MINUS THE BEAR + The Spill Canvas + Metal Hearts @ Club Lambi

By Omar Goodness - Hooked On Sonics - 04/24/2006

Aaaaaah, memories. Memories can be good or bad, depending how you reflect on them, and I like to remember the bad ones… it’s how I roll. But, how best to recall bad moments than to mask them with an air of humour. Y’know, mask those buried emotional wounds with “laughs” to hide the true deep dark pain. Weeeeeell, lemme tell ya a little story…

A couple years back, CJLO was getting full into the small show promoting biz to get our station’s name out there. We had thrown a metal show, a punk show, and just threw a hip hop show (aka the Goodness-didn’t-come-‘cuz-he-fell-asleep-while-driving show, a whole other story in and of itself), all of them ended up moderate to full-blown successes. After those, everyone at the station started asking me (being the indie rock music director) “sooooo, when are we having an indie rock show?”. Well, dagnabbit, I thought, let’s do this.

Think again,” is what I shoulda replied to myself.

Seeing how Braid had just reformed and was plotting a North America-wide reunion tour (*coff* money grab*coff*), they managed to pull together a great lineup to come along with it: Indiana country/spooky post-punk group Murder By Death and Seattle’s poppy math rock band Minus The Bear. At the time, both those two bands were experiencing a surge in popularity along with critical acclaim from big publications with colour photo spreads etc.

Soooooo after a fateful discussion with ex-CJLOer and current Blue Skies Turn Black promo dude Meyer, it had been decided that CJLO’s first foray into show-sponsoring would be a joint venture to bring this Braid show to town. Sounded like a good plan at the time. Posters were placed everywhere, postings on message boards were posted, the publicist for the tour even provided neato colour postcards to flyer with. DJs around the station were remarking how visible promo for the show was. Meyer and I weren’t expecting anything major, we were just hoping to break even, and it looked like, yeah, we might just do that. Goooooo team!

Yeah. That didn’t happen. Presale was terrible and things didn’t improve all too much at the door. Basically, we lost money. We were also supposed to record the show for a future airing, but a) the minidisc and recording gear was first forgotten at the station, and then b) the soundmen wouldn’t let us plug in ‘cuz there were no more inputs. Thanks. In the end, the whole fiasco wasn’t a total waste. We did manage to get Murder By Death into the station for a rad acoustic session (the kids even bought an accordion and a violin to make things a little more special, you can check out pics here). Aaaand I had made a slew of CJLO programs that were handed out at the show (all of them were gone by the evening’s end), and listnership to CJLO (well, my show at least) increased. But still, we lost a lot of money, kids. A lot.

That brings us to the present. This was my first time seeing Minus The Bear since the above flop. And yeah, I had that show on my mind.

As for this show, well, lemme tell ya, there were a lot more people at this Minus The Bear show -- a fact that was not lost on me… *weeps*. Openers, and Minus The Bear’s Suicide Squeeze Records labelmates Metal Hearts charmed the audience with their Hood-meets-Pinback-via-American Analog Set batch of songs from their great debut CD Socialize. The duo of Anar and Flora traded skitterish lines of down-tuned guitar of soft talk-sung lyrics backed with keys and occasional electronic beats provided by their touring drummer Sam. While on record the duo is solely aided by a drum machine, the addition of a live drummer was fantastic and added a whole new depth to the songs, especially when he was playing with the programmed beats. Flora even picked up the saxophone for a great version of “Gentlemen’s Spell”, the highlight of the night that combined the aforementioned live and programmed drums. For some reason they get the early-Modest Mouse tag quite a bit, and while it’s not too prevalent on record, it is audible live. Closing with the title track of Socialize, a song they dedicated to a “new friend” in the audience before mentioning that they haven’t performed it in a bit “and probably should to keep our label happy”, the duo left with a lot of these kids rightfully converted.

The Spill Canvas, however, is just another in the glut of bland emo bands out there, and I guess the only thing that sets them apart (slightly) is their penchant for straight-up rock choruses and a vocalist who coos more than whines. Yeah, uh… ”coo-ing” is not cool, especially if you’re a guy. Nevertheless, as much as I hate this band, they were tight on stage, and the kids were going absolutely bananas for them. They were kids bouncing up and down, yelling out the lyrics, making complete fools of themselves… buuuut, I gotta say, as humorous as those kids looked, it must be pretty neat to be in a band that has fans that go completely berserk for you, hehehe.

Minus The Bear closed the night out with a solid performance. The musicianship of these guys is equally amazing live as it is on record, and unlike their stale and detached performance at the CJLO show, they were in good form tonight. Asides from some monitor hiccups (apparently lead guitarist Dave Knudson was having some serious issues that appeared to be annoying the hell out of him), the sound was great, barring a little low volume on singer Jake Snider’s rhythm guitar. Filling in for the recently departed Matt Bayles (who left amicably to concentrate on his career as a record producer), their new keyboardist/loop programmer was also pretty swell, adding some backing vocals where needed, and filling the space with swirling soundscapes and the occasional plinking of keys. Drummer Erin Tate kept his mad polyrhythmic time signatures flawlessly, and Knudson worked magic on his guitar, half the time with his pick in his mouth while he finger-picked or finger-tapped his way through the songs, using a multitude of delay and chorus pedals to add varying textures to their tunes while the whole band flat out clicked during songs like “Pachuca Sunrise”.

Aside from what felt like a very short set (I think they played only 10 songs), the band was tight technically and the guys clearly are amazing musicians (Snider’s own fantastic guitar-playing gets overlooked a lot), but they still lacked some heart on stage. While they were a lot better than the last time I saw them, they still were missing that special something that sets a show apart from every other show. Either way, these guys put a LOT of bands to shame with their intricate but poppy math-rock songs, and Snider is one of the best lyricists out there.

As for the Colossal Failure© (as I’ve lovingly referred to that Braid show since), everytime I run into Meyer, every now and then somehow that show gets brought up, and we both stare off for a second into the distance (y’know, sorta like that 1,000 Yard Vietnam Vet stare) and mumble how we “just don’t get it” over how that show failed. The fact remains, goddamn we lost a lot of money, but damn is it funny… somewhat… kinda… OK, not really.

Sigh… I never even really liked Braid all that much…

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