Another one of these anniversary shows where a band takes an old album and plays the whole thing from track one through to the end? Will the band even be excited, trotting out for 33 shows in 39 days, all over the country only to play their entire first album, written over half a lifetime ago for some of those that will be in attendance? Should fans be worried? For Minus the Bear and their devotees, the answers to these questions are: Yes it’s an anniversary show, you’d better believe the band is excited and, no, the fans shouldn’t have anything to worry about. How could they?
After ten years, four albums (plus one of remixes), and four EPs, Minus the Bear decided to take it back to the beginning for a diamond anniversary extravaganza. Celebrating a full decade as a band called for a tour highlighted by performances of their debut album, Highly Refined Pirates, in its entirety. Promising to “dust off some vintage tunes” when announcing the tour schedule in late July, there was plenty of time for anticipation, not trepidation, to build for the dates that will see the band travel to every corner of the country.
Too much travel in so short a time? Doubtful for this veteran crew, and those in attendance at The Granada in Lawrence on Friday, October 7 got to catch the band on an early stop on the trek. The Seattle quintet’s last swing through Lawrence was in summer of 2010, when the University of Kansas was sleeping through summer break. When one stops through during the school year it’s an entirely different story. The kids were ready to party and the band responded in kind.
After an accomplished opening set by The Velvet Teen, there certainly were many in the packed house that could hardly wait to hear songs they hadn’t heard performed live since Minus the Bear’s first stop in Lawrence in 2004. Taking the stage to the familiar sounds of the theme to The Golden Girls, the band seemed in confident mood, plenty familiar with The Granada after many stops there over their decade together. And what better way to start an anniversary evening than by playing the first track off of the band’s first EP? The lights on stage were pulsating crazily, the fans in the packed hall were jumping crazily, and the good start just whetted the crowd’s appetite for what proved to be an almost two-hour set.
“Knights” from Planet of Ice was next as the band stuck to the theme of older tracks, ultimately not playing anything post-2007 until the encore. Four songs in, the huge banner behind the band was changed and one could definitely sense a transformation afoot. As soon as the sounds of “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister” filtered through the speakers, and the crowd was belting out the lyrics along with lead man Jake Snider, the evidence betrayed the fact that the band had moved forward into the heart of the show. For any doubters, the band stopped playing mid-song and explained exactly what was in the offing. Yep, those in attendance were in store for Highly Refined Pirates front to back.
Through the set, with almost constant flashing lights and constant cheers from the crowd, it was clear the band was in buoyant mood, happy to be there, happy to be celebrating with the Kansas crowd. This group has indeed been together for 10 years and the quality and interplay on display was the proof. From the crowd favorite, “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” through the lengthy instrumental pieces, the synths and lights, and on to the final, “Let’s Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band/Booyah Achieved”, Minus the Bear was precise and the crowd fed off of the exploits on stage.
With Highly Refined Pirates now done, the band’s half-hearted “thank you” to the crowd let everyone know that it would only be a matter of minutes before they were back onstage. As the giant second banner behind the band was dropped to reveal an equally huge banner with the pixilated Minus the Bear logo, there wasn’t any time left at that point to speculate on what the encore tracks would be. “Throwin’ Shapes” was the first selection and following were the only two “newer” songs that were to be played on the evening: “Into the Mirror” and “My Time” from 2010’s OMNI. An unmistakable crowd favorite finished off the evening, “Pachuca Sunrise” from Menos el Oso.
It had been a couple of dozen songs since the Golden Girls theme and the throng at the Granada seemed worn out with the energy that flowed through the club since. Yet another one of these anniversary shows where a band dusts off some vintage tunes? Yes, and the horde at the Granada seemed very pleased with the results. If one were to judge from the numerous thumbs-ups delivered throughout the show by bassist Cory Murchy, Minus the Bear felt the same way.