Exceptions could be made for the species of individual wearing a bear costume. He was in fact, a young man clad in an anatomically correct bear suit (fangs hung from the jowls extending from his headwear) that covered him head-to-toe in shag carpet-length brown fur.
When asked "Why the suit?" he responded, "It's a Minus the Bear show, I had to even things out!" Later on, he was overheard using the same reason on another investigator. The curious youth was male, intoxicated, and the precise model needed to show who comprised 80% of Minus the Bear's crowd. The other 19% were voting-age women, and, because it is not fair to call anyone that dedicated to giving grizzlies their moment "human," one percent bear.
A few people could be seen turned away at the door. Whispers of this being Plush's first sold-out show were compartmentalized. It certainly felt like it. If not for the crowd, fragrant with beer sweat and embodying "rowdy," then for Plush sending around a young woman with waffle cones full of French fries and popcorn -- a trick nabbed from baseball stadiums to placate the hungry I had never seen applied to a Plush-size music venue.
The packs of people that surrounded Plush's four bars pre-Minus the Bear's entrance caused a five-to-seven minute wait, and it can be inferred from the waffle cone-toting vendor that Plush's kitchen was equally swamped. In addition to the polite bar masses, and the lady with snacks, an orca-sized merch table stood adjacent to Plush's stage. Packed with Minus the Bear posters, shirts and records, it was fit for a spacious, outdoor venue and was a reminder of the fans Minus the Bear has accumulated in the past decade. The sheer number of fans made walking towards the stage feel like an other-worldly experience.
The energy given off by the audience felt combustible. Audience members were loud, liquored up and, under anticipation's influence, buzzing like a broken amp. When Minus the Bear walked on stage, with synth-maestro Alex Rose lighting their way with a flashlight, the audience cheered with Bonnaroo-level volume.
The band opened with "Steel and Blood" off 2012's "Infinity Overhead" and barreled through their set list for over an hour with a level of constant energy sustained by deft song choices. Songs bled from one to the other to create a plot like the cardiograph of a healthy heart. The constancy of its energy never wavered with fatigue. When the track "White Mystery" from "Planet of Ice" appeared, and its slinky tempo matched the ultra-sensual subject matter, it was absorbed into "My Time" from 2010's "OMNI" like it had flown into a black hole. It existed for a moment, but only to guide one song into the other and build a set with expert flow.
Vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider spoke to the crowd three times, a mumbled introduction to the band four songs into the night, a congratulatory exultation for St. Louis and a brief goodbye. It was all he had to say to St. Louis, who responded to Minus the Bear's live catalogue with a small mosh-pit during "Infinity Overhead"'s "Lonely Gun" and some ecstatic dancing for "Menos el Oso"'s "Pachuca Sunrise" -- the kind of dance made when one jumps from one-foot to the other while maintaining a consistent bop.
My notebook wound up stained from a wobbly cup of Left Hand's Milk Stout beer, and a friend used it to wipe sweat from his brow. Suffice it to say, Minus the Bear knows how to wrangle a sloshed crowd -- and more than deserves a merch table the size of a formidable ocean predator.
Set List: (I got this from one of Plush's workers who ran backstage to copy it down for me. It was mostly mangled short-hand, and missing the encore, so any corrections are welcome!)
Steel and Blood
Lies and Eyes
The Game Needed Me
Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
Into the Mirror
Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo