Material: Native June’s energetic and sometimes gritty material infuses elements of surf rock, but also harkens back to the classic rock era. Choruses explode with hard-hitting, distorted chord progressions that carry over into quieter yet up-tempo verses. Solid, gutsy rock beats drive most of the songs, which catch on quickly. “Change,” for instance, has a choppy, haunting minor chord riff that accents a forceful drum beat. It’s the slower material, however, that is more fine-tuned. “Daisy,” a romantic ballad that starts off slow and crashes into a frenzied chorus of grizzly growls, is successfully composed, and the band should aspire to write more songs in that vein.
Musicianship: Watson is a confident rhythm guitar player, but requires more familiarity with his instrument to be a soloist. His vocals have a signature grit, which he should feature more, but they often veer off pitch. Jones has rhythmic chops and commands attention from behind the kit. Cuyugan locks in with Jones, but seems a little careless with his fingering at times. Chaput is a fine lead player, but doesn’t get to showcase his skills nearly enough.
Performance: The band plowed through a set of originals in a sweaty, rock & roll fashion. From the opening tune, “Shoulda Saw it Coming,” Watson quickly established himself as a thrilling frontman as he jumped around the stage and engaged the audience, encouraging vocal participation. Although his stage antics entertained the packed venue, his vocals and guitar playing suffered. Similarly, Cuyugan focused less on his bass lines and more on jumping about. This by no means ruined the show, but it did compromise musicianship for entertainment. Jones and Chaput kept the band afloat, remaining tightknit throughout the set.
The band’s set took an interesting turn during “The Circus,” a ska-inspired song with odd rap vocals. Native June finished strong with “In Shadows” and “Saturday Night,” to which the crowd joined in for a chanting chorus.
Summary: Native June has a knack for songwriting, but at this point in their development the band should play to its strengths. While musical experimentation is commendable, with the band’s classic rock leanings as a crowd-pleaser, finding a distinctive sound is now paramount.
Venue: The Viper Room
City: Los Angeles, CA