I missed a bit of the first band, North Atlantic, due to an insane 7 pm start time, but they were a little late themselves, so it all worked out. What made their sound memorable were gritty punk guitar hooks slammed alongside randomly infused melodic breaks.
Next up was Crosstide. They brought their brand of radio-friendly tunes up from Portland for a short but solid set. They reminded me of Coldplay or U2 without the distracting lead singers. Their incorporation of bittersweet harmonizing in most of their songs was pulled off brilliantly. Not a whole lot of innovation going with this band, but a strong performance regardless. After Crosstide, most of the club emptied to a back patio to catch some fresh and not-so-fresh air.
As Minus the Bear set up their gear, I found myself feeling a bit antsy. I was pumped to see these guys on their first foray here from Seattle. After everyone settled back in, the band ripped in to "Women We Haven't Met Yet" off their smashing latest release Highly Refined Pirates (Suicide Squeeze). From the get-go, they were full-throttle and didn't let off the accelerator until their set was finished. Watching five very distinctly different parts of a band coalesce into one is the overall theme of Minus the Bear. Jake Snider's mostly smooth, slightly raspy vocals moved with ease in and out of frenetic melody swings perpetrated by the rest of the guys.
Probably the weirdest and strangely provocative thing I have seen at a show in some time was Dave Knudsen. He fluttered and finessed his guitar with a tapping technique that left me thinking, "Somewhere, Eddie Van Halen is nauseated." Knudsen provided wildly original tempos and melodies and even flailed around between switching his guitar pick from his mouth to his hand. Suffice it to say that he stole the show. Not to be outdone, synth player and general sound-tweaker Matt Bayles turned in an equally radical yet understated performance. The guy's setup was littered with stomp boxes, drum machines and endless power cords. A lesser man would have gone mad trying to make this all work, but Bayles held it together with ease. "Do you ever get lost behind here?" I asked. "Nah," Bayles replied. "I'm an engineer, so it's not nearly as bad as a recording studio." It's apparent the guy is right at home with any button or knob.
As is true with most, if not all, lesser-known bands, Minus the Bear was extremely accommodating. They were satisfied with the outcome of the show, even if they were not so satisfied with the PA system. The good turnout made up for that. Let's hope the overall experience was enough to bring them back in the near future.
Publication date: 07/31/03