Nothing could’ve possibly prepared me for all of the emotions that I would feel at Minus the Bear’s final Canadian show in Toronto on October 21. I knew I’d be happy, sad, excited, a little nervous, devastated … but I hadn’t anticipated how intensely I would feel all of those things. Two months post gig, and a week out from the band officially wrapping up their Farewell Tour (and ultimately career together), I still feel like I’m recovering from that night.
My night started off with a meet and greet with the band (which is where the bit about being a little nervous comes in). It was simultaneously the most awesome and most chill experiences I’ve ever had meeting people whose work I admire. They’re just a bunch of nice, relaxed, earnest guys who very clearly appreciate their fans and enjoy meeting them. They all shook my hand, introduced themselves, which I thought was kind of adorable because I already knew who they were obviously, but it was just a super sweet gesture. After introducing himself Jake asked my name, and when I told him both he and Alex reacted with recognition which I had not expected at all.
Some backstory is in order, I suppose! For the month leading up to the show, I was putting together a list of what I thought were the band’s best songs. Whether or not anyone had been paying attention to it I hadn’t really cared, it was just something fun I was doing because I felt like it. Earlier the day of the show, Alex had quoted a tweet of mine saying thank you for the list and that he loved it. As for Jake, he and I follow each other on Twitter and had interacted there a couple of times - more about politics than music, oddly enough. But I certainly hadn’t anticipated either of them knowing who I was when I was standing in front of them!
We chatted about the list I put together; Alex seemed to really appreciate that a lot of them were hidden gems that people don’t really get into when talking about their music, and Jake told me that he thought my posts about the songs were beautiful, which I don’t think I’ll ever be over. They signed my poster and their latest EP for me - I had only thought that they were signing one thing, but I’d put my EP on the table as well to free up my hands, and Jake asked if I’d like them to sign that as well. Far be it from me to say no!
They’d honestly thrown me off by recognizing me and talking about what I’d written, so it wasn’t until when we were getting our pictures taken together that I remembered what I wanted to tell them - how important their music was to me, how appreciative I was of the fact that they were doing this tour so that we could all say goodbye. And basically, just thank you for everything. I tried not to get too long winded about it, I didn’t want to take up too much of their time when there were other fans waiting to see them. They said that it was their way of saying goodbye to us too - at least in their capacity as Minus the Bear.
Pictures taken, they thanked me for coming out and I floated off to the bar to get the most well deserved $10 beer I’d ever purchased.
The general admission crowd hadn’t been let in yet, so I spent the time waiting for Brad chatting with some of the other fans and the fella who works the band’s merch table. When Brad finally found me (honestly still shaking - though whether it was from being cold or the adrenaline wearing off, I’m not sure), we checked our coats and my merch and went to the main area of the venue to find the stage. People were still kind of milling about, so there was the perfect opportunity to plant myself exactly where I wanted - right up against stage left. There was no way that I was going to be anywhere other than right up front for this show.
The opener for the first leg of the tour, Caspian, were absolutely phenomenal. I’d been listening to them a lot in preparation for the concert, but they are an entirely different beast live. An instrumental post-rock outfit from Massachusetts, they really helped to set the tone and vibe for what was to come. Layering, delays, and loops are exactly what that crowd was there for, and Caspian delivered that in spades.
The arrangements were ethereal and enthralling, which made for perfect dancing, and the occasional headbang. Their songs reach this unbelievable crescendo that suffuse your body with so much energy that it feels you might burst. Or maybe I have a medical condition, who’s to say? Either way, the definitely secured a fan in me after their brief set, and made me so glad that I always go see the opener. You never know when you’ll find a new favourite band.
Tear down for Caspian and set up for Minus the Bear began, and it really began to hit me. I was going to see Minus the Bear live. I’m kind of mad at myself for not seeing them live before, but when I first got into them I really couldn’t afford to travel to see them, and when we were living out west it was all a matter of circumstance that didn’t really work out in my favour. And, I dunno, I figured they would always be around. I’ve said it before, if I only had to see one show of theirs I’m glad that one of their final ones would have that honour.
When the lights dimmed and Jake, Dave, Cory, and Alex made their way on stage the energy in the venue was in the stratosphere, and they hadn’t even played their first note yet. They picked up their instruments and after a few moments launched into Drilling from their second full length album, Menos el Oso, and we were off!
I was still reeling from hearing Drilling, when they segued into one of my favourites, Last Kiss, with Lemurs, Man, Lemurs after that, followed by Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse. In one of the few moments that we actually interacted during the show, Brad grabbed me and said “Holy fuck they’re so fuckin’ good.” Yeah, my dude. I know! I love Brad, I swear - but bless him for letting me just rock the fuck out during this show. He’s since been mad at me for getting him into a band that’s breaking up, and I’m only a little sorry about it.
The air was electric with so much excitement, so much love - I don’t think I’ve ever been in a crowd where everything was being felt so strongly. Everything that the crowd was giving the band was giving right back. I don’t know if this has been the case for all of the band’s shows prior to this, or if this was something special because it was one of their last shows, but I was so glad that I was there to be right in the middle of it all!
Just when I thought that the setlist couldn’t get any better, they would launch into a song that I loved even more than the last. What a privilege to be there to witness all of these songs played live, with such obvious love for the crowd in front of them. The band had declared in their announcement that they were disbanding that they were going to play their hearts out at every show, and play their hearts out they did.
Jake lamented to the crowd that seventeen years simultaneously felt like a long time, but also that the years had flown by. And I think we can all relate to that feeling in some way with things in our lives as well. Time has this weird way of going by quickly and also slipping through our fingers.
