Live Review: Minus the Bear and Helms Alee at The CometPosted by Bebe Besch
Fans outside the Comet Tavern (all photos by Bebe Besch)
It was only this Sunday night that Minus the Bear announced their “Secret Show” at the Comet Tavern in Capitol Hill to follow the very next night. The venue promised limited space would be available for fans as no ticket sales were made prior – those wishing to attend ended up dropping any previous plans in favor for instead booking it down to the Comet to queue up for the rare appearance. The first two fans in line, a couple named Janessa and James, got to the venue just before 6p.m., and with this being their very first Minus the Bear experience, they couldn’t be happier to see them at a properly quaint venue.
It wasn’t long until others joned them and the line wrapped around the corner of the street, leaving some who were hoping to the attend the show instead listening from outside the venue – though the show was kept a surprise to many until just beforehand, it was no secret that this would be a popular and special night among Minus the Bear fans in our city.
Monday was special not only because of the size of The Comet and the exclusivity of entering, but also because all proceeds from tickets sold for the event were donated to WA United For Marriage (supporting marriage equality) in association with Music 4 Marriage and matched by Freedom to Marry. It was also a celebration of sorts for Minus the Bear’s latest album, Infinity Overhead, which officially dropped during the middle of their set once Midnight hit and we crossed the threshold into August 28.
We were introduced to seven of Infinity Overhead’s tracks live, starting with the explosive first single “Steel and Blood,” which had me reminiscing about songs like “My Time,” and “White Mystery” with suggestively sultry lyrics like “Two become one…/I’ll be by your bedside/when you come to, come to me” – however, the song is actually filled with a climatic and darker story than the energetic tune at first listen implies.
Though the majority of the songs were mostly new to each of us, our familiarity with Minus the Bear had no one questioning the quality of each song as it followed the one before it. As a treat, we detoured into a few older songs for a moment at the set’s midway point with “Into the Mirror,” “Throwin’ Shapes” and “Hold Me Down,” but then jumped right back in to new material.
Dave Knudson had a small crowd worshipping him from a foot away on the stage that is barely elevated at the Comet. “Cold Company” had all of our attention on Knudson and his hands – instead of picking the song’s clever guitar lines, he painted the strings with hammer-ons via fingers of both of his hands, playing his strings like a pianist would keys.
The finale was to come shortly after though – Minus the Bear would not leave us officially before playing an encore of “Knights” and “Pachuca Sunrise.” The latter being the only song of the night that Minus the Bear played which appears from the first half of their over-a-decade-long career. Their debut and work from the early 2000s were indeed incredible records, holding their own unique place with rock ingenuity, but Minus the Bear is moving onward, and it’s exciting.
- Steel and Blood
- Lies and Eyes
- Diamond Lightning
- Into the Mirror
- Throwin’ Shapes
- Hold Me Down
- Empty Party Rooms
- Lonely Gun
- Cold Company
- Pachuca Sunrise
Helms Alee, also from Seattle, probably shocked a few unknowing concertgoers as the openers for the night. Minus the Bear picked the feral trio who each took turns on eruptive vocals and being experts, BAMFs, beasts, or whatever you want to call them regarding the mastery they each possess of their individual instrumental tasks.
On stage right was Dana James on bass guitar who appeared calm, cool and collect whenever she wasn’t breathing vocals into her microphone. Opposite of her was Ben Verellen who hung in his dark corner of the stage while swinging his curly locks aimlessly and pummeling his guitar. He broke a string while in the midst of playing and showed it off to his counterparts. This is when drummer Hozoji Margullis played comedian for a few moments – when she wasn’t shattering her drum set more impressively than any female I’ve seen before, she was the laughter on stage. Verellen fixed his instrument, and Margullis provided filler with whale jokes. As endearing as their personalities were, the crowd was enthused as the set picked back up, giving us refreshingly loud breakdowns we perhaps wouldn’t have gotten from a different band as an opener who might have sounded a bit more similar to Minus the Bear. Thanks for showing us how it’s done, Helms Alee.