Minus the Bear
Wednesday, October 24
Review & Photo by Crystal K. Wiebe
Fashionably late is fine for a party. But I like to get to concerts on time — early, even. There’s an inherent thrill for me in getting to hear the opener. Who knows what new sound you might hear?
But, sometimes, I admit, I just want to hear whatever band I really came to see. Like last night at the Granada. Poor Tiny Vipers and Helio Sequence didn’t have a chance with me. Headliner Minus the Bear was one of the bands I was most proud to have “discovered” at South by Southwest in 2005. Having not seen the Bear since then, I was crazy excited.
Where's the Bear?
So excited that I should have taken more time arriving. When I got there, the two mild-mannered guitarists who make up Tiny Vipers hadn’t even started. The boy-girl duo said little to the audience and just sat there strumming folksy songs that bled into each other. Occasionally, the girl would let out a loud yelp. That was about the only part of the Vipers’ sound that managed to rise above the crowd’s chatter. Maybe the Vipers should stick to coffee shops.
The Helio Sequence is another duo — two guys sharing drum, keyboard, guitar and vocal duties. Apparently, they have a new record coming out on Sub Pop. And that basically sums up what they sound like — uber-indie rockers from the Northwest. Don't get me wrong; on another day, I’m sure I’d find Helio quite palatable and maybe even appreciate the band’s attempt to work a harmonica into the act. But I was craving another set of uber-indie rockers from the Northwest.
And their singer sure did look different than I remembered. Minus the Bear frontman Jake Snider’s hair has gone from close-cropped to shaggy in the past year and a half. He wore a white, Western button-down with a pattern of mauve spots — flowers? The rest of the bedheaded band looked similarly laid back in flannel and jeans. Minus the Bear’s set began with the same odd digital strains that open new album Planet of Ice. The spacey sounds plunge into the song, “Burying Luck,” a track that’s pure Bear with its uneven rhythms and catchy melody. From there, the Bear proceeded to play a smattering of songs from all three full-length releases: Planet of Ice, Menos el Oso and Highly Refined Pirates.
Snider’s voice sounded a little raw, and at one point, he joked about getting a refill on medicine. But sick or not, he sang loud and nearly every word was distinct above the guitars and digital noises. Quite a few of those words pertain to travel and the shoreline. Among the ocean songs that made the setlist: “Throwin’ Shapes,” “This Ain’t a Surfin’ Movie” and obvious show closer “Pachuca Sunrise.”
Between the lyrical imagery and the sway of the songs, the influence of the water on this Seattle group is unmistakable. And it gets fans rocking – back and forth and side to side. A lot of the Bear’s music may be mellow, but it sure isn’t shoegazer rock. I hope the band floats back this way again soon.