Minus the Bear: New York, NY, September 29, 2012
Best Buy Theater
New York, NY
September 29, 2012
On a crisp, clear fall Saturday night under an enormous harvest moon, a steady stream of concertgoers filed into the Best Buy Theater on Broadway in the heart of Times Square in New York City to see Seattle-based rock/pop band, Minus the Bear, currently on the road to support its recent release, Infinity Overhead (Dangerbird, 2012). The air was electric with giddy anticipation from eager fans that crowded the merchandise stand in the lobby.
An unusual venue, the Best Buy Theater was once the historic Astor Plaza movie theater, an enormous single-screen theater that took movie fans to an extremely long escalator down threee stories into a gem of a space, nestled beneath the Minskoff Theatre. Closed in 2004, and with millions of dollars spent on stunning state of the art renovations, the theater now sports a large standing area in front of the stage, as well as a huge bank of seats along the back, reminiscent of movie theater seating. When a show is a general admission show, ticket holders have the option to stand near the stage or relax, perched on seats with cup holders. For the near sold-out show on this particular night, fans took up residence in both sections equally, filling out the empty spots.
First to hit the stage was instrumental post-rock band Caspian, providing a tight 30-minute set. Under blue and red lights, Caspian's five musicians tore through the songs and commanded the crowd as an ensemble, not an easy feat especially without a designated vocalist as front man for the group. With thrumming beats, Caspian finished strong, in a semi-circle with rhythmic power.
After a fast break, Cursive took the stage for a solid but slightly ordinary 45-minute set. The band played hits from This House Alive (I Am Gemini, 2012) , and was enthusiastically received, although the excitement for the headliner was palpable as the stage was set up for Minus the Bear.
At 10:00pm, Jake Snider, David Knudson, Cory Murchy, Alex Rose and Erin Tate hit the stage to raucous applause. The first two songs performed"Steel and Blood" and "Lies and Eyes"were the two first songs from Minus the Bear's latest release, Inifinity Overhead (Dangerbird, 2012).
"We have a new record out," explained Snider, who deftly handled lead vocals and guitar. "That's what we do at metered points in our lives and careers." Snider sported a white long sleeve shirt and jeans, looking younger than an earlier look that included longer wavy hair and more facial hair. Bassist Murchy has also adopted a slightly streamlined look, trading in his facial hair and long blond locks for a spikier cut. For fans who have followed the band, the physical changes were a definite surprise, but not a bad one.
The banter with the crowd was kept to a minimum, consisting mainly of thanks to the audience and opening acts. Minus the Bear was obviously there to play a show, and play it did. "Diamond Lightning," "Cold Company "and "Empty Party Rooms" were other highlights from Infinity Overhead. Singer/songwriter Heather Duby came onstage and provided backing vocals for some of the songs. Now New York City-based, Duby has worked with various members of the band in the past, and offered a complement to Snider's strong vocals.
At one point, Snider addressed the crowd, "We're from Seattle, Washington, in case you're at the wrong show." There was no question that the fans knew this, screaming for the talented musicians, with catcalls for Knudson on bass, a dervish of frenzied motion, especially on hits including "Absinthe Party at The Fly Honey" and "Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo." Tate, from his post behind the drum kit at the back of the stage, held the beat, while the layered keyboards were operated by Rose. Knudson kept a position near Snider at the center of the stage, a wonder to watch on guitar as he swung his head back-to-front often, seemingly lost in the act of playing. The masters of false endings, it was entertaining to watch the novice fans in the audience begin to clap when it seemed that a song would end...only to find it continuing on.
With a spot-on sound mix, the monitors vibrated the video cameras that provided coverage to screens in the performance area as well as to other parts of the venue. Minus the Bear's eclectic mix was reminiscent of classic rock and electric dance music, fused together into a sound that was unique. Studio recordings showcase the band's musical talents but each live performance is stellar, with an intense energy that whips the crowd into a frenzy. Not so subtle nuances like huge balloons filled with confetti were lobbed from offstage into the audience, bringing a party atmosphere. The light show was dazzling, with subtle undertones of red, blue and green transitioning into a pulsating series of white lights that produced a strobe effect and drew the crowd to watch, even when it became overwhelming. This was not simply a concert, it was a celebration.