May 19, 2015
The sweetly tapered sounds of Minus the Bear fill the John Green* void in every twentysomething’s life. Last night, couples in the crowd made out to the sounds of a band that strongly encourages making out, matching Minus the Bear’s lyrics of longing, love and expectation. Guys and girls screamed every single word to “Pachuca Sunrise” and “My Time,” reassuring the faithful that their worries should have been left behind and were not welcome at Fitzgerald’s.
Since 2001, Minus the Bear’s Jake Snider has written songs that sound like obvious footnotes to Sunny Day Real Estate’s emotive catalog. Manic guitar riffs that accompany Snider’s near-monotonous vocals alongside up-tempo rhythms have become the band’s trademark. And without question, Minus the Bear is excellent at what they do. The problem, however, is that their music has been hemmed in by the rigid emo brand. They cannot escape who and what they are: a band stuck in a formulaic rut that appears content with being stagnant and unchanging.
The crowd, undeterred by the fact the band has rewritten 2005's Menos el Oso every album and EP since, reveled in the band’s proggish arrangements and sad-bastard lyrics. “Fine + 2 PTS” from They Make Beer Commercials Like This opened the merriment, easing the crowd into the prolific Minus the Bear catalog. This was a nostalgia show. The band gratefully ignored their most recently release, Infinity Overhead, and focused on resilient tracks like “Pony Up” and “The Fix.”
High drama ensued midway into the set. Snider implored the crowd to put their phones away to listen and watch live shows like in the pre-cellphone era. Motioning to a girl in the crowd, the singer seized her phone, took a band selfie, and in the voice of a high-school principal admonished the crowd that he would be taking up cell phones if he saw them.
After this minor commercial break ended, Minus the Bear continued their wistfulness and longing for relationships to have better resolutions. “Memphis and 53rd” was performed perfectly despite drummer extraordinaire Erin Tate’s recent departure. “Diamond Lightning” and “Electric Rainbow” pushed the crowd further into the romantic vortex. Yet, Dave Knudson’s guitar virtuosity, playing finger-styled tapping and picking created perfect counterpoints to the odd time-signature rhythms. Alex Rose’s keyboard was buried in the mix and often difficult to discern between Cory Murchy’s deafening bass frequencies. As the bassist attempted to stay in synch with Tate’s drumming replacement, that struggle persisted during much of the set.
At this point, the make-out session grew to astonishing levels. Lonely dancers swayed back and forth, nodding their heads and screaming memorized words, imagining the band playing to them exclusively.
As the night came to a close, the song bearing our great city’s name, “Houston, We Have Uh-Oh,” exploded through air, and the crowd — tired from groping, making out, screaming and dancing — found its second wind. The energy that receded toward the end of the band's initial set was rediscovered for four pleasant minutes. The audience reciprocated Minus the Bear’s generosity, lauding them with well-deserved praise for their passionate performance.
Choruses of yearning diminished. The ideal of unrequited love disappeared. Disquietude of making sense of love came and went. The Fitzgerald’s crowd embraced Minus the Bear warmly, filled for the time being with a strong sense of satisfaction.
* – author of wildly successful YA novel The Fault In Our Stars