By Caitlin Maloney
For an unknowing bystander, the ground floor of Terminal 5 may have seemed more like a dance party than a concert on Saturday night. Minus the Bear played on December 4th to a full house, the majority of which was engaged in some sort of frenetic dance-jump hybrid.
Armed with an 8-bit inspired back drop and what seemed like color-changing light-up tetris blocks, Minus the Bear opened their 17 song set with Secret Country, a track from their most recent release. 2010's Omni reached the top 50 on Billboard. However, you will find most religious Minus the Bear fans quick to denounce their newer albums in favor of 2002's Highly Refined Pirates, and especially for Menos El Oso, the band's 2005 breakthrough. Fortunately the band's fan base is of the cult-like variety. No matter how they feel about new material, they will continue to show up to watch front man Jake Snider and guitarist Dave Knudson dance with both their fingers and their feet; pedals and effects are as much a part of MtB's art as instruments are.
Those longtime fans were rewarded early on in the set, as the show's opener was followed by Memphis and 53rd and Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco® Twister, from Menos and Pirates, respectively. The band smartly sandwiched their desire to showcase Omni between those fan-favored openers and a strong finale of older songs. Although My Time, Omni's single, elicited a favorable response, most of the crowd's energy was spent at the set's beginning and end. That one old song that everyone knows, Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse, "ended" the set. The band returned to the stage shortly thereafter, Snider apologizing "I feel bad for lying to you. That's not really the end. We're gonna play a couple more songs…I'm sorry we lied." Popular singles Knights and Pachuca Sunrise ended the night as the crowd refused to disperse until the house lights rose.
The question with a band like Minus the Bear is whether an act that relies so heavily on a pedalboard can deliver the live energy their sound demands. Minus the Bear struck a delicate balance between the science of technical accuracy and the art of live gusto. Snider treated his pedalboard as an instrument unto itself. While some are quick to criticize this aspect, the band's fans seemed to acknowledge and appreciate it.
Closing your eyes, the set could have been a recording playing in an intensely strobe lit room. Whether this is a criticism or a compliment depends on your priorities as a concertgoer. The band's tightness was undeniable, and the production quality high. On the other hand, the performance at times lacked the raw energy that often is the reason people attend shows.