Seeing The Dear Hunter
this past Friday night was a cosmic things-coming-full-circle event for me. A good friend of mine has been talking about this band since I met him around six years ago, and for whatever reason, I never gave them a listen. In fact, his admiration of The Dear Hunter is so intense that it even became the focus of some jokes among our group. So when he invited me to a show of theirs, I simply had
to accept and take things a step further by reviewing the show for Baeble.
This was a special occasion, in that The Dear Hunter were to play through all of Act III: Life And Death
, their third record in a series of six covering the exploits of the eponymous protagonist. It's kind of heady stuff, and certainly not for everyone
, but it has just enough pop appeal to trick people that might not otherwise give it a chance. I had listened to the album front to back in preparation, and was genuinely excited to see how the complex tracks would translate in a live setting.
Openers Northern Faces
were a pleasant surprise; their groove-centric post-rock was smooth and entrancing. Three things about them that stood out: their bassist managed to hit all of the notes while performing what can only be described as an acrobatic floor routine, their drummer looked like the drummer from Puddle Of Mud, and I unknowingly had a chat with the guitarist in the photo-pit; he's a really nice guy.
Time for The Dear Hunter. The first thing that you notice at one of their shows is the intensity of their fan-base. I have never seen more pantomiming at a concert in my life; when lead singer Casey Crescenzo (what a name) said something about taking a drink, for example, audience members lifted their invisible chalices and emphatically downed the pretend-liquid. A newly deaf person who has yet to learn sign language would have damn near been able to understand the whole show. And everywhere you looked there were hardcore bro-circles engaging in passionate displays of bro-love whilst mouthing the lyrics so fervently that it looked painful. It was kind of like being in an alternate universe or something, but it was a great example of the unifying and magical effects of live music.
If I were to label TDH's sound, I'd create a term like post-prog folk-rock. They play cinematic compositions in odd time signatures, inserting evocative, old-timey breakdowns wherever they see fit. "Mustard Gas" and "Go Get Your Gun" were highlights, showcasing their inventiveness and their raw talent on their instruments. It also helps that Crescenzo moves around the stage with the grace of a jungle cat or a ribbon dancer. He's remarkably spry for being a slightly bigger dude, and it just adds another layer of drama to the already visually impressive spectacle. The award for best band member, however, goes to Casey's brother, the incredibly jacked drummer. He rocks a pair of d.j. headphones and hulks over his tiny kit, laying down the type of rock-solid groove that only a drummer weighing over 200 lbs can produce.
So did The Dear Hunter live up to the image that my friend had painted in my mind? The answer is yes, they did. Selling out a show in which you're going to play an album start to finish is quite the accomplishment. And when Casey announced that "Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise" was in the works, the crowd's reaction was raucous, for lack of a better word. I left the show as a fan of The Dear Hunter, so I guess for all of these years the joke had been on me.