The band made sure that all points in their career were showcased at least a little bit over their two hour set. Songs from their first few EPs and albums featured prominently, but songs from newer releases were sprinkled in as well. Jake introduced their song Fair Enough, from their latest and ultimately last EP with the same name, saying, “We released a thing the other day, and usually when you play a show you do a song from the new thing. So, here’s a new song from the new thing.”
Honestly, I had expected to cry a lot during the show - but I didn’t. I was too busy having fun, dancing, and singing along. There were moments, when they played a song that I really loved (although let’s be honest, I love them all) that my emotions went through the roof, but I didn’t cry.
That is until their last song before they would inevitable come back on stage for their encore. Even though I knew there would be an encore, hearing Jake say, “This is our last song,” with an air finality brought the crushing realization that the show was ending right to my feet. There was no avoiding it. We were saying goodbye, and I was woefully unprepared for it.
The opening notes of Let’s Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band began to fill the theatre, and I began blinking back tears.
After the song, they departed the stage, but wouldn’t be gone for long. A few moments later they came back out, and after Jake thanked the crowd for that night, for the past seventeen years, began playing one of my favourites from their first album, Get Me Naked 2: The Electric Boogaloo. Honestly, some of those early song titles are gifts meant to be cherished.
But nothing, no amount of hearing some of the songs that I’d come to love over the years, could prepare me for the next song - Into the Mirror. If you’ve been following along with the articles and the blog posts I’ve written about Minus the Bear over the past several months, or just know me, you’ll know that this is my favourite of everything they’ve ever done. It’s the first song that I ever heard by the band, and just as those funky synth notes hooked their claws into me the first time that I heard them, they dug in even further hearing them live. I’m pretty sure I shrieked circa thirteen-year-old Megan at a Backstreet Boys concert.
I didn’t think that I could possibly sing any louder than I had all night, but there we were.
While I took a number of pictures during the night, I didn’t take a whole lot of video. Just snippets here and there. But there was no way that I wasn’t committing this memory to video, even if it wouldn’t look or sound fantastic. I was right there in front of them, and they were playing my favourite song.
I don’t remember crying, but at that point I don’t think I was really steering that ship. I just remember losing myself to the music, to the feeling, just as I had for years whenever listening to Minus the Bear, and wanting the night to never end.
But like all good things, your favourite band playing a concert on their Farewell Tour must end as well. They apparently did not get my request to play their entire catalogue in an eight hour plus show, and after thanking the crowd one last time, played their last song of the night.
Minus the Bear ended their last show in Canada with a fan favourite, and what seemed like a natural show closer (and a song I have yet to be able to listen to since without crying), Pachuca Sunrise. It seemed extremely appropriate given the song’s chorus.
Don't cry I'll bring this home to you,
If I can make this night light enough to move.
Don't cry I'll bring this home to you …
Well, joke’s on you. By this point I was damn near bawling, you can’t tell me what to do.
I was trying so hard to not cry. I wanted to be present, enjoy this song that I absolutely adore, one that sounds like how you imagine a sunrise would actually sound. One that is reminiscent of The Police in its chorus. One that I was hearing live for the first and last time. But I definitely had to take some moments to wipe at my eyes. And I think part of enjoying music is allowing it to evoke those feelings in you, the ones that are unexpected.
The stage was at chest level, so a few times during the show I’d rested my arms on it in an attempt to catch my breath. Now I was using it to hide my face while I took a few quick moments to get it all out and sob.
You could barely hear the band over the roar of the crowd - people singing along, people cheering. I hadn’t thought that the crowd could get any louder, but if this was really and truly it, then no one was going to be able to hear tomorrow if we all had it our way.
As the tapped, descending sounds of Dave’s guitar wound down, he and Jake turned off their pedals, Cory turned off his amp, Alex stepped away from his keys.
It was over.
The band said their goodbyes to the crowd, and made their way off stage.
As Jake descended the stairs in the back he looked toward the crowd once more, and looking in my direction (whether or not he was looking right at me I couldn’t really say) gave a wistful smile and a small wave, which I returned despite the fact that I was desperately trying to hold it together for just a little longer.
The show over, I began to let my tears flow a bit more freely, and turned toward Brad who was waiting with arms wide open to give me a hug. Bless him. But I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and turned just in time to see Cory making a beeline for me. He handed me Jake’s setlist (there’s some lyrics scrawled on it), much to my surprise and gratitude. I said thank you to him, though whether or not he heard me over the deafening roar of the crowd I have no idea. But it was a gesture, much like the entirety of the night, that I will never forget.
If you’re at all interested, I created a playlist based off the setlist from the show. Because I’m definitely the kind of person who loves to relive shows this way. And I know that at least Brad does as well, because he asked me if I was making one long after I threw this together. ;)
This time next week, Minus the Bear will no longer be a band. They play their final show on Sunday, December 16 in their native Seattle, the last of three shows there. Dave has said in a recent interview that there will likely be a live album and that they’re hoping to film their Seattle shows. I really hope that these come to fruition.
I know they’ll never read this, but to Jake, Alex, Dave, and Cory - thank you. I know I keep saying that words couldn’t possibly convey how much your music has meant to me, and it’s true. No words exist in any language that I know that could adequately express what I feel. I’m not going to pretend that the fact that there’ll be no new Minus the Bear music doesn’t hurt, but I’ll cherish what you’ve created together, because I so appreciate you sharing it with us for the past seventeen years.
I can’t wait to see what you all do next. ♥