Minus the Bear's surprise one-off show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg was a delightful bit of news, given the band's continual outgrowing of these New York City venues (last December they played the 3,000-capacity Terminal 5). A return to 550-cap hipster haven Music Hall of Williamsburg meant a more intimate setting, no barricade, and easier parking (even if I returned to my car after the show to find a note from Human Giant's production manager apologizing for his company's truck ramming into my rear quarter panel...no, seriously).
First up was Heather Duby, playing a rare solo set. Perhaps best known among Minus the Bear fans as "the chick who sang on OMNI", she shyly played cute little synth-heavy numbers, like a more melodically modest and emotionally settled Mates of State.
Local act Milagres came next and cracked the atmosphere with a sparkling post-rock twinkle. Having no knowledge of the band prior, I was both expecting and hoping they'd continue down this road, but instead transitioned into a KORG-guided brand of indie rock that reminded me an awful lot of Grizzly Bear...perhaps livelier, though. They kept my interest well and compelled me enough to pick up the tour EP–which is decent, but doesn't match the atmosphere they manage to craft live. Their frontman hit some impressive heights with his voice, too. They also cracked (somewhat snide, but understandable) smirks at the drunken applause from the lightly populated bro section up front.
With little fanfare or chest-beating PA intros, Minus the Bear came up to a warm reception and opened with the introductory clinks to "Knights". From there, the vibe in the audience was fantastic (save a strange, mild confrontation here and there), and the band played off that with a consistently good-natured and tightly played set that made for one of the best times I've seen them (out of seven, I'd say); and that's even considering my favorite release of theirs, the Beer Commercials EP, got no love.
Dancing was rampant (especially for mid-era faves like "Drilling" and "Ice Monster" and older, mathy classics like "Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister" and "[insert long song title here]"), and sing-alongs were in full effect. Even members of Moving Mountains could be seen crowd-surfing sloppily (to vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider's curiosity/bemusement).
Of course, Dave Knudson stole the show per usual, whether he was crouched down and intently manipulating his pedals to drive the song, standing at the edge of the stage finger-tapping before an excited section of the audience, or providing his habitual, gorgeous sparkle intro to "Pachuca Sunrise".
I can't deny it was a good time–totaled car notwithstanding.
Set list (10:15-11:16):
- Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister
- Into the Mirror
- Throwin' Shapes
- Ice Monster
- Summer Angel
- This Ain't a Surfin' Movie
- White Mystery
- Spritz!! Spritz!!
- My Time
- Hold Me Down
- Pachuca Sunrise
- The Fix
- Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse