Minus The Bear Heats Up Los Angeles With A Planet Of Ice Review+Photos: Minus The Bear @ The Mayan 6/7/18
LOS ANGELES, CA- On August 21, 2007, the Seattle based alternative rock band Minus The Bear, released their third full lenth album tilted Planet of Ice. Ten years later in November, the band released a special repressing of the album leaving fans wondering if they would give Planet of Ice the same treatment as their previous records. After teasing their fans for months with blacked out profile images on their social media accounts, Minus The Bear answered the cries of their fans and announced the anniversary tour for Planet of Ice in late January.
At the time of its inception, Planet of Ice presented a turning point for the band after Matt Bayles, the bands keyboard player, left the group to be replaced by sound engineer Alex Rose. The previous two records were well received but a bands third full length is always a tricky one. Do they play it safe and keep their tone in line with the previous releases? Or do they take a risk and shake things up? Planet of Ice was a bit of both. They were no longer the funny guys of math rock who boasted silly song titles such as “Hey Want To Throw Up? Get me Naked” and “Monkey!!!Knife!!!Fight!!!”. Rather, they began to carry more serious tones which were most evident in lyrics such as “I’m becoming a casual business man/ of matters of the heart”.
However, what was familiar was the real meat and bones of the record: the instrumentals. Dave Knudson’s guitar tapping helped you get lost in the bands angular soundscape while Erin Tate’s polyrhythmic drumming provided the backbone to the sophisticated time signatures that the Seattle quintet have always seemed to tackle. For many, Planet of Ice was their introduction to Minus The Bear and after ten years, the band brought that record live to The Mayan Theater in Downtown Los Angeles
Following the intermission after the opening set from The New Trust, the lights on stage shifted to black as “Burying Luck”s intro began playing before the band hit the stage to kick off the set. Right away Dave was swaggering toward the front of the stage in his usual fashion. His signature guitar stylings have always been a staple of what makes the Minus The Bear sound so unique and of the three times I’ve seen them (fun fact about myself, the first concert I ever attended was Minus The Bear at The El Rey in 2007 when I was 14), Dave has always presented himself as such.
The funny thing about album anniversary shows is that the crowd is guaranteed to know what most of the setlist will contain, but when the intro to “Knights” began playing, it was as if the song was coming as a total surprise. As a staple in the bands live sets since before Planet of Ice was even released, it was sure to be one of the highlights of the set. After “White Mystery”, the room once again went dark as Alex Rose set ambience with his synthesizer and drum pads for the intro to “Dr L’ Ling” before Jake Snider and Dave engage in a lively guitar duel during the tracks climax. The 45 minute journey through the bands third release was concluded with “Lotus”. A song which opens with organ like keys unaccompanied by Jake’s smooth vocals. Half way through the track, Dave once again made his way toward the front of the stage as he viciously shredded on his guitar before the song collapsed in on itself for its second half.
Once Minus The Bear flawlessly ripped through Planet of Ice, Jake offered a quick thank you for sharing the evening with them before jumping right into the rest of their set with “Hooray”, a track off their sophomore release Menes El Oso. This throwback sparked new life into the audience complete with singing, dancing and clapping on beat during a break in the track. After which the band went into “Last Kiss”, a pop-esque song off their latest record VOIDS. The following songs performed created an evenly balanced cocktail pulling from their earlier records including my personal favorites “Michio’s Death Drive” and “Hooray” off of Menes El Oso. The set concluded with the classic “Absinthe Party At The Flyhoney Warehouse” off of their 2002 album Highly Refined Pirates.
Minus The Bear are in an interesting place right now. They’ve been dishing out anniversary tours one after another but the turnout at their shows, at least from what I’ve seen on social media and from the shows I attended, hasn’t wavered in the years that I’ve been following them. There aren’t that many bands out there with a following as dedicated as theirs to sell out the massive amounts of anniversary shows that they’ve performed, while still being able to crank out records that don’t alienate older fans as seen by 2017’s VOIDS . But if I had to guess, this past tour will most likely be the final one of its kind. Records following Planet of Ice were still strong in their own respective way but none have really had the kind of impact that their first three album had, ESPECIALLY Planet of Ice. As close friend of mine put it “Planet of Ice was the catchiest technical album I’ve ever heard. This is the album where complex rhythms and soaring melodies collided at the peak of a band taking a chance on extending song lengths and opening up their third eye to lush jamlike textures of harmonious bliss”.