising to the beach as the sun sets, the world bathed in golden light, the kids smiling in their expensive sunglasses, basking in the glory of their youth while the chorus swoops up into a generalized swell of good feeling. The kids there, in attendance, loved it. They cried and sang along and seemed to be having a transcendent experience.
Which is great. I’m not judging; it was just weird. Like, different from my experience being that age, when you liked stuff that was, you know, loud, and, well, rocked. It wasn’t rock and roll, whatever it was. I don’t think a single audience member had ever been in a fist fight, or arrested, or probably ever hurt someone’s feelings. They looked like really, really nice kids. Better than we were, for sure. The biggest cheer of the night came when the band said they donate a dollar of every ticket sold to “victims of gender-based violence.” Which is an unambiguously GREAT thing to do, don’t get me wrong. When I was 22, I was not concerned about that sort of thing, other than in a general way.
So, it’s like, these are good kids going to these shows, good dudes playing this music. But the music itself is very, very bland. Which brings up the question of a possible inverse relationship to rock and roll and goodness. I mean, maybe they don’t call it the devil’s music for nothing.
Their very last song kind of rocked, and people went CRAZY. So maybe these kids want to rock, but don’t know it. And the band wants to rock, but they just think it’s in poor taste, or something. But the need is there.
The after-party scene was, like, small groups of people sitting at tables, drinking hard cider and having earnest discussions. (Which is funny, because I was backstage at a country show recently and the after-party was, well, what you imagine at an after-party.) Frankly, my friends and I had to go to a neighboring strip club just to wash away the wholesomeness a little bit. That’s not my nightly scene, but it just felt necessary.
In any case, I went as an anthropologist, and was not disappointed. The kids are all right – well, they’re sort of great – but they wouldn’t know rock and roll if it hit them in the face.
Maybe this isn’t even rock and roll. Maybe it’s something else. There’s no reason why a 36 year old should “get” Local Natives. So all is as it should be, I guess.
Rock is dead, people are nice, I’m old. That’s all I’m trying to say.