Dear and the Headlights might be the next big crossover indie act, bringing their alt-country sound to a small audience with a slow burn buzz that, eventually, would have them doing time on CBS's Sunday Morning ala Wilco. Instead, Dear and the Headlights signed to Equal Vision records, home of Chiodos and Circa Survive and became the darlings of Warped Tour; although their organic, earnest music has little in common with your average Warped Tour fare. Touring in support of their latest album, Drunk Like Bible Times, Dear and the Headlights hit Reggie's Rock Club on Wednesday to bring their sincere, clever rock music tinged with country and folk to Chicago to great affect.
Playing to a fairly small yet devoted crowd, Dear and the Headlights opened with an energetic one-two punch of two of the most infectious tracks off their latest disc, "Talk About" and I"'m Not Crying, You're Not Crying, Are You?"
I liked Dear and the Headlights before I saw them live but their perfectly executed live show and commanding stage presence turned me into a full-fledged fan before the night was through. Bringing every element of their record to Reggie's stage, Dear and the Headlights peppered a set of mostly new material with a few of the stand out tracks from their 2007 debut, Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, including the fan requested "Run in the Front." PJ Waxman's searing guitar solos, mostly taking a back seat on record, were front and center, perfectly complimenting Robert Cissel's keyboards and lead singer Ian Metzger's trembling, passionate vocals.
You'd think Dear and the Headlights' quiet-loud-quiet formula might get old midway through the set but it's done so well that it's not only continuously appealing but consistently surprising as well, powered by Metzger's meticulously crafted lyrics that range from heartfelt and gut-wrenching to tongue in cheek, wity and fun. I commend the members of the crowd who sang along, word for word, to every jam-packed verse, particulary the die hard fan up front who shouted memorably mid-set "You're a very beautiful man!" to Metzger. For the record, he is but more than that, he's a damn good frontman.