By Jonathan McNamara
See more shots from the Minus The Bear concert in our slide show.
As an experiment before the show last night, I typed "Minus The Bear" into Pandora to see what I would get. I heard several tracks from Highly Refined Pirates paired with bands like Bloc Party and Death Cab For Cutie; good stuff but not the kind of tracks I would expect to rock in concert.
I was wrong.
It's true that during their two hour set there was no single song or moment that could be singled out as the peak of intensity, but that's an issue better left to other bands who approach concerts (and albums) as mix tapes that build up to peaks and cool you off with a descent into more mellow valleys.
Minus The Bear is the absolute calm as you walk to the edge and the crashing fall into oblivion all at once.
You could really hear this on songs like "Knights" which started quietly enough, with electronic patterns streaming forth from Alex Rose's array of black boxes and synthesizers, until Dave Knudson sent out a shockwave of six string riffs that incited dancing with every ear they touched.
Minus The Bear pulled from each of their four studio albums stacking songs from 2007's Planet of Ice on songs like "Absinthe Party at the Warehouse" from 2002's Highly Refined Pirates
True to form, they were minus any bears but fully stocked on stuffed, bengal tigers. Cory Murchy's drum set was covered in them with a few lounging out near the bass and one massive tiger head seemingly floating above him as he played.
Before the encore the band also released several large balloons filled with ribbons of confetti that only took a good poke with a finger or a guitar to explode into shimmering color.
Maybe it was the calming nature of Jake Snider's voice (though I think the bengal tigers might have had something to do with it) but there was one dance move that stood out among all others during Minus The Bear: the couple sway.
Taken from the same dance manual as "the white guy bounce," the couple sway is instantly recognizable by its stance which has one member of a couple standing directly behind the other with his or her arms intimately around the partner's waist as the two sway ever so gently to the music. I bring it up because I couldn't help but notice several people using awkward variations of this move.
For the record, holding your partner about the neck changes the intimate moment to a near-choking. Worse still is the side sway also known as "the couple lean" in which one member of the couple holds the other from the side instead of behind making them look like they need to be supported i.e. like they've had a bit too much to drink.
To be fair, I really can't critique any dancing without mention Minus The Bear guitarist Dave Knudson. The guy can play a guitar riff that will set your mind on fire, but when he dances on stage he looks like an olympic speed skater going for the gold.
Better than: B.J. and the Bear
Personal Bias: I liked all of the songs from the newer albums more than anything they played from Highly Refined Pirates.
Random Detail: I'm not sure who that was having sex in that bathroom, but why would you pay $16 to do that during the set?
Further Listening: The Annuals and 27 opened up for Minus The Bear. Be sureto check out The Annuals.
By the way: Minus The Bear took their name from the aforementioned '80s TV show B.J. and the Bear. Do the math.