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Monday, July 18, 2011

Friday: The Dear Hunter Tops a Solid Bill at Bottom of the Hill

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 6:55 AM

The Dear Hunter at Bottom of the Hill on Friday night.
  • The Dear Hunter at Bottom of the Hill on Friday night.

The Dear Hunter

Kay Kay & his Weathered Underground

O'Brother

Naïve Thieves

July 16, 2011

@ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco

Better than: Seeing another Zach Rogue soundalike at the New Parish

When progressive emo bands like the Dear Hunter come to town, half of the band's success rests on who its members choose to tour with, not just their own performance. Fans of the genre have grown accustomed to shows where at least two major acts (in many cases the Dear Hunter has been the second-tier band to larger groups like Thrice or Circa Survive) adorn a bill that totals at least four diverse bands, all of which circle the nebulous post-hardcore subgenre. On Friday, the opening night of the Dear Hunter's tour in support of its new 36-song epic, the Color Spectrum, the opening bands earned attention that could be a good omen for the tour.

Right on time at 7:30, Naïve Thieves set out to impress with charming beach-cabana indie pop that was almost entirely removed from the Dear Hunter's genre, but made an ideal choice for the bar-and-bathroom hopping guaranteed early on in the show. Atlanta's O'Brother was much closer to the Dear Hunter sonically, and recalled the raw energy of bands like Thursday in its impassioned, howling set. Finally, Kay Kay & his Weathered Underground bridged the gap between the two bands that preceded them, crafting '60s vibes with a hint of druggy reverb that was made all the more potent by the spaghetti moustaches and novelty wildlife shirts the members were wearing.

The Dear Hunter
  • The Dear Hunter

By the time Casey Crescenzo and his gang of theatrical prog-rockers took the stage, the audience had already been primed with two hours of solid music -- a situation different from the typical indie rock show format of "one acoustic opener from Silverlake and one understated fashion statement band that sounds like buzz band A, B, or C." The show's continuity laid a necessary groundwork for the Dear Hunter to break free from its status as a perpetual opening band, allowing it to explore the copious amounts of new material Crescenzo released in his recent collection of nine EPs, one for each color in the standard spectrum.

Unfortunately, it showed early on that many of the new tracks had not been road-tested. While opening tracks "Never Forgive Never Forget" and "We've Got a Score to Settle" erupted ferociously out of the gate, many songs lagged and faltered, as Crescenzo's voice played second fiddle to three Goliath guitars.

However, once the Dear Hunter dug into its extensive back catalog, the band gained a confidence that lasted through the second half of its set. Grandiosity is no foreign concept to Crescenzo: Prior to this Color Spectrum project, he had written three acts of a six-act musical story that was as much inspired by rock music as it was by cabaret theater tunes (someone could play his third act with Rent on mute and the effect would likely be similar). Once the band delved into some of this material, namely the narrative "He Said He Had a Story" and anthemic "The Church and the Dime," themusic breathed and expanded over the small venue. Later tracks from Color Spectrum, namely "Home" and "Fall and Flee," were executed more confidently after the band had found steady footing.

071511_dear_hunter_3.jpg

The true highlights of the show, though, were tracks Dear Hunter fans have known and loved for years. The hit "Red Hands" was rearranged into a slow-burner with country twang, making lines like "Don't know what I'd do if you lost sleep over little old me" sting even more deeply. Crescenzo closed the show alone, with a song he said he thought he shouldn't play. The bittersweet ballad "Black Sandy Beaches" turned into a solemnly wailed singalong that ended things delicately. Parts of the night were shaky, but all the bands helped make the show -- and likely this tour -- a memorable experience.

Critic's Notebook

Doppelganger: My friend on Naïve Thieves singer Cameron Thorne: "He looks just like Salvador Dali -- Salvador Hipster"

Quote of the night: Kay Kay guitarist Thomas Hunter on couples: "I miss my wife. If she can't be here, you can't be happy either."

No encores: After explaining his policy on encores as not wanting to play a game where he puts his amp on standby, leaves the stage, and returns after half the audience has left, Crescenzo was called out by a fan for doing a solo "encore" of his own. His response: "I didn't leave the stage and my amp doesn't have a standby." Nice try.

The Dear Hunter Setlist:

Never Forgive Never Forget

We've Got a Score to Settle

Echo

Mr. Malum

She's Always Singing

The Dead Don't Starve

The Church and the Dime

He Said He Had a Story

Home

Fall and Flee

The Thief

Filth and Squalor

Red Hands

Lost But Not All Gone

Black Sandy Beaches

----

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Travis Bill

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