Thieves and Hunters at the Barn

Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER

With the lights dimmed and the crowd murmuring to each other as a pre-show DJ played the Cure, I had no idea what music was in store for me. But the crowd was a different story, with many talking amongst themselves about both the opener Naive Thieves and headliner Casey Crescenzo. In an earlier interview, Crescenzo discussed how he was working closely with Naive Thieves. “We just put out a record on my imprint label for them that I produced and engineered and mixed,” he said, “and so I’m going to be doing a lot of work with them, to try and build the band.”

True to his word, the crowd was absolutely electric with the buzz of anticipation as Naive Thieves made their way to the stage. The four-piece band appeared amid shouts and screams and quickly began their set. With their clash of drums and the fast strum of their guitar, the band exploded onto the stage with enthusiasm and energy. It’s easy to get an Arctic Monkeys and Devendra Banhart feel from the band, and the lead singer, Cameron Thorne, is a dead-ringer for Julian Casablancas on vocals. A perfect mix of slow songs and fast, upbeat rock, the band played songs from their new album “Vamonos,” which had just been released the very same day.

“We’re playing a new set, so the transitions are going to be awkward,” Thorne said amid laughter. In between changing the tuning on their guitars, the band was able to keep us all chuckling with their joking attitude toward each other. As a couple of girls said, “We love you Cameron!” without missing a beat he replied, “What about the rest of the band?” The crowd was all smiles as they swayed and bobbed to the music, and with a final crash, Naive Thieves finished their set and left the audience craving more — and anxiously awaiting the next act.

The crowd screamed as the main act, Crescenzo, stepped out armed with his guitar and smile. The contrast between Crescenzo and Naive Thieves was clear as soon as he began to pluck the opening notes to his first song. The atmosphere was quiet, with a much more intimate feel, as though only you and the music filled an empty room. That is exactly the feeling that Crescenzo hoped to instill in his audience. “It’s a different sort of experience for me to play a solo show because it’s much more intimate,” he said during the interview, “and I can talk to the audience without bothering my band, so I like the intimacy of that.” And in this, he succeeded. Crescenzo made small talk with the audience between songs, tuning his guitar and responding positively to the crowd. In turn, the crowd reciprocated the same attitude, singing along to the songs and — much to his surprise — even vocalizing the guitar solo to his song “What It Means To Be Alone,” which made him chuckle in the middle of the set.

One aspect that made this show unique to me was how well Naive Thieves and Crescenzo mixed together, and not just in a musical sense. During the show, the two would talk about and to each other like old friends. It’s rare to see that happen; usually opening and headlining acts are separate, and don’t even acknowledge the other’s existence. But on this night, the groups shared a playful back-and-forth in between their sets. At one point, Crescenzo even stopped in the middle of a song to bag on Naive Thieves’ drummer, Ian Maloney, for leaving his snare drum on. However, you could definitely see that both artists had warm feelings for each other, in part because of the fact that Crescenzo produced Naive Thieves’ album under his label.

Although Crescenzo’s strumming was soft, his voice was the opposite, able to belt out his lyrics with raw emotion. Crescenzo pens most of the songs for his band, the Dear Hunter, and many of his lyrics feel intimately personal. He slowed down his set for one song, “Things That Hide Away,” in which he starts off with, “Waking up I felt that hesitation / Like I wasn’t meant to wake up at all.” His passion for music shone through the whole set; it was heard in his voice and his energy toward the crowd as he smiled every time he spoke with a member of the audience.

On the note of passion, Crescenzo shared, “I’ve never thought about doing anything else. I’ve never thought of a backup plan. When I’m home, everything I do is still creative, whether it’s music — it usually revolves around music in some way.”

As he played his last song, he left the Barn breathless and simply amazed. With both Naive Thieves and Casey Crescenzo echoing in my ears, this was definitely a night to be at the Barn.

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