The first time I picked up a Minus the Bear album it was because I thought it was clever that the title was in Spanish. Don’t judge; I was young. What mattered was I held in my hand Menos El Oso and my eyes were opened to a great new-to-me band. From that album forth, I spent a good amount of time on Minus the Bear. They’ve always felt good in my ears. This was one of the bands I had the opportunity to interview in person at the first music festival I covered. So for me, they will always be close to home.
Recently, Minus the Bear played the House of Blues in Cleveland. The evening was opened with Slow Bird, a great up-and-coming Seattle trio. The band took to the stage with pre-set hugs. Touring in support of their recently released album, Chrysalis, the three-piece delivered strong vocals paired with ethereal keyboard/synth amidst heavy drum and guitar work. Jennae Quisenberry’s vocals, which occasionally were lost in the ambient music created, shone through like a beacon in the night on single, “Crash & Burn.”
Next to the stage was INVSN, a Swedish quintet that delivered a blend of grungy rock that had a trace of the 80s in its sound. Being in the photo pit for this performance was quite dangerous; it’s a wonder I didn’t walk away with a concussion from all the mic tricks lead singer, Dennis Lyxzen, pulled out. Frequently throughout their set, it was anyone’s guess what the frontman would do as he threw his mic up, out, around, finally landed it on his shoulder. Pair this with the black paint across his eyes, frenetic energy around the stage, and frequent kick-jumps in the air and you got a complete rock experience.
Lyxzen spent a moment preaching to the choir about how “rock and roll is supposed to liberate,” as he cited Marx, before he whirled into the next song, kicking and punching his way throughout. In the few moments that were slow, Lyxzen mesmerized the crowd with his stillness; he stood on the stage’s edge until the guitars summoned him in a slinky, sinister—and I daresay sexual—way back to them. The set was concluded with “My Distorted Heart,” which Lyxzen attributed to “the complete and utter failure of some individuals in the band,” followed by “Young Haters,” which explored the negativity of bullying.
Finally, Minus the Bear took the stage. Their set opened with “Burying Luck” off 2007’s Planet of Ice and with the familiar tune, the crowd roared to life. The lights washed out over the crowd in blues and greens, which quickly shifted to reds. Intelligently, their set spanned their complete discography, with a little something for each level of MTB fan—young, old, new or seasoned. “Dog Park” welcomed Slow Bird’s Quisenberry back to the stage to join the band on vocals for a few songs.
“We put out an acoustic record. Thanks to those of you who contributed to that motherfucker,”Jake Snider said as he hung his acoustic around his neck and took a seat to croon to the crowd with a couple songs off of their Acoustics II album, including “Riddles.” From the crowd someone yelled, “Take it off!” and Snider retorted with “Do you want me to take my top off? Talk to me after the show.”
The smoothness and nonchalance with which the band slides from one song to the next, dancing through guitar flourishes as if it’s nothing, will always grab me. This is a band of profoundly talented musicians. “We have much love for you guys, forever and always,” Snider said, adjusting the collar of guitarist David Knudson, before beginning “Knights,” which they stated would be the last song. The encore brought the band back to the stage for “Women We Haven’t Met Yet” and “Pachuca Sunrise.”