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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Minus the Bear flat at their recent Madison performance

Every so often, no matter how talented a band may be on the stage, something just doesn’t click at a show. Saturday night, I had that response for Minus the Bear.

I was excited as I strolled into the venue for the final songs of the first opener, Eighteen Individual Eyes. Rarely am I impressed by the first of multiple openers, but by all accords and from the two songs I heard, they set the tone with a high-energy 30-minute set.

The self-described atmospheric art rock quartet from Seattle, Wash. did exactly what any opening band should do, bring a lot of energy and write catchy songs.

Next up was Rah Rah. This indie rock group from Regina, Saskatchewan (a fact that prompted the man standing in front of me to voraciously boo Canada), was better than most openers I’ve seen to date.

The jubilant quintet busted through nearly a dozen songs in their 40-minute set. One thing to note, the members of the band were constantly changed instruments. At one point, the woman originally playing keyboards traversed the stage to pick up an accordion, only to set it down to play violin on the next tune.

After a 30-minute changeover, Minus the Bear finally stepped on stage at around 11 p.m. After a punchy opening to their set, the band kicked into gear with “Absinth Party in the Fly Honey Warehouse.”

On the song, lead guitarist Dave Knudson showed off an impressive arsenal of skills that most indie rock guitarists can only dream of. Knudson’s fret board fireworks exploded as he walked to the front of the stage, appearing as if he was almost in the crowd. He used his finger-tapping technique, originally made famous by Eddie Van Halen, and typically not used in this context; however, he made it work.

The next highlight of the set came at the halfway point, when lead singer Jake Snider said, “If you liked what we’ve done so far, you are going to love this next one,” before launching into “Diamond Lightning.”

“Diamond Lightning,” while never released as such, is the de facto lead single of their latest album, Infinity Overhead. The song has an Explosions in the Sky feel to it, with an almost ambient yet anthemic sound as the guitar parts exquisitely layer on top of one another.

Both in the studio and live, the band segues seamlessly into the next track off the album, “Toska.” Each of the two songs featured some of the biggest guitar solos of the night from Knudson, as he considers this the preeminent song off the album, and the band certainly gave it such a treatment on Saturday night.

While the set certainly had its highlights, for long stretches of their 70-minute set, I found myself incredibly bored, wondering how such a talented group of individuals could get into such a collective songwriting rut. For every sublime moment, such as the transition between “Diamond Lightning” into “Toska,” there were 15 minutes of what almost felt like filler material.

Despite a very strong set closer in their biggest fan favorite “Pachuca Sunrise,” they just could not hold my attention long enough for me to want to stay for the encore.

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Overall, Minus the Bear is an incredibly talented indie rock band with remarkably impressive chops out of Knudson and drummer Erin Tate, but something just didn’t fully click for me Saturday night. If they came to a festival near me, I would certainly stay for a few songs; however, despite their on-stage charisma, the band just couldn’t connect with me in a way that live music should.

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