Dustin Kensrue at Brighton Music Hall in Boston, MA

Dustin Kensrue delivered a captivating performance at Brighton Music Hall in Boston as part of his current Desert Dreaming Tour.

This tour celebrates his latest solo album, Desert Dreaming. While Dustin Kensrue is best known as the lead vocalist of the band Thrice, he has also been crafting solo albums over the last ten years. Each release further highlights his impressive vocal range. Desert Dreaming diverges from Thrice’s typical sound, featuring Kensrue’s rich, emotive voice with a distinctive country twist.

Finding parking near the venue can be challenging, so it’s wise to allow plenty of time to secure a spot or consider taking the T for convenience. Tucked inconspicuously between restaurants, Brighton Music Hall might be easy to overlook at first if not for the crowd lined up outside. Inside, the venue creates an intimate atmosphere. With a capacity of about 500, it ensures a close connection with the performing artists. The stage is bathed in moody hues of blues, reds, and greens, enhancing the ambiance. The layout of the hall guarantees excellent sightlines and superb acoustics from any vantage point, making it an ideal spot for the evening’s performances.

Promptly at 8 PM, Brother Bird, the Nashville-based solo project of Caroline Swon, captivated the audience as she took the stage. This unique ensemble blends indie rock, folk, and a hint of country, crafting a sound that’s both distinctive and evocative. The music is richly layered, highlighted by melodic guitar lines, subtle synthesizer textures, and Swon’s poignant and expressive vocals. The evening’s setlist included a blend of songs from her 2021 debut album Gardens and her latest release Another Year, which emerged in March 2024. The tracks set an ethereal and moody tone, perfectly establishing the ambiance for the night. Accompanying Swon were Jody Lee on drums and Thomas Luminoso on guitar, rounding out the performance with a flawless musical backdrop. It was the perfect way to kick off a night of beautiful music.

As the evening progressed, The Brevet brought a notable shift in energy when they took the stage with “Moving Mountains.” Maintaining the ethereal quality familiar to fans of Brother Bird, The Brevet skillfully blends airy melodies with robust, energetic undertones for a vibrant turn in the night’s musical journey. The band’s ability to move seamlessly between anthemic rock and introspective ballads lends their live shows an unpredictable and exhilarating edge. Each track is a journey in itself, often starting with gentle notes and building to thunderous cinematic sounds, as showcased in songs like “Wherever We Go” and “Be Still” from their 2023 album, Wanderers

Aric Damm’s vocals, rich and gravelly with a cinematic flair, meld perfectly with John Kingsley’s intricate guitar work and David Aguiar’s dynamic drumming. Together, they propel The Brevet on a continuous musical journey—either ramping up the momentum or easing into a crescendo that bursts forth with an explosion of energy. The experience of listening to or watching The Brevet perform can best be likened to that perfect day: driving with the windows down, music blaring, surrounded by stunning vistas of mountains or oceans. Their music encapsulates that feeling of peace and utter freedom, creating an atmosphere where fans are not just spectators but are transported into a moment of blissful escape.

The Brevet concluded their set with “Locked and Loaded” from their 2018 album Legs. Aric Damm engaged the crowd, encouraging them to sing along, and humorously pointed out that their songs often feature a lot of “woahs,” making them easy to join in. The song is packed with the band’s characteristic energized, cinematic sound, complete with driving beats and rich vocals that carry a hint of country twang—perfectly setting the stage for Dustin Kensrue’s performance. The vibrant energy of “Locked and Loaded” was a high note, rousing the audience and seamlessly transitioning the atmosphere for the next act.

The evening unfolded with remarkable simplicity, free from the trappings of a lavish production. As Dustin Kensrue’s set commenced, the stage remained minimally changed from The Brevet’s performance, now serving as Kensrue’s backing band. When Kensrue appeared, donning a cowboy hat and boots and clutching a curled sheet of old-style printer paper, his struggle to flatten the setlist on stage added a touch of humor and humanity, enhancing the intimacy of the night. With just his acoustic guitar and harmonica, Kensrue promised a deeply personal musical journey.

The energy remained high as Kensrue launched into “Back to Back” from his 2015 album Carry the Fire, followed by “Pistol” from Please Come Home, and “Death Valley Honeymoon” from Desert Dreaming. For the latter, Caroline Swon of Brother Bird joined him on stage to perform Cat Clyde’s vocals, their harmonious blend echoing the rustic charm of the country genre.

Kensrue’s vocal evolution since Thrice’s debut album Identity Crisis in the early 2000s is notable. The transformation from that initial sound to the more seasoned tones of 2021’s Horizons East is stark. His solo work, particularly evident from 2007’s Please Come Home, was instrumental in this evolution, showcasing his vocal range in tracks like “Ruby,” “Gallows,” and “There’s Something in the Dark.” Following this, Thrice’s To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere featured “Black Honey,” a song that marked a pivotal moment for many fans, recognizing the band’s unique new direction.

Kensrue’s foray into the country genre with his next solo album seemed a natural progression, fitting his style seamlessly. His ability to command the stage and captivate the audience is profound. During moments of his performance, the room would fall so silent in captivation that one could hear a pin drop, as the audience hung on every note. His music, often touching on relatable life experiences, reached emotional depths. He mentioned before he performed “Of Crows and Crowns” that fans have chosen this song for their first dance at their wedding. 

Yet, the set wasn’t solely introspective. Kensrue also infused humor and storytelling into his performance, joking about his dislike for the harmonica headpiece and sharing the backgrounds of songs like “High Scalers” and “Desert Dreaming.” The former, inspired by the perilous work of high scalers in the canyons in the 1930s, and the latter recounting a day spent with his wife in Joshua Tree, added layers of depth and connection to his music, enriching the audience’s experience and engagement with each song.

After the set, Dustin Kensrue further enhanced the evening’s intimate vibe by mingling with fans, showcasing his genuine appreciation for their support. This personal interaction deepened the connection, leaving lasting impressions. Kensrue’s Desert Dreaming Tour continues to enchant audiences, running through until May 19. Each show offers not just his musical talent but also an engaging personal experience, making it a must-see for fans old and new.

DUSTIN KENSRUE
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 THE BREVET
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BROTHER BIRD
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BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL
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About Kerri Nelson 2 Articles
Kerri began her career as a local news photojournalist in the New England area back in 2006. She has built her career around telling people's stories through her lens. An avid concert-goer since the age of 10, live music has been in her blood. There is a special energy that comes with concerts, and for Kerri, capturing that energy is the best part of photojournalism. Being able to convey emotion and energy in a single shot, and having viewers feel that emotion, is so much fun and a pretty cool task to be asked to create.