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

Minus the Bear

live in New York (2010)

live show

Minus the Bear casually announced their secret show to a swollen crowd at The Bamboozle festival. They were playing their set on one of the two main stages, and thus thousands upon thousands stood on both sides of a elongated, gapped barricade, but only a very small portion would be able to attend this incredibly intimate event. It would apparently take place the next night in lower Manhattan at the apparently comely and 160-capacity Bowery Electric, but most fans wouldn't even know until the info was posted that morning.

With doors set to open at 9:00 p.m. and the band slated to play 10:30 sharp, I expected throngs of math-rock nerds to be lining the floor in front of the eight-inch-high stage when I walked in a little before 9:30. But there really weren't many people at all. Opening act Everest played their mellow brand of folky indie rock to a scattered audience. I couldn't really make any comparisons or go too in-depth in describing their sound since they were apparently playing their stuff stripped-down, MTV unplugged style, but it sedated us all well enough.

Then MTB took the stage and proceeded to saunter through a pretty no-frills, enjoyable set in a close atmosphere. They opened with perhaps the most epic song of the entire set--"Drilling," and all its multiple false endings. I figured this Menos el Oso fave would kick-start the crowd into a dancing frenzy, but, well, not really. Only a select few really moved around or sung along--let alone both...and that went for the entire set, more or less. It seemed like a really tame, industry-heavy crowd. Oh well. Hairy frontman Jake Snider observed this and then offered, in a likely futile way, "Feel free to dance for chrissake," just before OMNI opener "My Time."

Speaking of that album, it's the band's newest, and at this point in time was about to be released--hence this special show, really. Thus the band played six songs off it, including the entire first half (which has that splendid "Secret Country," which seems to mix aspects of the band's three prior releases into a smooth, fine finish). They all sounded sparkly, solid or otherwise good-hearted even with all their lyrically frank sex talk--seriously, if Menos el Oso was the Jimmy Buffet of math rock, OMNI must be the Marvin Gaye of whatever subgenre one believes MTB to be currently reigning over.

And just as then-new keyboardist Alex Rose had begun to play a prominent role in the band's sound with 2007's Planet of Ice and even more so now with OMNI, he helped make his presence known here. He started a clap-along as a prelude for the expertly bouncy "Fine + 2 Pts" and exchanged occasional awkward intra-banter with Snider. Snider himself was a candid and friendly presence, exchanging names before gently letting down a concertgoer who was shouting specific song requests just before the band was to get into "When We Escape."

Of course, lead guitarist Dave Knudson was an important factor too, adding auxiliary keyboard to a few new songs and otherwise shredding and finger-tapping the shit out his axe--sometimes while he balanced on one foot, unexplainably, or perhaps as a wind-up to hitting a pedal.

The band hit up almost every release in their catalog for the set list too, so that was nice, of course--especially when a track like shout-along, hazy closer "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse" got at least some semblance of a party started...just as the entire night was basically ending.

Set list (10:30-11:38):

  1. Drilling
  2. Throwin' Shapes
  3. Knights
  4. My Time
  5. Summer Angel
  6. When We Escape
  7. Secret Country
  8. Get Me Naked 2: The Electric Boogaloo
  9. Excuses
  10. Double Vision Quest
  11. Fine + 2 Pts
  12. Hold Me Down
  13. Women We Haven't Met Yet
  14. Pachuca Sunrise
    Encore (11:40-11:51):
  15. Into the Mirror
  16. Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse