A Ruby Of A Record And Performance: Minus The Bear at Irving Plaza
  • THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2015

  • Posted by: Vince Brigante

10 years ago, Minus the Bear released their second studio album, Menos el Oso. 10 years ago, you might not have even heard of Minus the Bear. But standing amongst a crowd awaiting Menos magic in its entirety was a privilege...and it also made me feel old. I too had a grizzly beard, was in a button up and boots as compared to the first Minus the Bear show I attended dressed intight jeans, a skate t-shirt, and busted red skate shoes.

It's truly something special when a band performs one of their selections from start to finish. For most music maniacs, album listening is the way to our hearts. It's not about an album's singles; it's about the depth. Often times for fans, there's a connection to a specific album. Maybe it was the album played on your first road trip, or the album that you threw on when the ball dropped NYE. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a few Minus the Bear tracks was the soundtrack to me getting caught up in a romantic interlude or two. Besides that, Menos el Oso is an almost flawless record with creative range and a signature sound of stature. From track one all the way to track 12, this record is as close to flawless as you can get by Minus the Bear standards. Plus, for most fans, this show was the debut of their "new" drummer, who replaced longtime member, Erin Tate.

A can of Brooklyn lager in hand, I chatted it up with a bouncer in the meantime, assuring him that this wouldn't be a "pit" show and MTB was surf rock. The opening act, Aero Flynn, a three piece, flashed moments of serious Radiohead influence...which was totally cool with the audience. Their sound, this breakbeat-indie, was an excellent warm up before getting to the good stuff.

And, then, MTB takes the stage, all wearing super-dad flannels or button ups, and singer Jake Snyder's mustache made him look more like Pablo Escobar from the Netflix show Narcos than anything else. "The Game Needed Me" opens their set just as lively as it does on the album, Snyder singing of philosophy and caress, Dave Knudson tapping away at his guitar. During their third song, I'm already anticipating their fourth, "El Torrente" a rarity for an MTB set, and now I've got a front row seat for the weathered group singing with new charisma; a "I'm a family man now" presence that honestly kicked ass. They continued to rip through the record--dare I say-- sounding tighter than ever. "Michio's Death Drive," and "Fulfill The Dream" warranted a lyrical indulgence from the crowd, and myself, beyond exuberant at the reiteration of songs we've all held dear.

Now, there's speculation (mainly between my friends and I) that Minus the Bear has never played "The Pig War" because they simply couldn't; they left that song in their past music-making lives. The moment comes and you can feel it in the air, "The Pig War"... Will they play it? "It's been so long, that it feels like I've never danced with anyone," Ahh. The first few lines like the first sip of rum from a chilled bottle, taking the stress off burdened work-heavy shoulders. Pure bliss. This beautiful track leads into "This Ain't A Surfin' Movie" with equivocal luster. "This Ain't A Surfin' Movie" is a song that at the right place with good timing, can change your life. Snyder, the former English major, does what we (because that is my field of study too) do best and illustrates moments humans always wish to savor. Knudson, Cory Murchy, and Alex Rose are truly locked in on this song. They flex their musical triceps. Although almost ruined by a crowd trying to emulate Knudson's melodic euphoric chords, the slow, shimmering and manipulated ring triumphed for its full effect. Wow. Menos el Oso performed in one swoop.



The band played some old material also rare to fans' ears, and debuted a new song as well. Which means their gears or, umm, err, paws, are turning. (Bad bear pun there, sorry not sorry.) Despite Murchy (bassist) looking like he was having some problems with his in-ear's, the band dazzled and didn't miss a groove. Minus the Bear were and are still spectacular live. Bands don't always treat their fans with a full album tour. For that we thank Minus the Bear for a rewarding show and sharing a ruby of a record.

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