Minus the Bear - live in Boston (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Minus the Bear

live in Boston (2011)

live show

Minus the Bear bringing the Velvet Teen along on this 10th anniversary tour made a lot of sense--the bands have been practically inseparable touring partners during MtB's rise to prominence. My accompanying friend and I managed to catch the band's last song, which was a predictably kaleidoscopic ensemble of colorful tones and jarring key changes. The crowd seemed to dig it well enough (I'm sure many in the sold-out venue had seen them before), but it was clear they were just a warm-up for their friends' major celebration.

Normally for these sort of special album tours, where a band plays a beloved record of theirs in its entirety, the act will come out, bust it out straight through (with perhaps some insight into the songs' various meanings and metaphors), and then return for an encore of selected cuts from the rest of the catalogue. Instead, Minus the Bear came on stage at precisely 9 p.m. to a celebratory song playing on the PA (something a young Laura Branigan might have done, I think) and opened with even earlier material: the first two tracks on their debut EP, 2001's This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic. Hell, they'd even play two more later. They further built anticipation for the full set of Highly Refined Pirates jams by playing some songs off the releases that followed it, like fan favorites "Knights" and "Hooray."

Then a covering banner dropped, revealing Pirates' cover, the crowd erupted and Dave Knudson's incredibly nimble, dizzying fingertaps initiating "Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister" kicked it off. The band took one noticeable break playing through the album (between the adored "Absinthe Party" and "Hey, Wanna Throw Up?") and otherwise wound its way through all the songs' complex changes and atmospheres with both ease and precision. Even the short instrumental bursts provided seamless interludes.

Ever-bearded frontman Jake Snider didn't bother much with insight, but that's because Minus the Bear established themselves a pretty firm, thematic aesthetic with this album so early on: vacation and heartbreak. Even though it was Sunday night and the Monday morning 9-5 trudge was but half a day away, the audience jumped, bounced and danced to tunes that took them away to far-away places only the residuals of trust funds could rent, and the searing loneliness those places could occasionally infect you with (something more prominent on 2005's Menos el Oso, hinted at well with always-gorgeous and fitting closer "Pachuca Sunrise").

Seattle singer-songwriter staple and band collaborator Heather Duby appeared for some bit parts in "Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo" and "Into the Mirror", and members of the Velvet Teen provided extra guitar on, fittingly, "Let's Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band" (though admittedly, I think I only counted four?). It provided a fitful, fussy mess of layered sound before the album closer and refreshingly brief encore break. That's when the band touched upon their most recent album, OMNI, pulling out the trash-club anthem "Into the Mirror" and, with another reason to dance (and giving keyboardist Alex Rose his time to shine after playing so many parts perhaps unfamiliar to him with Pirates' songs), "My Time."

Set list (9:00-10:05):

  1. Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked
  2. Lemurs, Man, Lemurs
  3. Knights
  4. Hooray
  5. Fine + 2 Pts
  6. Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister
  7. Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!
  8. Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
  9. Hey, Wanna Throw Up?
  10. Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo [w/ Heather Duby]
  11. We Are Not a Football Team
  12. Spritz!!! Spritz!!!
  13. Women We Haven't Met Yet
  14. Damn Bugs Whacked Him, Johnny
  15. I Lost All My Money at the Cock Fights
  16. Andy Wolff
  17. Let's Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band [w/ the Velvet Teen]
  18. Booyah Achieved
    Encore (10:07-10:30):
  19. Intro [This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic]
  20. Just Kickin' It Like a Wild Donkey
  21. Throwing Shapes
  22. Into the Mirror [w/ Duby]
  23. My Time
  24. Pachuca Sunrise