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Monday, 14 October 2013 13:27

Concert review: Minus the Bear (with INVSN and Slow Bird) go polyphonic on St. Louis at Plush, Saturday, October 12

Concert review: Minus the Bear (with INVSN and Slow Bird) go polyphonic on St. Louis at Plush, Saturday, October 12
Written by Will Kyle
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Seattle's Slow Bird opened to a Plush house still laying down the foundation of first beers and conversation.

"Rose Gold" evolved with a soundscape of guitar, keys, drums and vocal tones from Jennae Quisenberry. Matthew Street's drums crashed over Joshua Dore's guitar, but both never broke melodic or rhythmic ground. In the space of quiet after Slow Bird's first song, a fedora-adorned hipster yelled, "More like Sloooow Bird," his emphasis mocking (no pun intended).

Nonetheless, "Backfire" rustled feathers with a sharper vocal line and fuzzed bass keys, dissolving into a sweet mess of lingering guitar and drum work. Think a female-led, Silversun Pickups mixed with Sigur Ros and slowed down. Slow Bird's set didn't blow the minds of those gathered. Rather, most chattered, and were encouraged to draw nearer the stage by Quisenberry, but all was not lost.

Later, having found solitude, I discovered Slow Bird's recorded work (you can find the newly-released "Chrysalis" on Bandcamp) affected me more heavily after the fact. Further, I learned Slow Bird's introspective soundscapes shine when listened to alone where the listener can fully escape into the headspace that Slow Bird's music demands. If listeners are able to put themselves in this place, both physically and mentally, Slow Bird will reward them.

Sweden's INVSN (pronounced invasion), helmed by Dennis Lyxzsen, brought a set of U2-esque, treble-led, Brit-power-pop/punk tunes. "The Promise" bounded with exuberance, reverbed drum cracks, thrumming bass and stabs of guitar twinkle. As Lyxzsen bounced around the stage, his hair danced along with his histrionics. I watched the upbeat, shaggy six-piece cut it up and found myself wishing for more dynamics, but Lyxzsen cranked on, throwing his arms around as "Our Blood" scratched toward the stratosphere.

Jake Snider and the rest of Minus the Bear appeared in a haze of smoke-machine fog. Blue and red lights accented "Burying Luck" from 2007's "Planet of Ice." Dave Knudson's syncopated polyphony played elastically as Snider queried, "What have you done?" over rolling hi-hat hits from drummer Erin Tate.

"Lies and Eyes" rolled along with jagged guitar blasts and prods of spacy keys from Alex Rose. Snider's observational and conversional lyrics related a story about a couple colliding over the truth. Minus the Bear offered the classic cut, "Dog Park" from 2004's "They Make Beer Commercials Like This" to an audience that sang along with Snider.

On "Get Me Naked 2: The Electric Boogaloo," Snider invited Slow Birds' Quisenberry to sing backup. The song crested and Snider sang the tune's trademark line, "Don't say 'no' to pills. Ativan won't kill."

Minus the Bear continued through "Into the Mirror," from 2011's "Omni," and shaded acoustic on "Absinthe Party At the Fly Honey Warehouse" and "Riddles," high-lightening the band's 2013 "Acoustics II," which features both tunes.

"Steel and Blood," "My Time" and "White Mystery" filled out the back part of Minus the Bear's set. Each song featured sequences of lovers, liquor and distance. Each vignette was twisted with beauty, compliments of both Snider's cynically happy lines and the band's instrumentation, Knudson's guitar tapping especially. Minus the Bear churned out "Women We Haven't Met Yet" and "Pachuca Sunrise" for their encore and disappeared into the lights and fog.

Outside, kids with gauged ears drunkenly play-wrestled in the street. The nearly seven-foot tall bouncer broke them up with appropriate understanding, laughing, knowing they were just riding the high of booze and the Bear. I glanced through the glass over my shoulder to see keyboardist Alex Rose having a drink and talking to a group of gathered girls at Plush's restaurant bar.

I drew on my smoke and leaned against the glass -- the boundary between the affecting and the affected, each of the two worlds colored differently by the excellent band's performance. Aglow with polyphony, I strode out into the night happy to be another Minus the Bear acolyte, another syncopated beating heart, half asleep in the pocket of midtown obscurity.

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