Traveling by Song with Hunter Gatherer

Every picnic table at the Door County Brewing Co. Taproom & Music Hall was filled two Saturdays ago. Although the outdoor beer garden’s stage is barely visible from the road, the sound of Hunter Gatherer’s energetic, yet easygoing music was more than enough to gather a crowd. 

You might doubt the feasibility of matching an outfit to the variety of music that Hunter Gatherer presented – “House of the Rising Sun,” Bill Withers, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and Bob Dylan, to name a few – but with sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and prominent, circular earrings, he achieved it. 

Hunter Gatherer is Hunter Hildebrandt’s stage name, and he’s taken to the stage using a different approach to live shows this summer, playing afternoon gigs and varying his music selection greatly. 

“I like the focus on original [songs], getting out of bars and now more into coffee shops or beer gardens,” Hildebrandt said. 

The beer-garden crowd was certainly receptive to his approach. Hunter Gatherer originals such as his recent release “Frootenanny,” from his Americanara album, met with attentive listening and admiring applause.

“I could spend all afternoon here, till out comes the moon,” he sang.

That line from Hunter Gatherer’s “Joie de Vivre” – a track that lent itself particularly well to live performance – described the atmosphere at Door County Brewing Co. that afternoon, and to be sure, it’s a feeling many people feel throughout Door County, especially during the summer. 

References to the moon continued in another original, “Laughberry Creek” – one of many songs that Hildebrandt’s travels have inspired him to write. 

“Here’s what we call a palate cleanser,” he said as he introduced the original “Ostrich” after playing another stretch of folk, alternative and rock cover songs. 

After successfully “crashing” one of Hildebrandt’s recent shows, drummer David Lamb – from their previous band, Nature: The Band – officially accompanied Hunter Gatherer during his Door County Brewing Co. performance. 

“I like to play at a place I want to hang out at myself or send people to,” Hildebrandt said. 

Hunter Gatherer was scheduled to play at Door County Brewing Co. until 4:30 pm, but listeners kept him there past 5 pm. Lamb’s drumming held a conversation with Hildebrandt’s guitar playing, even for the 30 minutes of improvised bonus music. It felt as though more than two instruments filled the space: Hildebrandt made flawless transitions between sound effects by discreetly pressing the array of guitar pedals at his feet. 

Hildebrandt’s stage name started out as a joke. He studied anthropology at UW-Oshkosh and expected the Hunter Gatherer moniker to end in a week or so. But, people started to recognize him by that name, and it stuck. 

In addition to inspiration from travels, Hildebrandt’s anthropology background is evident in his songwriting as he incorporates nature themes that illustrate a complex human connection with the simplest of interactions. These juxtapose nicely with a sentiment of returning home from travels and staying to absorb everyday moments. 

Catch Hunter Gatherer’s next appearance on Sunday, July 25, 3-6 pm, at the Cherry Hut, 8813 Hwy 42 south of Fish Creek.