As empty streetcars traversed up and down H Street, music fans began to trickle into one of Washington, D.C.’s grimiest, yet quaint holes in a wall—the Rock & Roll Hotel—to see experimental indie rockers the Dear Hunter.
As the night moved, the atmosphere began to thicken with excitement. After all, it had been six years since the Dear Hunter had released an Act from their six-album opus. Sure fans temporarily had their TDH thirsts quenched with The Color Spectrum and Migrant, but the continuation of the Acts story arc has been looming over their collective heads since 2009’s Act III: Life And Death.
“I wanted to surprise our fans with this release, as it is my gift to you all, for supporting me over the years, and never giving up on me,” frontman/mastermind Casey Crescenzo said via TDH website March 3. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your continued faith in The Dear Hunter … Please keep your eyes peeled for Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise, coming later this year.”
The surprise release of Act IV coupled with the cancellation of their May 13 show—at the same venue—only augmented the crowd’s anticipation of the return of Crescenzo & Co.
The setlist was career encompassing TDH’s 100-plus-song catalogue, yet still calculated. The band kicked off the show with three of the band’s weightier songs—exploring topics of life after death and war. By the end of “Mustard Gas,” Crescenzo had the capacity crowd hooked, holding their breath with every pause almost like the building itself was leaning into the music.
Before rattling off a few songs from Act IV, Crescenzo chatted with the crowd apologizing for missing the band’s original concert date, and refusing to play the band’s most well-known song “Red Hands.”
TDH’s expertly crafted set moved from the heaviness of the Acts arc to a few of the brighter songs from The Color Spectrum and their recent single “Waves” complete with crowd single sing-along.
From headshots to body blows back to more headshots, TDH dove into another block of heavy hitters including the nine-minute roller coaster “A Night On The Town,” the countdown favorite “Smiling Swine” and the uplifting “Home.”
Instead of retreating down the small, shallow corridor only to return minutes later for an encore, TDH stayed steadfast at their posts jettisoning tunes into the auditory canals of the eager crowd. Before launching into “King Of Swords,” Crescenzo demanded that the undersized disco ball dangling above the stage be made fully operational.
“This is as close as we’re going to get to Studio 54 right here,” Crescenzo said. “The point of even drawing attention to the disco ball is we’re done, and there is going to be a dance party. When you are a band, and have over 100 songs you are allowed to have a disco song in there somewhere.”
While a dance party was had, the band wasn’t done churning out the jams as they segued into the puissant and mellow “Where The Road Parts” and finally coming to a close with “Whisper,” their single from Migrant.
As the venue closed and the crowd slowly matriculated their way home, on the now-desolate H Street, many stopped and sat on the curb to rest. After all, they had just been taken on a journey years in the making.