By Joel Dallas
My favorite way to judge a live performance is to observe the interaction between the performers and the crowd. The Hunters and Gatherers, a band of ACU alums based out of Austin, brought in a formidable crowd at Abilene’s The Hideaway recently. They lived up to their reputation for putting on a rollicking show, charging the air in the packed-out venue with a palpable excitation.
In fact, it was the crowd that initially complicated my journalistic endeavor. I arrived at the front door of The Hideaway as an aggressive reworking of Hendrix’s Hey Joe blared clearly through the wall, only to be told by a sour-faced bouncer with a handlebar mustache the establishment was full. I could hear the heavy bass line in the bridge building to a climax, and I realized I had to get myself inside – and fast.
Without hesitation, I managed to surmount a tall wooden barrier at the back of the building where an unguarded door was located. Once inside, I was immersed in an eruption of sound that had already driven a roomful of people to groove along to the music. The Hunters and Gatherers, with their stellar showmanship, were filling the building with so much energy it was impossible to sit or stand still.
On the drums, Jared Durham sounded out beats with his mouth, one arm held high twirling a drumstick. He pounded out the rhythm as Bryce Powell hammered the opening lick to the Beatles’ Come Together. Logan Pringle roared into the microphone as he sang, “Here come ol’ flat top.” This was not a cover. This was the Hunters and Gatherers reinterpreting a classic through a raw and edgy modern lens.
The band’s take on Stay with Me by The Faces expressed the gamut of the group’s stylistic influences. The song opened with Rob Watkins on guitar frantically picking a progression, backed by Powell smashing on the keyboard in a manner reminiscent of early rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis. On Pringles’ vocal cue, “Slow down!” the band seamlessly transitioned into a funky breakdown that showcased Powell’s command of the keys and Durham’s skill in orchestrating time changes through compounded backbeats.
Perhaps the group’s most notable talent is its ability to channel authentic emotion into the lyrics and composition of their original material. Rain Check conveyed solemnity and contempt as the song gradually climbed to its furious peak.
In the end, I was impressed by the immense amount of energy the band poured into the audience throughout the three-hour set. Every member of the Hunters and Gatherers is capable of performing more than just memorized progressions, beats and riffs. Their show, instead, was a creative, improvisational form of musical expression that swept the crowd up in its path and never put them down.