THE DEAR HUNTER
MAY 9, 2009
by Morgan Y. Evans
photos by Angela Tampone
The Bearsville Theater, just outside of world famous Woodstock, New York, is a beautiful, esteemed venue with a great sound system. The venue, originally owned by famed folk music manager Albert Grossman in the days when he was working with Bob Dylan, sits right atop the burbling Sawkill creek with dignity. It has hosted many concerts over the years with artists’ always eager to make an appearance and add it to their resume. The venue has hosted the likes of Mercury Rev, The Pretenders, jazz greats like Jack DeJohnette and even recently the spoken word of Henry Rollins as well as the stand up of David Cross. As Joey Eppard’s alternative/prog-metal/pop band Three has long been one of the stalwart, leading forces of the Hudson Valley music scene, the Bearsville Theater has served them well over the years as an ideal place for them to dig in and relax to a hometown crowd between tours. Three plays the theater every few months, it seems, which is nice since Woodstock, once synonymous with rock n’ roll, is decidedly lacking in many venues. Still, while every Three show in the area (or anywhere, for that matter) always has something special to offer, the combined power of Three and The Dear Hunter had people talking about this show for weeks ahead of time.
The Dear Hunter, originally from Boston, have a great, forward thinking energy that is very compatible with Three, which is good, since Three are adept and diverse enough to share the stage with everyone from The Scorpions to Porcupine Tree and Coheed and Cambria. The jovial, bearded and thoughtful Casey Crescenzo, mastermind of The Dear Hunter, perhaps may have said his band’s name one too many times to the crowd, but they sure delivered a good set. After watching the band live no one was going to forget who they were if they didn’t know already, no worries there! Mixing Dredg-like spacey guitars with a tiny flirtation with emo plus boogie and folk elements alongside conceptual storytelling, The Dear Hunter were poised and professional. Casey’s voice sounds at times like Rufus Wainwright, though not quite as flamboyant, but very capable of captivating and augmenting the well crafted tunefulness of the band. “The Oracles on The Delphi Express” stood out with interesting rhythms and a catchy consistency.
The Dear Hunter are a band that will grow on you if somehow they don’t grab you at first, with piano and guitar soundscapes that are full and still intricately put together even in more simplistic moments. They don’t brow beat you with their skills, rather using them to advance the moods, like a band with respect for their fans’ intellects.
All of The Dear Hunter’s records are acts with continuity. Casey wanted to be able to write something he could grow with as his own life advanced, and each act tells the further story of a boy known as “The Dear Hunter”. Imagine it like Harry Potter getting older on film, but much more rocking and no flying brooms.
“I don’t want to romanticize my life too much. I think that can be selfish and so I wanna say things without them all having happened to me, but still it grows with you and you find your place in it. Act 3: Life And Death is the title of our brand new record, our last for Triple Crown. I produced and engineered it, like all the other records,” said Casey, after their set. I asked him what he thought of the venue and learned that he’d once lived in a town relatively nearby.
“This venue is beautiful, low key and amazing. It’s a safe haven compared to most places band’s get to play,” Crescenzo enthusiastically gushed. “My geography is very confusing, but I ended up in Red Hook years ago living with my cousins and my uncle. He took me here a few times and there’s a studio Novesa, with a mobile studio truck. I used to come up here to this area and I’d seen that studio, which is pretty near here, I think. I think it was six years ago. I didn’t know about Three then. It was the beginning of anything for me. I’d sold all my musical gear and was working as a video editor in Red Hook with my relatives. I can’t say I’m ‘from’ this area but it is cool to play here and that anyone knows who we are. We were living in Boston and now a few of us live in western Massachusetts and the rest of us live in Providence, Rhode Island.”
I wasn’t aware some of them were no longer in Boston and explain that Providence is where my sister Cambria now lives. I asked if the band play there a lot as well so I can tell her to go see them.
“Yeah! We play there pretty often. There’s some good clubs,” Casey said. “We’re touring with Mewithoutyou next and are really excited. We’re doing all the U.S. We went to Australia for the Soundwave Festival. It’s big but we were in the little kid’s stage, though it was still awesome. That’s where we really met Mewithoutyou. I have so much appreciation for Aaron, he’s so creative.
