Local band Headlight Rivals sets foot underground

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Headlight Rivals is a rock band based out of Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Salazar)

If it is an underground show in Manhattan, there is a chance Headlight Rivals are there. Whether it is playing for hundreds at Milford Lake, in Austin, Texas, or just a handful of people at their favorite venue, Auntie Mae’s in Aggieville, this local band’s main goal is to have fun, create intimate underground concerts and help other local artists.

Headlight Rivals is a three-piece punk rock band with Seven Black, 44, on bass and cousins Kris Kliener, 45, on drums and Eric Kleiner, 25, on guitar and vocals. Kris describes their sound as “pop sensitive” rock. While they each have their own ideas of where their influence comes from, they can all agree on Cheap Trick and Loose Arrow. They meet twice a week to rehearse and figure out set lists as a group.

“If you’re not willing to (collaborate) in a band, you’re not going to survive,” Black said. “You have to be open minded like a family. We love each other.”

Each member has played in other bands over the years, but Headlight Rivals is still relatively new and first started playing around a year and a half ago. Since then, they have used word-of-mouth to let people know when and where they are playing at what they call “do it yourself” venues.

“The do it yourself kind of thing, it’s all word-of-mouth,” Black said. “If you can’t get a person to break a little bit of their routine … you’re not going to see anything new.”

These types of underground venues are all about getting up close and personal with the performers and having a different kind of fun than what someone might find at a club. Headlight Rivals’ main goal is to make sure everyone, even if only 50 people show up, is safe, accepted and having a good time.

“Everybody is right there,” Eric Kleiner said. “They want to be right in your face. They want to rock. I’d rather be in a room this big with 50 people than be in Bramlage with 200. It’s not the same.”

Headlight Rivals said they try to provide this kind of intimate space through their “venue on wheels,” Church of Swole. Eric either hosts shows in his basement or they will pack up and move around Manhattan for different kinds of shows. They often work with other local bands to keep all the groups connected.

“We like to give a hand up instead of just looking out for ourselves,” Black said.

Headlight Rivals use the same word-of-mouth method to support their fellow artists and share more than just their own shows and events on social media. They keep all their shows listed on their Facebook page. In 2016, Headlight Rivals averaged one show every weekend.

This week, they have a mini-tour around Manhattan, Lawrence and other regional areas, though they are traveling to Austin, Texas, for MidCoast Takeover in March.

Wherever Headlight Rivals play, they just want to keep the underground music scene open and fun.

“Playing is the number one thing,” Eric Kleiner said. “If you’re a good band that plays live and people say you’re a good band, that’s the key to it on this level.”

If you like Cheap Trick, then you might like this band.

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Hi everyone! I'm a senior in journalism and cultural anthropology. My favorite things are storytelling, coffee and meeting new people. In that order.