Supporting their latest full-length, Omni, Minus the Bear performed in Sayreville, New Jersey, on a warm Wednesday evening. KeepAway and Everest provided support for the Seattle five-piece in front of an empty venue that only began to fill up when Minus the Bear went on stage at 10PM. Those who arrived early, though, caught a pair of interesting, hard-working bands.
Brookyn’s KeepAway started the evening at 8PM with a tribal blend of rock and pop. Combining guitar, keyboard, and various percussion into a a strange-yet-somehow-enjoyable mix, the three-piece entertained the small crowd for just over thirty minutes. The band played songs from their debut, Baby Style EP, released on Lefse Records earlier in the year.
By 8:50, the venue began to fill up but still remained fairly empty for California’s Everest. The five-piece’s set started slowly, with a poor house mix that was just too loud to comprehend the band’s tunes. Fortunately, things started sounding better midway through the half-hour set and the band showed promise and drew comparisons to the songwriting styles of ’70s-styled rock like Led Zeppelin. “Rebels in the Roses”, the first song from the band’s debut full-length, Ghost Notes, sounded great. Everest is currently supporting their sophomore effort, On Approach, released through Warner Bros. Records.
Minus the Bear started their set off with “Drilling”, an excellent cut from their sophomore full-length, Menos el Oso. “Throwin’ Shapes” and “Knights”, two of the stronger tracks from 2007’s Planet of Ice followed. Frontman Jake Snider and keyboardist Alex Rose traded vocals during the synth-powered “My Time” (the band’s latest single from the recently released Omni, issued through Dangerbird Records); “Summer Angel” let Snider explore his voice, swooning characteristically sexy stories about love and desire.
The five-piece equally contribute to Minus the Bear’s grandiose sonic landscapes. Guitarist Dave Knudson played tightly-crafted, technically-sound riffs under the fairly mellow “When We Escape”; “Secret Country” is largely led by the start-and-stop low-pitch rumblings of bassist Cory Murchy. Songs like “Secret Country” are a mixed bag, though: due to the complex and multi-layered percussion, drummer Erin Tate only plays parts of the song while the rest is pumped in through the PA. The only real way to recreate this in a live environment is to add a second drummer — a costly and likely undesirable addition to the already-tight quintet.
Highly Refined Pirates, the band’s debut record from nearly nine years ago, surprisingly contributed three songs to Minus the Bear’s eighteen-song setlist including a tight performance of “Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo”. “Fine + 2 Pts.”, from the band’s 2004 EP was equally surprising and a much welcomed addition to the setlist. The tapped lead riff to “Pachucha Sunrise” drew a roaring response from the crowd, and the band performed an ever-so-slightly slowed down version of the Menos el Oso favorite. The enchanting “Dayglow Vista Rd.” closed out the band’s scheduled set.
Minus the Bear returned moments later to begin their encore with the 2005’s quirky “The Fix”, the entire crowd singing along to the song’s infectious chorus. Minus the Bear’s most danceable number, “Into the Mirror”, was one of the night’s highlights. A gigantic performance of “Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse” closed out the band’s setlist.
When We Escape
Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo
Fine + 2 Pts.
Hold Me Down
Dayglow Vista Rd.
Into the Mirror
Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse
Minus the Bear successfully tamed their entire discography, and even though the night was a little light on their best output — the self-titled Menos el Oso — the band’s set selection was solid and stretched back to 2002. Remarkably tight guitars, impassioned drumming, and clean, powerful vocals allowed Minus the Bear to fully express a large collection of songs difficult to recreate outside the studio. A band like Minus the Bear could very easily be stale and lifeless on stage; the group disregarded those notions entirely and sounded fantastic during their lengthy eighteen-song set.