Like Three, Mewithoutyou are a great pairing for The Dear Hunter, so fans should definitely try and catch a date on that tour. There are almost psychedelic elements, roots and folk and even some boogie elements in The Dear Hunter’s sound, and all of the band’s mentioned paint vivid stories with their music. It’s nice to think that in times of so much musical banality that some people are still trying.
“You can at least strive not to repeat other people, that’s enough,” Casey said, agreeing. “Nobody has any idea what’s original. They know what they’ve heard and how to let it influence them instead of how to repeat it. I feel like that’s one thing that all these bands do really well. We try not to be repetitious. I feel like there’s absolutely no point for a band to come and do the same thing someone else comes better. When you are like another band in certain ways, that’s fine, but so many bands are obviously trying to mimic others.”
I ask Casey how he met the guy’s from Three.
“My old, heavier band The Receiving End of Sirens was cool for what it was. It fell through the cracks, but the guy who was playing bass for us, plus me and the guy who is our manager now, we were all in that band and played in Maine opening for Three,” Casey said. “This was four or five years ago and we were blown away by Three’s playing! We played pretty tight for what we did, but Three got up and it was crazy inspiring. We took their record and loved it. I got kicked out of that band but I kept in touch with Three. The Dear Hunter did a show in Boston and got asked who we wanted to support the show. At first I thought it’d be insulting them to ask them to open but we just wanted to play with them. We are well aware they are worth much more than opening for us, but we contacted them and have stayed friends!”
The feeling of admiration was mutual when I asked Three’s laid back drummer Chris Gartmann about The Dear Hunter. “Yeah. We played with them a couple of times and really like ‘em. We really thought the Dear Hunter and Three in Woodstock would be rad,” said Chris. I asked if he was excited about his own band’s recent signing to Roadrunner Records. “You betchya’, we are excited,” Chris drawled. “They’re a great label and we’re excited to start working for them, really soon. First things first, we wanna get this last record for Metal Blade out, which we really like. It’s stuff we’ve had around a while but always liked that never made it to record. We’re glad they’re finally getting recorded. The working title is Revisions and that’s gonna come out before whatever we do for Roadrunner.”
As for how life is on a personal level with Mr. “Gartdrumm” these days? “I’m awesome. Can’t complain. I’m lookin’ forward to the summer. I was born in the summer. I’m a child of the summer!”
Summer may be just upon us, but this early spring night Three was already looking like they were warmed up like a band who’ve been used to playing every night on the road in the middle of the year. Gartmann was spot on with his fills and each snare hit resonated with a snapping vitality. Songwriter/guitarist Joey Eppard always makes the most intricate finger work look effortless and the fact that he can sing such fluid and moving vocals over the top of elaborate arrangements is a testament to his dedication. The whole band is amazing in that their parts are often totally independent yet fuse together to create any realm they wish to explore.
Of late, there was been a bit of weirdness going on with Three’s MySpace page. When the page suddenly vanished after Joey spoke out against Monsanto, who he described on a blog as “…a giant corporation that seeks to control the world by controlling the food supply. They have been working to undermine organic agriculture for years…They genetically engineer many crops that will not grow without their patented chemicals.” Shortly after the blog was posted, the Three page vanished and they were told by MySpace, which is owned by a certain individual who is sympathetic to Monsanto, that they never had the URL they have had for many years! Every time the band recreated their page something weird went on for a few weeks until recently. Maybe it is paranoia, but it was very strange, and stranger things have happened than people being messed with for speaking out against things that companies don’t want you to stay informed about.
Anyway, Three treated the crowd to a great set with highlights from throughout their wide catalogue. “You’ve Been Shot” was my particular favorite, very memorable and catchy with a positive message about the downside of violence. “All That Remains” had the audience captivated, and I wondered how Billy Riker was able to grin and play his guitar parts so perfectly since we’d hit a serious bowl before the band played. Fans sang along and the vibe was perfect.
Three are hopefully going to be very successful on Roadrunner and are a band that you should support. They nurture along each composition with care, giving every song a life of its own. Three have reverence for music as an art form while still remembering to have fun on the way, the best of all combinations.
original location: http://www.crushermagazine.com/features6_09/featthree_dearhunter.htm