Minus the Bear, the Helio Sequence and Grand Archives October 29, 2007 Gothic Theatre
Better than: Flying to the Northwest to see each of these bands.
When it comes to concerts, sometimes it’s better to go in blind but with open ears, where you hardly have any expectations and just embrace the scenario. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the two opening bands, and I’d given Minus the Bear’s latest disc a spin a few months ago, but never really had a chance to fully explore it. But I didn’t want to listen to it again to prep myself for the show, so it was almost like I’d never heard them before. As I said before, no expectations, man.
So when I saw Seattle’s Grand Archives on stage, it felt like being at a party where you don’t know anyone, someone sees you drinking alone in the corner and comes over to talk to you. And within an instant, all the anxiety is gone and you start to feel at ease. I'm not entirely sure why, but these guys played some tunes that somehow felt comforting. Maybe it was the four-part harmonies. Maybe it was simple song structures. But it was heartfelt, if anything.
“Look at the Helio Sequence’s socks when they come on,” the Grand Archives singer said. “They’re very snappy.”
But when the two guys in Helio Sequence kicked off their set, I completely forgot about their socks. There was a whole lot more to focus on. For starters, the drummer was a heavy-handed madman, which was a bit of a contrast from the guitarist’s understated melodies. About halfway through set they launched into a song from their forthcoming Sub Pop album, which hits the streets in late January. The tune had potential. It really did. But halfway into the song, the drummer started banging out the old Phil Spector “Be My Baby” beat, which seemed like an awkward detour. But aside from that, the duo’s intensity ramped up for the rest of the set. The energy was kicked up a notch with each tune. The drummer continued to propel the guitarist/singer until finally closing out the set with a furiously vigorous climax.
As the roadies were setting up for Minus the Bear, I started thinking about how you can tell a lot about a guitarist by the effects he uses. Looking at the insane amount of effects these guys were using I could tell they were serious players. Hell, the two guitarists had seven Line 6 DL4 Delay Modulators between them. But throughout the band’s set it became evident that those multiple effects pedals were instruments unto themselves. Quite a few times the guitarist was on his knees, hovering over his pedal board pushing buttons and twisting knobs. Near the end of the set, the two guitarists and the bassists were each on their knees, coaxing an unruly sound collage. But when they weren’t knob twiddling, those guys delivered one hell of an energetic set chock full of some wicked picking (even if there was only one full-fledged solo) and duel-guitar harmonies. And then maybe taking a few cues from King Crimson along the way. 21st Century schizoid men? Definitely maybe. – Jon Solomon
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I listened to that Minus the Bear’s Planet of Ice and while it’s a solid effort it doesn’t come close to capturing the band’s energetic live show. Random Detail: One of the guitarists for Grand Archives was wearing a “I (heart) Moools” t-shirt. Google it. By the Way: For some bizarre reason, I was a tad annoyed to hear a Prince CD playing before Minus the Bear’s set.