Five minutes after arriving at the Regency, our night takes a weird turn. Security searches my girlfriend’s purse, confiscates a pack of chewing gum, and somehow misses the large flask of whiskey beneath it. Of course I think this is best thing ever. I take it as a sign that God wants us drunk. “Have you heard the album?” I ask. “This is providence.”
Let me be clear: Minus The Bear has a new album called Omni, and I do not like that album. Play a few tracks and tell me it doesn’t sound like some coked-up, synthed-out Don Henley fever dream. And if you think that’s a good thing, you’ve clearly never had a coked-up, synthed-out Don Henley fever dream. Shit’ll scar you for life, man.
Since I’m “minus the beer,” I head straight for the bar. In the next room, the opening band is caterwauling some loud ballad. They sound angsty, like they’re upset they’re not headlining. Noise surges and gets clipped off as the crowd flows back and forth through the double doors. I survey the scene. It’s an all-ages show. Everyone is dressed nicely. I feel like I’m either crashing a high school dance or a tech company after-party. Is this the Minus The Bear fan base? Or are these the new recruits? The band has been around for years, but Omni has a different tone than their previous efforts. Are these the people drawn to lyrics like “There’s a mirror full of ‘caine in the bathroom”? I hope not. That’s a ridiculous lyric. (Unless they mean Michael Caine, in which case it rules.)
We find our way to the stage just in time. The lights drop, the audience applauds, and the band walks out. The first thing I notice is that the guitarist looks almost exactly like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. I think this is awesome. It brings whole new levels of entertainment to the show.
Within the first thirty seconds, it’s obvious these guys are much heavier live. Something about the combination of the beards and the odd-time riffs makes me think of mid-90s grunge. This is totally acceptable to me. I am shocked. They play through their new songs and my surprise grows. Tracks that come off as hipster-adult-contemporary on the albums are rocking pretty hard here. Although the electronic limpness I dislike is still there, it’s much more palatable injected with live energy. The band can play, there’s no question about that.
I’m not sure if it’s the music, the vibe, or the pint cups full of whiskey we down during the set, but my girlfriend and I both leave liking them more. A good live show is hard to argue with, and I’m not about to do so here. So this is my advice on Minus The Bear: ignore their albums, see them live, and smuggle in booze. The bouncers won’t notice, I promise.