Minus the Bear gave the Grog Shop an anniversary gift last night worthy of the music venue’s 20-year history. Returning to play the music club for the first time since 2008, the Seattle-hailing indie rockers are just one of the bands venturing back to Cleveland Heights this month in celebration of the establishment’s past two decades. (We spoke with Minus the Bear lead singer Jake Snider and Grog Shop owner Kathy Blackman to preview the anniversary in our September issue, available online here.)
Caspian and Cursive both opened the sold-out show, which filled up nicely before Minus the Bear took the stage at around 10:30 p.m. The group roared into a 17-song set that touched on all five of their full-length albums, opening with the haunting-yet-catchy “Steel and Blood” and thumping “Lies and Eyes,” both from the newly released Infinity Overhead, which dropped Aug. 28. They followed that with a string of past hits, starting with “The Game Needed Me” off of 2005’s Menos El Oso and “Throwin’ Shapes” from 2007’s Planet of Ice, before transitioning into “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” from the band's 2002 debut, Highly Refined Pirates, and “Into the Mirror” off 2010's excellent Omni.
Minus the Bear wrapped their initial set with Omni opener (and a personal favorite) “My Time," proceeded by a spirited rendition of “Cold Company” from their newest record. Cheers of “One more song!” from the lively crowd elicited a three-track encore, though no one seemed to mind getting more than they asked for. Planet of Ice’s “Dr. L’Ling,” Infinity Overhead’s “Lonely Gun” and Pachua Sunrise from Menos El Oso closed the show, which by that point had stretched into early Thursday morning.
The band was extremely grateful to both the Grog Shop venue and Cleveland crowd throughout the evening, with Snider hollering out, “Thanks Cleveland, you guys rock,” before ducking backstage. The feeling was certainly mutual.