Founded and led by multi-instrumentalist Casey Crescenzo, New England outfit The Dear Hunter is very idiosyncratic. Combining elements of indie rock, folk, classical, and progressive rock, they employ a wide array of influences and techniques into an exceedingly diverse and matchless sound. In addition, the group is known for overarching themes—their first three ‘Act’ albums told a continuous (and presently unfinished) story, while 2011’s ‘The Color Spectrum’ contained four songs on each of its nine colored EPs. They’re currently touring the area in celebration of their upcoming fifth release, ‘Migrant’ (the first without any concept), and this past Wednesday (March 27th) they stopped by Philadelphia’s Union Transfer to deliver a joyous, humbling, and extremely involving performance.
Opening for The Dear Hunter was Naïve Thieves, a Californian quartet that combines modern and vintage qualities well. Essentially, they craft simple, catchy pop/rock songs that rely on clean guitar riffs, straightforward rhythms, and the charming vocals of Cameron Thorne (who bears a striking resemblance to Ron Mael, the keyboardist of 70s glam pop group Sparks). There’s also a nod to doo-wop and 50s romanticism, as most of their songs are easy going and danceable. I also sensed a similarity to certain Panic! At the Disco tracks (albeit more sparse). They played for about thirty minutes and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.
Shortly after, The Dear Hunter took the stage, and the audience went mad. Rather than try to impress their fans with unnecessary visual spectacle (as so many bands do), their setup was relatively modest; interestingly, though, they used retro amplifiers, as well as several small lamps. Together, these items actually made the stage look a bit like a 1960s living room, which complemented their down to earth vibe. As for the set, it was expansive and very satisfying, as they often started without announcing the titles (so every one was a surprise). Luckily, the represented all five of their studio releases, which meant that newcomers got a perfect overview of the group’s career. Arranged by album and chronology, the songs included:
“The Pimp and the Priest”
“The Lake and the River”
“The Oracles on the Delphi Express”
“The Church and the Dime”
“In Cauda Venenum”
“Life and Death”
“He Said He Had a Story”
‘The Color Spectrum’:
“Filth and Squalor”
“We’ve Got a Score to Settle”
“Things that Hide Away”
“Tripping in Triplets”
“Lost But Not All Gone”
To be more specific, “Misplaced Devotion” and “Tripping in Triplets” featured Cameron Thorne as well; also, the latter song, as well as “Things that Hide Away,” was performed as a brief solo set by Crescenzo in order to (as he said, jokingly) “give the band a break and boost my ego a bit.” Aside from that, there isn’t much on which to elaborate. They performed near-perfect versions of the studio tracks, which were pretty amazing, and they even goofed around a bit with the ever-popular “Freebird.” Crescenzo seemed humble throughout, thanking the audience often and commenting that he was taken aback by how many people came to see his band.
Overall, The Dear Hunter put on a wonderful show. Crescenzo continues to be a masterful performer, as both his vocals and guitar playing are phenomenal. In addition, his musicians are impeccable and equally modest. Best of all, their nonchalant attitude and humorous banter made the night feel like a collective celebration (rather than a band performing for hundreds of uninvolved attendees). Of course, there’s a certain level of injustice in the fact that a band this talented, innovative, and unique still isn’t at the same showbiz level as some today’s most popular (and mediocre) “artists,” but that’s a whole other story. Suffice to say that The Dear Hunter is just as amazing live as it is in the studio, and you should definitely see them ASAP (as well as pick up ‘Migrant’ when it releases).