Hunter Hunted - Washington, DC - August 3, 2015
You know those bands that make great recorded music but are out of this world live? Well here's another one to add to that list. Hunter Hunted is an indie pop/rock two-piece from sunny Los Angeles with much more to offer than meets the eye. The band is composed of Michael Garner (vocals, keys) and Dan Chang (bass, vocals), accompanied by Morgan Paros on violin, and Brian Henspeter on drums. Hunter Hunted is on a nationwide co-headlining tour with fellow indie rockers Young Rising Sons. Playing U Street Music Hall, the band showed DC a good time in their 9-song set. There wasn't one person in the room standing still throughout the set, and everyone easily sang along to the catchy tunes.
To the audience's happy surprise, the band used I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys as a walk-on song as they took the stage. That is one sure-fire way to create a feeling of community and shared excitement among a crowd of all ages, as everyone instinctively sang along. The band came out on stage singing and giggling at the crowd's glee over this throwback. After a quick introduction, Garner played the first keys to the lead-off and title track of their new album Ready For You. This song gives the listener a little taste of many of the elements that make up Hunter Hunted: catchiness, stunning harmonies, a driving bass line, and that electronic feel. The audience immediately started picking up the vibes the band was putting down, and the fun, lighthearted tone was set for the rest of the evening.
Hunter Hunted not only impressed with their music, but every detail on the stage added to the experience. During the next song Blindside, they used a white light show that matched every beat of the song, and each member rocked out in time with the blaring speakers. The crowd gathered all the energy being given off onstage and shot it right back, creating a mutual joy shared throughout the room, breaking down the barrier between performer and audience.
The next number began with Paros's violin elegantly stinging its way through the hall, along with Garner using a synth pad to create thick, drippy beats, which led into the song Operating. This song is loaded with complexities; every instrument on stage is used during this song, complimenting the three-part harmony in the chorus. The tune is synthy and electric, yet it still holds the authenticity of live instruments.
The fourth song was introduced with an eerily delicate piano/violin duet coinciding with red lights and smoke arising from the stage. Titled Dora Maar after the artist famously known as the partner and muse of Pablo Picasso, Hunter Hunted changes pace to tell an inspired story of unwavering loyalty. Building haunting intensity as each verse passes, the song crashed into a final crescendo on the last chorus as the stage was enveloped in smoke and flashing lights. Then, suddenly, all was calm, and the song ended in a wistful violin solo.
Before going into the next number, Chang addressed the crowd explaining the special significance of their first album saying, "Dan and I have been playing together for ten years, and we've never put out a full length record." With the audience's full support, the band picked up an unexpected Imagine Dragons-esque vibe for their performance of Ghost. Again, Garner took to his synth pad to bang out some cool, echoey beats to kick off this huge tune. The crowd quickly caught onto their infectious energy, and easily sang along to the catchy chorus.
To truly change things up, Chang told the audience for the next song, they want to "strip it down" and encouraged everyone to be quiet as they tried an experiment. Chang and Garner were the only two left on stage, and stepping in front of their microphone stands, they performed an acoustic version of Lucky Day, an inspiriting optimistic track. The crowd was mostly cooperative in coming to a hush, other than the confused, intoxicated members of the back. With Chang on guitar and Garner on ukulele, the duo gave a fun, perfectly harmonized performance. The delighted audience erupted into applause and Garner gave a giddy thanks for letting them "try that out."
The next song performed was End Of The World, which tells the story of a city "where the people know the end is near," and have accepted their fate. For a catastrophe song, it is uncharacteristically happy and upbeat. During the final chorus, the band mashed it with the refrain of Animal by Miike Snow. It was unexpected, but once incorporated, the two songs blended together seamlessly. Suddenly, the crowd was singing along to the Miike Snow song like nothing had changed. It was pretty trippy, to be honest.
For the penultimate number, the band performed the drum-heavy synth-pop tune Better My Love. Halfway through the song, Garner jumped down from the stage and into the crowd to form a circle of people singing and dancing around him. Just like in the beginning of their set, this simple action erased any lines dividing performer and audience.
After thanking the crowd and saying they will be back soon, Hunter Hunted finished the set with their debut single Keep Together. Further driving the communal sensation created by the lyrics, Garner taught the crowd the refrain, "Keep together, keep together, oh. Let it roll," and instructed everyone in the room to sing along. As one joint unit, the band and the audience sang out the words and joyfully danced to the memorable beat. It is difficult to describe the feeling, but times like these at concerts beautifully illustrate the bonding power of music. For just a few minutes, every person in the room experiences a shared joy and exhilarating energy as they sing along to a great song. You are suddenly aware that you have something in common with the 200+ people you've never met standing around you; you all came to this place because you love music, and the energy of that love burns through every person, creating an unbreakable bond. Hunter Hunted lit the match that night on U Street, and made a room of strangers feel like home.