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Music on Trial: Hunter Hunted opens at Skyway and steals show

After the happy accident of being introduced to Los Angeles-based Hunter Hunted at Summerfest last June, I obsessively stalked their webpage in search of a Minnesota performance. Finally, my chance came when they opened for Twenty One Pilots at Skyway Theater in Minneapolis on April 17. Despite not knowing anything about Twenty One Pilots, I jumped at the chance to see Hunter Hunted. They were amazing as expected – something I will get to shortly – however, I was pleasantly surprised to find remarkable talent and spectacle in Twenty One Pilots as well.

To begin, Twenty One Pilots had dazzling, albeit blinding, light displays I was still seeing spots while writing my notes for this article. Beyond the technical fascination, the performers had a great sense of humor, and their showmanship, including costumes, physical activity and crowd participation, was electrifying.

The lead singer was constantly jumping off of sets and instruments, and all I could think was, “Good heavens, I hope that piano isn’t on wheels, or the audience will become one with the stage,” which more or less happened, oddly enough. In an unexpected turn of events halfway through the performance, the stage crew hauled a drum set on a platform out into the audience, and the drummer played atop the crowd. While all these brilliant bits came together with exciting, high-energy music and an altogether great show, it still couldn’t quite live up to what I went for: the opener.

To be honest, I’d never heard of anyone attending a concert for its opener before. Although I’m sure it does happen heck, it just happened to me, everyone in the audience seemed just as perplexed as I would expect. Pushing through the crowd 15 minutes before the show, my friend and I apologetically whispered over and over, “We are just here for the opener. We will leave as soon as they do. Sorry, excuse me, sorry.” When questioned, we had only to show them my well-worn Hunter Hunted T-shirt and threaten ourselves with an angry mob of concert-goers “If we don’t leave, feel free to push us out!”. We actually made quite a few friends this way, who offered to let us stay up front even after the band left the stage. Golly, I love Minnesota, but that’s beside the point. On to the music itself.

I am clearly biased about Hunter Hunted. I was there for them, and I listened with rapt attention for their 45ish-minute set. But even if I were a concert/music/Hunter Hunted noob, I would have to give them some serious props for this performance. They managed to maintain a thoroughly indie-alternative sound with the anticipation and drive that comes with a dubstep beat drop.

You read that right: indie-alternative sound meets dubstep exhilaration. While some of this is due to the cleverly written songs, it is primarily because of the dynamic energy the band consistently radiates.

Lead singer and songwriter Michael Garner moves to the music like you wouldn’t believe, throwing himself into every note and knocking out any reservations you might have about singing and dancing along. He is in it to win it, and you should be too. The rest of the band emanated the same vigor throughout, fueled by the rousing music and their obvious chemistry.

In addition to their stage presence, they also displayed a great sense of humor in between their songs. After greeting the crowd, Garner stumbled a bit, “What are you guys called? Minneapolismensmen? And women?,” provoking giggles throughout the crowd. “You guys are in for a f***ing great night, by the way,” he added, winning over those audience members who were so excited for the headliner they just couldn’t get into the opener You know you’ve been there.

So despite the obligatory concert scents of sweat and pot and the bass that might have been cranked a little too high No concert is perfect, my friend and I found ourselves at one of the best performances we’d ever experienced. Our concert résumés collectively included Imagine Dragons, Muse, Eric Hutchinson and The Fray. Hunter Hunted, the unmentioned and, in my opinion, unremarkable NONONO and Twenty One Pilots brought together an unforgettable show that I wish would come back just so I could show all of you.

For those interested in Hunter Hunted, band member Dan Chang told me afterward that they are releasing a full-length album in late fall, so keep your eyes peeled at for details. I also highly recommend their EP, which is already available on iTunes. So get going, music-lovers and hipsters alike: This band is on the rise and definitely worth your while.

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