It has been a little more than a full lap around the sun since Minus the Bear was in Philadelphia touring in support of last year’s Lost Loves album, a collection of unreleased material. This year the band is touring to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the group’s second album, Menos el Oso and revisited Philly on 11/13/15.
Minus the Bear fans who arrived early enough to catch the first of two opening bands were treated to a great set by Aero Flynn, a trio from Eau Claire, Wisconsin led by musician/songwriter Josh Scott. The band’s debut self-titled album was produced by fellow Eau Claire musician Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The band re-created the multiple layers of the record, blending live instruments, vocal loops, and samples with Scott’s haunting vocals. The melancholy mood of Aero Flynn evaporated with the jubilation created by the second band, Murder by Death who performed an upbeat alt-country/rock set. Adam Turla’s deeply resonate voice and Sarah Balliet’s performance, who at times alternated between strumming and bowing her cello, added a real Americana feel to their sound.
Minus the Bear began their set with the rapid fire beat of “The Game Needed Me”, the first song on Menos el Oso. The band’s trade mark searing guitars, complicated beats, and Jake Snider’s distinctive vocals triggered passionate movement in the crowd. The band tore through all the tracks from Menos el Oso, pausing only for a quick towel-off and brief thanks to the audience who responded to the end of each song with enthusiastic applause. Highlights of the run of songs from one of the band’s biggest albums were the eerie and brooding “Memphis and 53rd”, the mysterious “The Fix”, the hugely atmospheric “Hooray” and a fiery version of “Fulfill the Dream” that had Dave Knudson and Jake Snider’s guitars blazing.
After playing Menos el Oso from start to finish, Minus the Bear busted out a brand new song, called “Invisible” that fit in so well with the set of older material it sounded as if it could have been in their catalog forever. The precise groove continued with “Lies and Eyes” and a highlight of 2010’s Omni album, “Into the Mirror” brought an end to the set. After a giant ovation, Minus the Bear returned for an encore and played two choice cuts from 2007’s Planet of Ice album. The encore drifted in with the spacey “Ice Monster” and ended with the explosive “Knights”.
Along with two standout opening bands, Minus the Bear brought even more energy and intensity to Philadelphia than they did last year and Menos el Oso sounded amazing when showcased in a live performance. Here’s hoping another trip around the sun will find Minus the Bear back on tour with even more new and exciting music.