This was a weird day for shows. No Trigger was playing their first show in two years, but it wasn't anywhere near their home state of Massachusetts--rather, Brooklyn, where they hadn't been in five years. This matinee would be followed that night by a range of choices: an apartment show with Captain, We're Sinking! and Man the Change (a nightcap for the No Trigger show, which those two bands had played); Owen at the new-ish Knitting Factory; the Rival Mob at 538 Johnson; a secret Citizens Arrest set at the Capital show over on Long Island; and, Jeff fucking Mangum playing 10 Neutral Milk Hotel songs to 75 people at some loft one-third of a mile from where the No Trigger show (which I'd gone to) was. If there was ever a first-world problem, it was missing out on this ridiculous event. I didn't even find out about it until the next morning, however, so I couldn't necessarily regret seeing Minus the Bear at the monolithic Terminal 5 with one of my favorite songwriters, Tim Kasher, who was doing the solo thing.
What did wear on my soul was the insane amount of traffic, lack of parking and one life-crushing wrong turn that changed an otherwise short drive from Bushwick to the upper west side of Manhattan to an hour-plus endeavor. And it caused me and my usual accompanying cousin to miss all but two-and-change songs of Tim Kasher's set. When we arrived, the first thing I noticed was how young he looked; it's funny how many years a baggy, button-up plaid T-shirt and a mop of unkempt hair can take off a guy. I also saw that he was playing with a full band, which sort of made it feel like I was watching an alternate universe, Happy Hollow-era Cursive--especially when they "covered" "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale," the beautifully strained, Pinocchio-referencing cut from '03's The Ugly Organ. It was a bummer no one in the crowd really seemed to know it, I guess with Minus the Bear's fanbase expanding to include some sort of bro-hipster type (clean-cut yuppies in Matt & Kim shirts I guess? I saw at least one).
I also saw Kashmoney (fuck the MTV guy) play a little bit of "A Grown Man" and set closer "Bad, Bad Dreams," both from his recent solo debut, The Game of Monogamy. There was a good fervor about these songs live, and his backing band punched in their parts well, looking more like part of a sensible ensemble and less like mere placeholders for Kasher. It was too bad I missed like another half-hour of them.
I admittedly had low expectations for Minus the Bear, considering seeing them anywhere after the show at the 160-cap Bowery Electric would be passive at best. But the band played a totally solid--if not predictable, given their touring since OMNI's release--show that just sounded pleasant, transforming those colorful though pastiche newer songs into tasty, propulsive dance hits and integrating their older material with a clean sweep that made it all sound like one sensibly linear set. They didn't always break the set into tight-knit eras to please specific fans, either. 2002's "Burying Luck" with 2007's "Monkey!!!Knife!!!Fight!!!"? Why not?
Through the set I did feel like I'd seen this all before, from Dave Knudson's still-mesmerizing six-string tapping and wordless command for the crowd to dance "Thriller"-style during "My Time" to Jake Snider's now-standard, hairy lost-in-the-Northwest-woods look. But there was enough chutzpah and sincerity to make it enjoyable on yet another go-round of it, even if the crowd by and large felt more like onlookers and less like the stoked, compassionate fans I thought MtB always nurtured.
The strobe light, though. Jesus Christ. I don't know who I wanted to murder more: the guy operating it every goddamn song or the person who invented it in the first place.
Still, I think I made a good decision overall.
Set list (9:58-11:10):
- Secret Country
- Memphis & 53rd
- Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister
- White Mystery
- Throwin' Shapes
- Into the Mirror
- Animal Backwards
- Burying Luck
- My Time
- Hold Me Down
- Dr. L'ling
- The Game Needed Me
- I'm Totally Not Down with Rob's Alien
- Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
- Pachuca Sunrise