The Dear Hunter play The Social, Saturday, August 20th.
The Dear Hunter w/O’Brother and The Felix Culpa
Where: Lincoln Hall
When: July 24th, 2011
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and photographed by: Amanda Kaiser
On a humid Sunday evening Chicagoans of all ages crowded within the confines of Lincoln Hall to see The Dear Hunter’s sold-out show. Though the band hails from Rhode Island, the high demand made it evident they have a loyal fan base here in the Windy City. This concert marks the first U.S. headlining tour for the group; previously they toured with progressive/alt rock bands like Dredg, and Coheed and Cambria. The tour began July 15 in San Francisco, CA and will conclude in Pomona, CA on August 27.
This debut headline tour came at the perfect time, corresponding perfectly with the release of their newest music project. The sextet primarily played songs off their new EP The Color Spectrum, released June 14 on Triple Crown Records. The grandiose concept album, comprised of 36 songs, features collaborations with the likes of Manchester Orchestra. The project is dedicated to allowing listeners to experience nine different colors through the medium of sound.
The night’s lineup featured special guests The Felix Culpa, O’Brother, and Kay Kay and His Weathered Undergrounds. The Felix Culpa, a post-hardcore indie quartet from Wisconsin, came on first and jammed out, setting the adrenaline-filled mood for the night. Atlanta’s O’Brother took the stage next, filling the room with searing guitar riffs and howling cries. Kay Kay and His Weathered Undergrounds appeared as the last of the opening acts. The scruffy Seattle-based outfit spun 60s reverb with an impressive seven-person band, incorporating tuba and swooping violins into the usual repertoire.
The Dear Hunter is oft-described as post-punk, though the collective dabbles in country, cabaret, blues, pop and metal, especially on their newest release. When the band took the stage, however, there were no skinny jeans, sullen shoegaze or ebony spiked hair in sight. Instead, the band appeared extremely casual, sporting various shades of worn flannel and the lead singer donning a beanie. Their look screamed “jam band,” but I was about to find out that The Dear Hunter’s sound is infinitely more advanced and complex than any group of washed-out post-collegiates you’d find in your momma’s basement.
Frontman Casey Crescenzo’s vocal range is incredible, scaling from a perfectly-on-pitch falsetto to a grinding baritone, repeatedly throughout the songs. His talent provides the perfect complement to the group’s up-tempo aggressive rock. Throughout the performance I couldn’t shake the feeling that his voice reminded me of someone, and suddenly it came to me: Muse singer Matt Bellamy. The vocal similarity between the two artists is almost uncanny.
The alt-rock outfit opened with “The Church and Dime” off their second album released in 2006, a complex piece packed with layered vocals and intense percussion. Midway through the show “Red Hands” was a clear favorite, and the audience sang along in impassioned unison, smiling and dancing with arms raised above their heads. This song delivered unadulterated pop-rock euphoria with the imploring chorus “Oh God, what have I done / Now my darling put your clothes back on.” “She’s Always Singing (Yellow)” featured catchy vocals, bright guitar riffs, and a reverbed Beach Boys-esque sing-along with a summery vibe. “Fall and Flee” was another standout of the night, beginning with a psychedelic, scattered sound reminiscent of Animal Collective and transitioning into moments of dreamy, lo-fi vocals and rollicking piano segments.
During the first few songs even Crescenzo’s powerful vocals were no match for the blaring guitar riffs and relentless drums competing for attention, and his mellow presence seemed to fade into the background. By the end of the concert though, Crescenzo found his footing and had the audience wrapped around the strings of his guitar. Despite releasing their newest music project a little over a month ago, the hyped-up crowd knew most of the words to all the songs, new and old, closing their eyes and belting out the words while swaying as if in reverie.
The totality of The Dear Hunter’s performance was made interesting by the long segments of explosive instrumentals followed by moments of tenderness, filled with twinkling pianos and dreamy reverb-soaked guitar. The contrast between the two made these quieter moments all the more arresting.
The Dear Hunter’s magnum opus that is The Color Spectrum aims high, and their performance follows suit. Crescenzo and his band mates possess a raw energy that draws their fans in, and though the aggressive rock wasn’t really my cup of tea, I could appreciate the band’s endearingly emo, yet progressively experimental, sound. For such a talented and imaginative group I’m surprised they haven’t garnered more fame yet, but with luck the remainder of The Dear Hunter’s first headline tour will gain recognition for a collective that seems to be forming a sonic subculture all their own.