Pop-Break Live: Minus the Bear (Starland Ballroom)

lauren stern gives us the bear facts…

A little over two years ago, I went to Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey to see one of my favorite bands Minus the Bear perform live for the first time. The show was one of the best performances I had ever seen from any band and overall one of the best experiences of my life. For the last two years, I desperately wanted to relive my experience. When I heard Minus the Bear was coming back to Starland with Cursive and Caspian in support of their new album Infinity Overhead on September 24, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

When I had arrived with my friend and new Minus the Bear listener Gina, I knew this was going to be a different experience than the last. With the buzz of the show being centered around Cursive in my social networking circles, I thought the overall crowd and concert experience was going to be quite different than it actually was. Going into the show, I thought when Caspian took the stage it was basically going to be the calm for the big, amazing musical storm that was about to hit. Needless to say, all of my expectations about the opening acts were extremely wrong.

Caspian hit everyone by surprise like a gigantic tidal wave. Their music is very Explosions in the Sky-esque and their whole set was instrumental, mind-blowing, and beautiful. My only negative criticism of them is that they were so unnecessarily loud. I’m not sure if I should blame this on Starland Ballroom’s sound guys or the members of the band but I guess I’ll find out the next time I catch them again (which will be sometime soon, I hope).

Next up on the bill was Omaha indie rock veterans Cursive. I first listened to this band when I was thirteen. That was almost a decade ago! This was the first time I had ever seen them live and I was expecting everyone to go wild. I figured I’d relax on the sidelines and enjoy the nostalgia.

With Cursive’s set, I wasn’t surprised at all about their performance. It was amazing. I will never stop loving and respecting Tim Kasher. His voice is just so dramatic and eccentric and the band’s live performance is as good as it is on CD. However, I was VERY surprised about the crowd’s reaction. As I looked out during their performance, there was no movement. There was no crowd surfing or moshing and very minimal head bobbing and dancing. I honestly was dumbfounded. Here’s a band who has been consistently creating great albums for decades, and they were getting a sub par crowd response. Maybe it was just where I was standing or that the crowd was too young to understand, but it just didn’t make sense to me at all.

Despite my disappointment in my peers, I was so pumped for Minus the Bear. I was eager to see how they were going to go about the set. Last show, they played all of my favorites at the end, but it was a good mix of old and new tracks. I hoped they’d put together a similar set this time around, but surprisingly their set included a lot more new songs than old!

The set began with “Steel and Blood” and from there, it was mostly an unexpected mix. I was happy to hear some of my favorite tracks like “The Game Needed Me,” “Absinthe in the Fly Honey Warehouse,” “Diamond Lightning,” “Lies and Eyes,” and “Into the Mirror.” However, I wish the set included “Listing,” “Hold Me Down,” and “The Fix.” Minus the Bear saved the best for last and encored with their new single “Lonely Gun” and their most infamous single “Pachuca Sunrise.” I thought saving both “Lonely Gun” and “Pacucha” for last ended the show perfectly. I wish they could have played all night.

After my second Minus the Bear experience, I can’t decide which of the two shows I liked best. Both had equally great sets and were both equally as fun. Minus the Bear is the one band that never fails to put on a great live performance. Even though this is the second time I’ve seen them, it won’t be my last, that’s for sure!