Having been accused of elitism 37 times in 2 days, I'm really going for it now.

I went to see Minus the Bear tonight, and during the show my friend J committed one of the worst party fouls I’ve ever seen. When MtB came back out for the encore, the following exchange took place:

Minus the Bear singer: “We played that one first.” (It was, indeed, the first song they had played.)
Crowd: *stunned silence*
Minus the Bear singer: “Hey everybody, look at that guy.”
Crowd: “BOOOOOO!”

It was incredible.

Now, before I launch into this rant, I should mention that MtB doesn’t get a lot of love in my circle. They’re considered hack-y and puerile. So my test sample is totally skewed. BUT… I like Minus the Bear, so I’m going to continue as if that weren’t the case.

I missed Chin Up Chin Up, which was disappointing, because there just ain’t enough of that Archers of Loaf-esque rockerism around these days. I thought they’d be the second band, but instead it was Honorary Title, an emo-fied “fuck me I’m sensitive” (as Elvis Costello put it) Brooklyn export act that veers so close to a 3rd tier post-post-grunge act, and so close to parody it’s scary. You could tell before they played a note, because the lead singer had arm tattoos, played an acoustic guitar, and had one of those hairdos that splits the difference between the Nike swoosh and an air-metal mullet.
Here's him in a denim jacket. GURGLE GURGLE GURGLE!

Going to all-ages shows is weird for me nowadays, because I’m at the tail end of show-going age. I no longer feel alienated by emo kids my own age or slack indie-rock dudes a few years older than I. Nowadays I feel alienated by hipsters sometimes as many six or seven years my junior, in their cloth hats. In my day, everybody in the audience didn’t do things like take a camera-phone picture when the band started playing a song he liked. I’d like to think it’s because we knew that that didn’t make any sense at all. “This is one of them doing ‘Gold Soundz!’”

I love this sound! I must take a picture!

But ahh, we were no wiser. We just didn’t have camera phones. We were, though, substantially less attractive. And on this new influx of burnished flesh, bluest eyes and lithe limbs, I blame the internet. It used to be, in order to become disaffected and find a social circle of fellow mild-mannered outcasts, you had to really work for it. You didn’t feel right with the good-looking fuckers standing around blasting their quads, and you weren’t a punk or a goth, and you weren’t a metal dude, so you kind of figured out, by elimination, which people would be the types to listen to Guided by Voices with you, and went from there. It wasn’t that many people, back in the day. Now, apparently it’s different, because there are all these hot people at shows, and they’re in BIG GROUPS. It’s creepy. Five hot guys and four hot girls, and they’re all buddies, and they’ve all got their Canons, and they’re all draped in scene-signifiers. And they’re hot! Like Ornette Coleman and Galaxie 500, I say to these people, “this is our music.”

Nah, I’m not mad atcha. It just freaks me out a little. But, again, Minus the Bear belong in that “buzz band” category, and I guess the buzz-bin has always been where hot mainstreamers slum. See: Harvey Danger.

The worst thing, I think, about the hot-ification of indie rock is that, in the past, show-etiquette was defined by the fact that unattractive people are by nature, shy. So they didn’t do things like cup their hands in front of their mouths like megaphones and bleat the words to all the choruses of all the songs they know. Because yo, the band can’t hear you. The only people who can hear you are the people in front of you. Tragically, I am always this people. Plus, in 2000 everybody was short, and that was sweet, because they were easy to see over. But these fuckers, they’re TALL. Tall and lanky. Just the way those girls with plastic jewels glued to their fingernails like ‘em.

Minus the Bear, as I mentioned, gets hated on a lot by the indie cognoscenti. Which is fine. All their songs are about girls they’re maybe about to sleep with and songs about women they used to sleep with and maybe might sleep with again, like a silly cross of “Mr. Brightside,” “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her,” and Van Halen. That’s cool. I love their first album, though, Highly Refined Pirates. It’s one of those albums that “helped me through some shit” back when I was “going through some shit.” So I will defend it (and selected songs by the Get Up Kids) tooth and nail, even if I am the lone archer on that particular parapet.

The first two songs really did make for an incredible one-two punch, “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister” into “The Game Needed Me.” It had been a while since I’d been to a show where I got that bloodrush, where sweat starts flowing almost from the first note, and afterwards your knees are shaky and wobbling, almost exactly the same endorphin-laden feeling that you get after making out with somebody you’ve never met before (or have known for a long time). It’s a pretty fucking good feeling.

Plus, I gotta say: watching Dave Knudson, the MtB lead guitarist, is an absolute privilege.

(Watch the hands of the guy on the left. The synch is off, but you get the idea. Simply amazing.)

He’s a big guy, and he looks like Jim from the Office, and that by itself is pretty cool, but he also got called, I think by AP magazine in like 1999 or something, back when it was still cool, “the finest guitarist in North America.” Which is just as arbitrary as it sounds. But it’s evocative, by god. Anyway, at one point during a song, he convened with the bass player mid-stage, and they had a conversation, complete with jokes and laughs and a whole back and forth, and then Knudson heabanged real fast and whipped sweat from his hair into the bass player’s face, and then they both laughed and said something to each other in what looked uncannily like complete sentences, and then they walked back to opposite ends of the stage. And all the while, Knudson was playing this incredibly complicated double-tapped rhythm-and-lead guitar part. It was an impressive display. And he’s hot. And energetic. And the dude was in BOTCH.
I love Botch. *swoon*.

Easily the best part of the show, though, was during the last song of the encore, "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse," when the P.A. shut down for no discernable reason during the last chorus. A sea of mad hands shot up in the classic "what the shit?!" pose of indignation, and then 400 people started screaming the words - "Let's get a bottle and drink alone tonight!" - while the band chugged on unphased. It was pretty fucking cool. That’s more than a thousand. Good night!

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