Review: Plusses, and Minus the Bear at Belly Up Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesSeattle rock band Minus the Bear, with guitarist David Knudson, left, and singer Jake Snider, performed Wednesday night at Belly Up Aspen.

ASPEN – Among the reasons that Belly Up Aspen was voted this week by a Rolling Stone magazine panel as the 16th best music club in the U.S. is that owner Michael Goldberg and his crew haven’t accepted the accepted wisdom about local music tastes. If they had, Belly Up would be limited to ’70s-rooted country-rock, reggae, a mass of tribute bands and an even bigger mass of jam bands, with the occasional flashy, big-name act come Christmastime.But as a booking agent accurately noted in the Rolling Stone write-up, Goldberg has “introduced music to Aspen that probably never would have played there,” and that adventurous spirit has cultivated an audience for electronic dance music, hip-hop, indie rock and DJs. It’s hard to imagine that acts like Widespread Panic, the Flaming Lips, Yes and Lyle Lovett would be playing Belly Up had there not been a broader foundation of fans and buzz built on less attention-grabbing artists like Seryn, Pickwick, Heartless Bastards and Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, all of whom are in the process of building their local reputation in part because of Belly Up’s broad vision.Among the more recent experiments in expanding local tastes was Minus the Bear, which made its first area appearance in six years on Wednesday night. The Seattle indie rock band has built a steady career – since forming in 2001, they’ve released five albums, including last year’s “Infinity Overhead”; have opened for Seattle heroes Soundgarden; and toured internationally – without quite getting into the mainstream. But their Aspen date was greeted with a more-than-respectable audience of 30ish hipsters who recognized many of the songs, and treated the appearance as an event of significance.A short way into Minus the Bear’s set, it was revealed that keyboardist Alex Rose’s computer wasn’t working properly. It wasn’t clear if the problem ever got fixed; the busted computer became a theme of the banter between the band and the crowd through the night.It also wasn’t clear either why they needed a computer. Yes, Minus the Bear is a forward-thinking band, with plenty of modern in their modern rock. But with a frontman like Jake Snider, a 37-year-old who pours everything into his vocals, a hard-hitting rhythm section of bassist Cory Murchy and drummer Erin Tate, and distinctive guitarist David Knudson, Minus the Bear relies more on traditional music elements than new techniques. Mixing prog-rock, shimmering pop, an indie aesthetic and a dynamic stage presence, Minus the Bear easily brushed aside the computer glitch to give an outstanding local introduction to the band – and stretch the parameters of America’s 16th best music club out even


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