A Dose of The Dear Hunter, a Calming Cure

On Tuesday, September 22, I suffered–for the first time in my life–what I can only describe as a nervous breakdown. Layer upon layer of concealed stress and anxiety finally erupted, systematically shorting out my brain, leaving me to withstand the overwhelming screams within my head (not to mention my heart, which felt like an infant Xenomorph ready to burst from my chest) until I regained control of myself and stared blankly into my kitchen sink as I reflected on the experience I had just endured and why it had never happened before. I was scared and angry, yet I felt a relief from the pressure that had been gradually building for some time. Still, though, for the next couple of days, I was overly frazzled and anxious, still feeling the effects of the unexpected episode.


“I try to move a limb but there’s a disconnect within, a devil in the alchemy, a phantom staring back at me”


It became clear in my mind once my mind became clear that I needed to get away–if even just for a day–to get at least one much-needed breath and a change of scenery. I rarely, if ever, allow myself a respite–to just enjoy an unencumbered day away from work–usually for fear of falling that much further behind. On Friday, September 25, though, I cleared my schedule, abandoned all electronics and social media and went out of town for the first show I’d attend in just over a year (depressing, I know).


“Do you really want to be helpless with your hands behind your back? Waiting idle for a blessing, or until complete collapse?”

Photo courtesy of Bethany Jacobs

Photo courtesy of Bethany Jacobs

After an incredible, deep dish, pesto/chicken pizza and some local IPA (shoutout to Chicago Fire and Rubicon Brewing), I went to a small, dimly-lit, 200-cap club (which filled to maybe half of that at the peak of the night), and was literally moved to tears by The Dear Hunter, a band that already meant the world to me going in. I wasn’t hysterically bawling my eyes out, mind you, but at least a few times throughout the band’s inspiring set I found myself wiping away tears as my eyes welled, blurring my vision into translucent swirls with alternating, primary-colored stage lights.


“Though my lens is cracked right down the center, I saw you, and through shattered light your beauty remained flawless”


As I stood there in my shitty basketball shorts and flip flops beneath an industrial AC unit blowing my beard in all directions, I felt okay. I felt like nothing existed outside of that room. The only time I thought about work and similar stresses was in one brief instance between songs when I realized my mind was utterly free and it made me think about what I wasn’t thinking about.


“For I was blind, now I can see every obstacle, through soliloquy, clears its path in front of me”


I felt a smile take control of my face as I belted out lines during the “Smiling Swine” sing-along I’ve craved for 8 years, and again as Casey Crescenzo and the rest of the band nailed every single nuanced component of “King Of Swords (Reversed),” a track I didn’t expect them to play but hoped they would. Nearly every person in the building surrendered to an innate desire to dance, with the historic boards beneath our collective feet supporting the weight of music lovers losing themselves to the audible creations of a band whose talent and passion for their craft is undeniable. You could sense the community, the carefree euphoria and the connection to the six men and their instruments on stage.

In these moments, life was beautiful, and I was part of it.

A sincere thank you to Casey Crescenzo, Nick Crescenzo, Nick Sollecito, Maxwell Tousseau, Robert Parr, Andrew Brown and all of the countless past and present musicians who have contributed to the growing catalog of The Dear Hunter, a body of work that continually resonates with me and has helped in healing my fractured psyche.

*feature photo courtesy of Ryan McClain

Brian Leak
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4 Responses to “A Dose of The Dear Hunter, a Calming Cure”

  1. I really, really really loved this piece.

  2. Brian Lion says:

    Thank you. I really appreciate that.

  3. You’re so welcome! I love seeing when journalists aren’t afraid to tell what a show or an album meant to them, and as TDH are my favorite band I relate to this IMMENSELY. I’m so glad you had such a great experience and hope things lighten up!

  4. Brian Lion says:

    This means the world to me, truly. I know exactly what you mean and I’m glad this connected with at least just one person; a fan of the band no less. Thank you.