Concert Review: The Dear Hunter, TWIABP, Tanner Merritt in Ann Arbor, August 20th, 2022

My wife and I had the amazing opportunity to catch this show at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. My first observation, made clear as soon as we arrived: The venue was sold out, and the line of people when I arrived a half an hour before was down the sidewalk and around the corner. I know The Dear Hunter and the other bands have mostly successfully dodged the ‘prog’ label that might clump them in with Yes and King Crimson imitators, and therefore they haven’t had to deal with the negative associations with those bands, but it is still very heartening to see so much support for ambitious, complex, thematically dense music- descriptors that would accurately describe all 3 bands. In speaking with fellow fans, I found them to be incredibly enthusiastic fans of modern art and progressive rock, as well. This became more and more clear as the night went on.

Opener Tanner Merritt was a new introduction to me, but I really enjoyed his atmospheric and moody vibe, which sounded like some intersection between more recent Radiohead and Massive Attack (forgive the reductive comparison, but just to give you an idea). The other two bands on the bill were, for the most part, energetic, grandiose, and powerful. Tanner’s opening act was a welcome change of pace, with weighty, ponderous songs laden with atmosphere. That’s not to say the other bands didn’t have contemplative, introspective moments in their more driving sets- Tanner just dwelled in that space more. Tanner also had a soaring, powerful voice that would glide above the moods he created. TWIABP’s touring guitarist/vocalist, Anthony Gesa, accompanied Tanner on guitar throughout his set . Please check out Tanner’s amazing music here. (Also, at that point in the concert, I was at the very back of the room, and was unable to get a picture. Sorry Tanner!)

The next act, The World Is a Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (which will be abbreviated as TWIABP) took the stage next. They have toured extensively with our dear friends in Bent Knee, and have won over scores of Bent Knee fans due to their experimental but palatable blend of post/progressive/indie rock (with emo sprinkles). The majority of their set was from their 2021 album, Illusory Walls, which was released to wide acclaim. I adored their sound and presence. Katie Dvorak and David Bello’s unique timbres interact so well together. As someone who loves harmonies, hearing the vocal interactions of the different band members was one of my favorite parts of the show. And, as the picture shows, the spot where I was standing allowed me to see drummer Steven Buttery and touring guitarist/vocalist (and heroic band manager for many groups) Anthony Gesa, who were extremely entertaining to watch. One of my favorite songs of the night was the closer, “Trouble”. Check out the video below, and click here for a link to their Bandcamp.

The Dear Hunter ended the night with a truly incredible set of music. I have been a fan for a few years and have never had the pleasure of seeing these guys live. The concert mainly consisted of their latest album, Antimai, played in its entirety. If you’re unfamiliar with Antimai, it is an absolutely brilliant album that has everything one might love about an album- infectious hooks, memorable grooves, and incredible musicianship- but it also is a fully realized concept album that deals with intense and important social and economic themes. Click here to stream or purchase Antimai– you won’t regret it.

I had listened to the album a few times prior to the concert, and had often wondered how well it would translate into a live setting, and The Dear Hunter more than delivered, with a terrifyingly good performance. As is often the case, certain songs were able to inhabit a different energy in the live setting. Two immediate examples are “Ring 4 – Patrol” and “Ring 3 – Luxury”. “Ring 4 – Patrol” was imbued with some punk energy as it was translated to a live setting, and the crowd energy was synergetic, making for a raucous few minutes. And “Ring 3 – Luxury”, which features some speak-singing from Casey and the band, was augmented as the audience sang along (or perhaps yelled along, at full voice) making for an electric performance. After Antimai, the band played a few songs from Act IV, Act 5, and The Color Spectrum, and we all called it a night, buzzing with good vibes and energy.

Overall, this was one of the most consistently solid concerts I’ve seen in ages. Each act brought something different, but at a level and quality that I didn’t anticipate. The Dear Hunter’s sound production, in particular, was nearly perfect, which is a lot to say for a band that has so much going on. I enjoyed the venue, although filling any room with that many people will push it to its limits. And, there’s nothing more joyous than the collective effervescence one feels at a concert, where there is so much love for the bands and the music that you cant help but be swept up. As of today, there are three dates remaining for this tour. I implore you to go check out these bands live if you’re able, and if not, please check out their latest records, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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