Review: Minus the Bear Says Farewell to Chicago

“It’s amazing how short 17 years is,” Minus the Bear singer Jake Snider told the soldout crowd at the House of Blues on Wednesday. Indeed, despite a career spanning six albums, four EPs, and nearly two decades, the 17 years the quirky progressive indie rock act from Seattle spent making music seem too short. Minus the Bear on their farewell tour at the House of Blues. Photo by Aaron Cynic. I racked my brains before they took the stage trying to remember the first time I heard them, and the best I could remember was somewhere after the release of their first major album, Highly Refined Pirates, most likely as an opening act at a Fireside Bowl show in the early 2000s that now seems like several lifetimes ago. Minus the Bear play their farewell tour at the House of Blues in Chicago. Photo by Aaron Cynic. Even then I was already an aging and cranky punk and hardcore guy—much more in tune with band members’ previous acts like Botch—rather than experimental mathy indie rock. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to definitively say what drew me to Minus the Bear, but the combination of weird and funny song titles and melodic vocals woven through rhythms sometimes slow and spacious and other times driven and dancy clicked, and I found myself eagerly awaiting every new release through the years. Minus the Bear poured everything a fan could love into their set, and from the moment the first few chords of "Drilling" rang out, I found myself dancing through the photo pit while singing along and snapping photos. It’s nearly impossible for any act with a catalog as deep as theirs to get to everything, but they managed to pull out tracks to please fans that jumped on board anywhere throughout their career - from newer sing-a-long standards like "Last Kiss" and "Invisible" to older gems like the very danceable "My Time." Openers Caspian couldn’t have been a better pairing. The post rock instrumental powerhouse from Massachusetts, who’ve been together almost as long as Minus the Bear and toured with them on several occasions, put on a short but blistering set which served as the perfect appetizer to the main course of the evening. Caspian opens for Minus the Bear at the House of Blues in Chicago. Photo by Aaron Cynic. While Minus the Bear might’ve said ‘farewell’ to Chicago this week, they at least left us with a parting gift. Their last EP, Fair Enough, dropped on Friday morning, featuring two previously released singles, one last new track, and a remix of "Invisible". Minus the Bear on their farewell tour in Chicago. Photo by Aaron Cynic.
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Aaron Cynic