Under the relentless heat of Austin’s 4:00pm sun, Local Natives graced Austin City Limit’s Honda stage to play for a lethargic crowd that were feeling the late afternoon slump with umbrellas blanketing stretches of Zilker Park and paper fans flapping at full-force. The weather was the least of the band’s worries though; they had bigger things to accomplish with their time in Texas.
Launching right into “Past Lives,” a glimmering track off the LA natives’ recent album Sunlit Youth, leading man Taylor Rice floated across the stage, his hair in a flawless braided crown that you’ve probably spotted somewhere on Pinterest. (He wore it like that for Lollapalooza, too.)
And even though Local Natives’ setlist and stylistic choices may have remained the same from the last time we saw them in Chicago, one notable difference was the absence of Rice’s statement-making guitar, which had read “Make America Afraid Again,” with the “Afraid” crossed out in red tape.
While it seemed like Local Natives weren’t going to comment on politics this time around, Rice still paused to talk about the upcoming election, urging young members of the audience to register to vote, especially if it was their first time hitting the polls.
“I think there’s more reason to be optimistic than cynical,” he said. “You can help push the decision forward and make a change in the world.”
Following “Airplanes,” one of the band’s most recognizable tracks off 2009’s Gorilla Manor, Taylor showered praise on Austin, calling it “the first city to care about us outside of LA.”
The Austin love train kept on chuggin’, with “Ceilings” dedicated to bassist Nik Ewing, who officially joined the band during ACL two years ago. “Who Knows Who Cares” followed with Rice’s breathless admission that they had played the song “in just about every single bar in Austin.”
It was fitting, then, that after a dynamic set spent uplifting the young crowd in 85-degree heat, the band ended with “Sun Hands,” an atmospheric track that winds its way forward the same way that Rice wound himself into the trusting hands of the audience for a mid-song crowd-surf.
It can’t be a coincidence that Local Natives’ “Fountain of Youth” leads with the line, “I think we better listen to these kids.” The future is in their hands; we just have to be the ones that point them in the right direction.
Watch another ACL 2016 interview with the Strumbellas below. Keep up with everything ACL 2016 with Fuse here.