(Editor’s Note: This is Dan’s first post for Playtonic Dialogues)
Ten years of Minus the Bear have passed and there is still no obvious way to categorize them. Not merely what genre of music do they fall into, but everything about them seems to be a bit of a contradiction. For a band led by a singer who looks like Jim Morrison at the height of his acid years, the group hardly matches their visual aesthetic. Instead, they play with a relentless energy and almost mechanical precision more often seen in electronic music than fellow scruffy guitar-driven rock bands.
Starting off the concert with the choice opening lyrics of “Let’s get the fuck out of here” from their 2001 classic “Hey, Wanna Throw Up? Get Me Naked” had a tinge of irony. Playing with an infectious dynamism of repeating and interwoven guitar riffs created a momentum that steamrolled the audience into submission, bringing even the most mild-mannered fans to bob their heads. Accompanied by pulsating strobes and twirling colored spotlights, no one could imagine “getting the fuck out of there,” let alone even think that a world outside that show existed.
Marking their 10 year anniversary as a band with a celebratory tour, their Wednesday night show at Webster Hall relied heavily on their earlier work from the era of unfortunate song titles (my personal favorites include “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” and “Thanks for that Killer Game of Crisco Twister”).
“For those that don’t know, we’re playing one of our records entirely through,” announced lead singer Jake Snider, three songs into their acclaimed 2002 album Highly Refined Pirates. For their final song, “Let’s Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band,” they brought out fellow genre defiers and tour-mates The Velvet Teen, providing some much welcomed vocal oomph to the final chorus before the band came back for an encore of their more recent releases. The show ended with “Pachuca Sunrise.”
When most bands announce an “Anniversary Tour” and rely heavily on older material in their catalogue it’s seen as a sign that the band might be entering their twilight years. But for Minus the Bear it seems more about seizing the opportunity to reinterpret their older songs with the infectious live energy they’ve developed over the past few years of touring. This band isn’t slowing down anytime soon, but we can at least be thankful that their song titles have improved.
Photo by Dan