Written by James Dillon
Nov 08, 2008 at 08:00 PM
ImageI suppose it really is true, you can’t go home again. Minus the Bear was the last show I got to see at the long gone Mary Jane’s. In fact, Minus the Bear was supposed to actually play at Walter’s, but their PA went out half way through the show and was moved across the street. Since that show I have longed to go to Fat Cats, not that damn Pearl Bar, but sadly I can’t. I also saw some of the best shows of my life and met many of my close friends there. So with Minus the Bear in town I was hoping to get the same feeling again. The one that I got when I was seventeen and first starting college.

Unfortunately quite a bit has changed since then. Minus the Bear have seen an explosion in their popularity, grown even more over indulgent, lost their pop sensibilities, and started playing larger venues.

But with all that nostalgia aside, Minus the Bear still put on an excellent show and gave me an excellent excuse to check out Houston’s newest venue, The House of Blues.

The venue is a pleasure to take photos at, with great stage lights. The venue also has a very nice PA system, which is always a plus. The only negative thing I will say about the venue is this: If you like to drink at shows, bring a lot of money. Or just drink before you leave your house. A can of Lone Star will set you back almost six bucks. Shiner is double that.

When I finally made my way to the third floor of Downtown’s newest complex and into the venue, the band 27 from Austin was playing a cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall” and did a good job at it too. These guys, and a girl, were good, and started the night off with a solid set.

Sadly, the following band Annuals, which sound like a bastard child of Dashboard and your stereotypical jam band, was not as pleasing to hear or watch. Their Wikipedia entry compared them to The Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, and Broken Social Scene, but these references were as far from the truth as possible. All of those bands are actually good. I tried to escape outside to the smoking patio to talk to some friends of mine, but there was a line to go smoke. Once again I was glad to have quit smoking. So reluctantly I watched this group play horrible song after horrible song. It was entertaining, however, to watch the singer’s facial expressions, and to watch his tongue seem to want to jump out of his mouth, as it was all over the place. My guess was it wanted to part in what he was singing.

There was one good point during their set when the band, which has two drummers, pulled out a couple extra toms and had four people drumming at the same time. But once that spectacle was over so was their set.

Finally, it was time for Minus the Bear. The stage was decorated with stuffed white tigers, compete with a stuffed tiger head over their gong. After a few last minute technical problems, Minus the Bear took the stage and demonstrated some of the tightest guitar work you could ever imagine. Through out most of the set I was trying to figure out who was playing lead and who was playing rhythm. These guys know their instruments inside and out, and it is clear on their records, but becomes even more apparent in a live setting. While I was disappointed by set list lacking certain older songs, they played a quite a few tunes I was wanting to hear. Even the newer songs that lack the pop traits of their earlier work sound amazing live. The group even played a few tracks on acoustic guitars, including “We Are Not the Football Team” and “Pachuca Sunrise”, both excellent songs.

After playing a good long set, the group called it a night. This was not before playing a few more poppy songs and releasing giant balloons with confetti into the crowd.
All in all it was a good introduction to the new venue and a good show. Hopefully this new venue will attract more bands to Houston, as it seems we have been getting skipped over more and more for cities like Austin and Dallas.