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Cult of the Bear 

It’s about time Minus the Bear fans get their own Deadhead-like moniker

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The Grateful Dead have their Deadheads, Phish has its Phans. Jimmy Buffet has Parrot Heads. And Minus the Bear has… Berserkers? The Bear Garden? Bear Necessities?

Undetermined fan-group titling aside, Seattle’s Minus the Bear has managed to gain a fervent fan base that is not content with seeing the group play once or twice. Their shows are dotted with fans who have seen the group 10, 12 times. But the quintet isn’t like many of those other bands with such zealous habitués for several reasons — one more obvious than others: They aren’t a jam band. You don’t need to be blazed beyond belief to enjoy Minus the Bear (not that many fans don’t choose that path willingly).

And unlike the tunes of so many jam bands, Minus the Bear’s songs actually end.
Bassist Cory Murchy loves how people have grabbed hold of his band and refuse to let go.

“It’s pretty cool because there’s a lot of times when a fan will come up, or whatever, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, this is like our seventh time seeing you guys, thank you so much for coming out again,’” he says. “And it’s always like, ‘Thank YOU for coming out.’

“It’s definitely flattering that we have people coming out to multiple shows like that … it’s like they’ve been with us since the beginning, you know, and it’s awesome they’re sticking with us.”

The common thread among bands that draw such obsessive followings — jam bands or rock bands — is top-tier musicianship. Minus the Bear certainly passes that test. Dave Knudson’s guitar work ranges from atmospheric tap leads to melt-your-face-twice-over solos. Erin Tate almost sneaks in his stellar drum fills around Alex Rose’s electronic undercurrents and Murchy’s bass grooves. All of this has led to Minus the Bear becoming a favorite amongst their fellow artists.

“We’re definitely a band’s band,” says Murchy. “People who like music and [who] are fans of musicianship and stuff tend to follow us and enjoy what we do.”

When the band swings through town, they will be armed with a handful of new tunes off their upcoming album OMNI, which drops in early May. Minus the Bear has developed a habit of making each new album sound like it’s from a slightly different sonic realm while still, oddly, sounding like it came from the same band. Murchy credits this to natural progression of a band that is nearing a decade of cohesive existence. And with OMNI — which he describes as “a sexy record” — Murchy says they’re quite pleased with the results.

“It’s a little more concise than Planet of Ice,” he says, referring to the band’s 2007 record. “[On] this one we definitely wanted to kind of tighten up a little bit … concentrate on choruses and verses and stuff, as opposed to just part after part. There’s still a lot of that in there ’cause it’s a Minus the Bear record, but you know … we’re stoked.”

But despite it all — the legion of devotees, a perfect new record on the way, 10 years under their belt — the band still leaves the stage wondering sometimes how well the audience liked the show. Murchy says he wants those hardcore, devoted fans — the ones who watch them carefully as they play onstage — to loosen up, relax and get down a little.

“It’s funny, because sometimes we’ll get off the stage and it’s like, ‘Do you like us? Were people into it?’”

Minus the Bear plays with Everest at the Knitting Factory on Monday, April 19, at 7 pm. Tickets: $16-$18. All-ages. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call (800) 325-SEAT.

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