Minus The Bear @ Starland Ballroom

SAYREVILLE, NJ—Mid-heat wave, the last idea I would have had for cooling off is to go to a concert at Starland Ballroom. Much to my surprise, it was the perfect offbeat solution.

I arrived near the end of Everest’s set, and they were entertaining to say the least. Their showmanship was entrancing, with the vocalist sitting in as a second drummer on a pop-electro-stoner rock tune that was very sonically busy. Their upbeat attitudes, possibly helped by the influence of marijuana, made for a great set. I would high five them if I could.

Everest barely made it off stage before a female-led “Minus The Bear” chant began roaring from the crowd. WBGB-FM The Night had sent a hype man to excite the crowd further, and the response was a chorus of drunks screaming as loud as possible. Finally, Minus The Bear came to the stage, and I must say, every time I see singer, Jake Snider he resembles comedian, Zach Galifianakis more than the last.

Without saying a word, they started with “Drilling,” and when the crowd started singing along, it almost muted the music entirely.

As if crowd participation needed any more volume, they played “Throwing Shapes” and the younger members of the crowd joined in. Snider’s vocals were more solid during the live version of this song than on the record. He has a captivating voice and further proved it during this song alongside Alex Rose’s alluring keyboard harmonies.

Interestingly, the crowd seemed to be split between 15 and 25 year-olds, which made for unusual interactions, and lots of younger fans trying to finagle some beer out of their older counterparts.

During the band’s third song, they officially decided to dance. It seems that anything Snider does will make scene girls fawn over him, so of course, his awkward two-step release made the room sound like a screaming contest.

The intro to “Knights” was nothing short of the funkiest backbeat I’ve heard outside a club in quite some time. It really picked up the energy of the room, and as the song began, the groove continued. Even my cousin, who had no idea who Minus The Bear was before the show, couldn’t help dancing.

Their light show was pretty impressive. It was simplistic and fit every song perfectly with waves of white, pink, blue or orange, this light show was an addition as opposed to being a distraction.

During “Summer Angel” the inevitable finally came to being as the room filled with that musky, friend-making smoke known as marijuana. There were blunts and joints being passed as if this were a Grateful Dead reunion. I would have thought this would have further excited the band to improvise or jam a little but, they stuck to the record and played the song how it was written.

This was about the time where there were so many people packed into the back bar that breathing seemed like a nearly impossible feat. Once “Secret Country” came one, the dancing forced me out onto the floor. This song blew my mind by how dirty it sounded combined with how technical and precisely planned it actually was.

I was caught between letting all my inhibitions go and allowing myself to dance like a fool and staring at each instrument trying to figure out who was playing what part. I think the drummer, Erin Tate, is one of the most underrated drummers in the genre. He is like the cherry on top of this groovy sundae.

Snider, for the first time addressed the crowd stating, “That smells entirely delicious,” which brought him into a somewhat drawn out speech about how he believes that legalizing marijuana isn’t even a question to him, “it’s just like ‘Fuck it, why not?,’” he said.

They went on to play some crowd favorites such as “Pachuca Sunrise” and “Fine +2pts” before leaving the stage and then returning for an encore of “The Fix,” “Into The Mirror” and “Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse.”

Overall, this was the best show I’ve ever seen Minus The Bear put on. The crowd is at least half the show, and this was a good crowd to be seeing such an amazing set with. This was one for the record books, for me at least.