Minus the Bear Last Night at the Glass House

Minus the Bear
Nov. 3, 2011
The Glass House, Pomona
Seattle's Minus the Bear owe much of their signature sound to singer Jake Snider, whose voice resonates on the band's recordings with frosty detachment. Floating like an iceberg across proggy morse-code guitar riffs, angular rhythmics and wonky synth sounds from outer space, Snider's pipes tie together the band's unique sonic qualities making it at once ethereal, aggressive and haunting. But last night, the normally rousing jams from such albums as 2007's Planet of Ice and 2005's Menos El Oso underwhelmed a largely stationary audience. 


At one point Snider joked there must be a ban on dancing in the city of Pomona. Doubtless the crowd's timid response was due to the lack of resonance present in the singer's voice, which last night was buried in the mix. Instead of sounding coolly detached, he just sounded flat and emotionless. That said, he managed to shine on the song “Women We Haven't Met Yet,” which saw him belting the chorus with feeling.  

Guitarist Dave Knudson provided some visual fireworks with his trademark ax work, comprised solely of complex finger tapping. Though the warm noodling of the opening licks of “Absinthe Party,” sounded gorgeous, the rich melodic quality became a grind as the more than hour long set wore on. Though the guitar work is stellar, the technique is overused and upsets the ears the way eating too much chocolate upsets the stomach. 
 Excessive tapping and mirthless singing aside, the biggest disappointment of the set was to be found in the band's lack of snap, so integral to their recorded sound. This was most apparent in the song “Knights,” one of their best, which features a looped staccato synth intro. Crisp and precise coming through the home speakers, it sounded sluggish at the venue making this band, renowned  for its angular songs, soft and without and without edge.
The Crowd: Largely male. Perhaps the result of the band's prog rock tendencies. Rush has the same problem.
Overheard: Planet of Ice being played in the Magic Door Bookstore across the street from the venue. Not so weird unless you consider the sweet little old lady running the place.
Personal Bias: Planet of Ice has been seeing a lot of action through my computer speakers in recent months.
Random Notebook Dump: Apparently the first off street parking lot in California was installed across the street from the Glass House. 

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