On paper, Monday night seemed like an ideal night to stay in, recuperate from the weekend and avoid the unbearable mugginess and St. Louis heat. But the sold-out Firebird crowd was having none of that: Last night's Minus the Bear show was one of the most successful - and sweatiest - shows the venue has hosted in the past year. With a line stretched about 70 yards west of the venue, St. Louis was clearly ready to sink their teeth into Seattle's premier prog-pop/indie-rock gurus.
Los Angeles, California's Mini Mansions started the night off by banging out danceable, indie/post-punk grooves. Drinking from the well of Spoon and Elvis Costello, Mini Mansions more-or-less served as background music while the long line of people wrapped around the building slowly moved inside.
Everest, which is also from Los Angeles, hopped on stage next. While this may have been its first St. Louis show, a number of fans were clearly familiar with the rootsy Americana pop quintet. Armed with a three-guitar attack, impeccable harmonies and layered keys and percussion, Everest shuffled seamlessly through heady folk, southern rock and droney pop. After taking in its eclectic set, it was no surprise that artists such as Neil Young and Wilco had handpicked the band as tour support. And after hearing their spazzy outtro during the set closer "Let Go," one could argue that the group would fit nicely on a bill with Radiohead as well.
Just before 10:00 pm, the house lights went dim and the crowd grew rowdy as the grizzly headliners took the stage and ripped into 90 minutes of dance-funk bliss. Early in the set, singer/guitarist Jake Snider diplomatically declared, "It's great to be back in St. Louis proper," pointing out that the band has actually played in Sauget, Illinois, as much as it's played in the City of St. Louis.
By dipping into each of its four full-lengths, the band managed to showcase a solid blend of oldies and newbies alike, and the crowd was equally as receptive to both. While the wonky keyboards (which actually sounded great in the mix), the sideways drumming and funky bass lines provided the core drive behind each song, Dave Knudson's twinkling guitar spurts stood out. Watching Knudson stomp on an array of pedals as he plucked and looped dizzying licks almost became a show in and of itself. And it's always interesting when Minus the Bear's hardcore influences from the past seep through into its modern indie sound, as was evident during the hardcore breakdowns in "Secret Country" and "Dayglow Vista Rd." As the set progressed and the crowd became more riled up, Snider appeared to grow a little agitated. As he aptly pointed out, "It's too hot and crowded to be [crowd surfing]. Knock it off, buddy." And while you can't blame him for being concerned, a brief public service announcement between songs may have been more fitting than ditching lines during songs to scold folks. Regardless, the band didn't miss a beat and the music kept daring folks to dance even though they were already a hot mess of packed-in sardines.
As the band broke into the final song of its encore, "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse," from 2002's Highly Refined Pirates, it was certainly clear that sweating it out in the jam-packed Firebird surely beat the heck out of laying around in a climate-controlled living room. That's what Tuesdays are for.
(Feel free to fill in any holes in the set list)
Setlist: Drilling Throwin' Shapes Knights My Time Summer Angel When We Escape Secret Country Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo ??? ??? Hooray SPRITZ!!! SPRITZ!!! Pachuca Sunrise Dayglow Vista Rd. ----------- ??? Into the Mirror Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse