Minus the Bear / Bend Sinister / Forestry Sugar, Victoria BC June 25

Minus the Bear / Bend Sinister / Forestry Sugar, Victoria BC June 25
Seattle's Minus the Bear haven't been to nearby Victoria, BC since 2003, so those in attendance (sparse yet dedicated) were pumped. The band were kicking off their cross-Canada tour riding on the high of a brand new album, Omni. In fact, the quintet played more than half the album, the new material sounding confident and tight, understated yet powerful.

But first, some warmup bands. Victoria's Forestry were a last-minute add to the bill, and their Wilco-inspired tunes were sounding strong enough to carry them through their own upcoming tour in BC and Alberta. Vancouver's Bend Sinister delivered fun party-times for about three songs, then everything started to sound the same. They get props, though, for their Yes-meets-Sloan sound (that's a hard one to pull off), and their singer's simultaneous rocking of a Rupert the Bear T-shirt and Richie Tenenbaum sweatband. Also, their drummer was a rush to watch. But their set went on for too long.

Minus the Bear came onstage with no pomp, but the unspoken tension of "we're gonna blow your minds" was hanging in the air. Blow them, they did, but not in the way that these guys would have done it ten years ago in bands like Botch and Sharks Keep Moving. Instead, vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider and lead guitarist Dave Knudson concentrated on new material and some key discography choices, but did so with a sense of calmness and zero posturing (well, unless you count Knudson's non-stop guitar heroics but, like, in an endearing way).

There's something to be said for live bands relying on their new material; you can feel the excitement from the stage and it's infectious. "Secret Country," "The Thief," "Summer Angel" and encore inclusion "Into the Mirror" all stood out with a richer, fuller sound than some of their older material. Sure, "Drilling," "Throwin' Shapes" and their standard final song, "Absinthe Party," all sounded as good as we remember them, but the new material from Omni was golden.