Live: Minus the Bear/Everest/Young the Giant

HOUSE OF BLUES — 5/14/2010: Despite the torrential downpour, a thousand or so people braved the weather to loosely pack the House of Blues. The occasion? Seattle’s Minus the Bear were in town , bringing a heavy dose of bearded indie-rock and quite possibly the rain. With them were LA’s Everest and Newport Beach’s Young the Giant.

Young the Giant, formerly known as The Jakes, opened the show with their take of the current indie-rock scene: a jangly indie-pop sound decorated by a vibrato-heavy, pitch-perfect lead singer with plenty of vocal accompaniment. Pleasant and energetic performers, Young the Giant ultimately failed to differentiate themselves from the pack of Vampire Weekends/Grizzly Bears/bubbly folk-pop clones that populate the indie circuit. If they want to star in the next VW commercial, they might consider taking a few risks to separate themselves from the pack and remove the fitting, albeit slightly unfair, comparisons to their more successful peers.

Next up was Everest, a terribly confusing band fronted by former Sebadoh member Russell Pollard. Why confusing? The live performance, in all honesty, sounded like alternative rock fodder. The longer the set continued, the more it dragged and droned on, and the more it needed to end.

From the beginning, the overly fuzzy electric guitar riffs and meaningless acoustic guitar parts felt custom-made for ABC medical dramas. What does rock legend Neil Young see in these guys? Has he gone senile in his old age? So, a straightforward conclusion: forgettable, if not terrible, right? Not at all.

At the end of the set comes “Let Go,” off their debut album, On Approach. Properly brilliant song. What the hell? Browse their Website or Myspace page and, surprise, more well-crafted songs! Is this even the same band? Everest’s live performance created a sense that my brain, in its cold and emotionless way, might be able to like, but my heart would never be moved. Wrong.

Their set might have not done it for me, and I’m starting to believe that it’s somehow my fault. The more I think about it, and the more I listen, the more I believe that Everest is a pretty damn good slice of Americana rock.

So, up pops Seattle’s stalwarts Minus the Bear. What better way to work up a crowd then with two songs off of Planet of Ice: “Throwin’ Shapes” and “Knights.” The crowd eats it up, as they should; nearly ten years and four albums of experience have created a very tight and clean performance that pleased both devoted and casual fans.

The quintet knows their audience and served up the meat of their inevitable greatest hits album. “Spritz!!! Spritz!!” and “Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse,” from Highly Refined Pirates, and “Pachuca Sunrise,” from Mensos el Oso, were all included to stir up the crowd into a bit of a frenzy.

However, halfway through the set, you begin to wonder: how much more do Minus the Bear have left in the tank? Are they doomed to the fate of fellow Washingtonians Death Cab For Cutie? Are they going to play it safe and pressing out the same album over and over again? A listen to Highly Refined Pirates and their newest album, Omni, reveals more of an evolution and perfection of the “Minus the Bear” sound, rather than an effort to achieve brilliance. Don’t get me wrong — Minus the Bear put on a fantastic performance. So good, in fact, that it was easy to overlook some of Jake Snider’s more cringeworthy lyrics.

What made Minus the Bear so good a decade ago, though, their experimental sound and math-rock rhythms, aren’t nearly as inspiring or groundbreaking. There is this sense that they’ve lost a bit of the veneer that’s necessary for longevity. At their best, Minus the Bear bring back some beautiful nostalgia and energy that the current indie scene desperately needs, but at their worst, it comes off as a bit stale.

Live review by . Live review posted Monday, May 31st, 2010. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Live: Minus the Bear/Everest/Young the Giant”

  1. christopher meloni on September 1st, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Wonderful article! I appreciate good writing and this is just that; really good writing. You kept me interested from the first sentence to the last and I agree completely on each point you’ve made here.

  2. Delicia Laffredo on March 23rd, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    You’ve got a great blog here! would you like to create some invite posts on my site?

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