Yet another pretty solid top to bottom lineup at Irving Plaza. And even though Minus the Bear had somehow sold the venue out (one of which has also hosted recent headliners like Say Anything, Thursday, and Anti-Flag), this was the first show I'd ever attended there that "lacked" a barricade. It was quite a pleasant surprise.
Even though it was eventually stolen fro me (among other, more expensive items) in The Great Theft of `03™, I jammed out a bit to Dakota/Dakota's sole full-length, Shoot in the Dark, when it first hit that year. After hearing a wealth of accolades about the members' new, decidedly more post-rock leaning project, I was definitely anticipating Russian Circles. Sure enough they were one of the night's highlights. Even as a three-piece they pounded out sometimes brooding, other times moving pieces that at once haunted, swirled, and plain deafened. Every player was highly self-involved with their respective instrument, and talented and energetic at that, but when it all came together in its various stages (building, climbing, gliding by softly), it was pretty awe-inspiring.
Try as I might, the Velvet Teen just does not do it for me. Maybe off-key wailing through a megaphone just ain't my bag. What did keep me entertained however was the drummer -- this bear-like figure was constantly wailing on the skins, holding it down through a variety of tempos and time changes. At one point the drumstick flew from his right hand and he just began banging his fingers on the second crash cymbal instead for a second or two before pulling out a replacement. He was enough to slightly push my indifference in a positive direction.
Now, I try to keep my tastes as open and varied as possible, but I don't think I'll ever claim to be a rap expert (and, well, that goes for any genre but you get my drift). That being said it's pretty easy to differentiate between total misogynistic, mindless bullshit (pretty much any platinum selling artist) and the more intelligent acts. From what I'd heard, P.O.S. seemed like someone sensible for someone like me: a rapper highly influenced by punk (dude drummed for Cadillac Blindside!) and falling into the latter of those abovementioned camps. Musically, I didn't quite get that aside from lots of cross-sections of more aggressive flow, but I was definitely entertained. P.O.S. (or Stefon Leron Alexander) made sure everyone was paying attention and throwing their hands. His DJ provided a good set of varied beats, minimalist at some points, almost with an industrial feel at others, but always serving as an appropriate backdrop for Alexander's angry, intense rhymes. He offered an immaculate freestyle at one point which was hard to turn away from. Some of the tracks he performed were catchy enough to shout along with right there, which crowds always love. With my familiarity previously bankrupt I could only tell you standouts like "Half-Cocked Concepts," "Stand Up (Let's Get Murdered)," "Yeah Right (Science Science)" and "P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life" were delivered. From a pretty unbiased standpoint I'd say it captured my interest throughout the 50-minute duration damn well.
It's funny how much more excited Minus the Bear is when they're the featured band. Opening for Thursday and at Bamboozle 2005, the sets were good, no doubt -- but in a considerably relaxed, chilled out manner, even when the band was playing their more dynamic numbers. But here, they moved around plenty, jamming out with surprising energy and a fervor the likes of which I hadn't previously seen out of them. It definitely gave the vibe a fresh type of activity sans silly moshing and crowd surfing. Instead, there was just a whole lot of jiving in place. All the songs set the appropriate moods, taking the crowd to different places and bringing them back to the venue -- sort of like on record. Matt Bayles' replacement on the keys, programming and electronics end of things seemed to do his job well. Even the lights guy seemed to know what he was doing with the band, sometimes surrounding them with warm colors but more often shining various shades of sea green down on them, which actually added to the mood all the more. Overall, nothing less than a solid thumbs up should be given.
Set list (ordered and accurate, though there was a 3-song encore and I only remember "Fine + 2 Pts." [but it was a flawless, welcomed rendition]):
- Michio's Death Drive
- Memphis & 3rd
- Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
- Ice Monster (new song)
- The Fix
- We Are Not a Football Team
- Elec Rain (also new song?)
- Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!
- Knights (another new song?)
- Pony Up!
- The Game Needed Me
- Let's Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band