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May 8, 2006
The Warsaw is a venue that smells like Polish Sausage and has bad acoustics. A few times every week the current Polish National Home is converted into a concert hall that hosts punk, indie and electronic shows, but of course they keep it real with some damn fine Kielbasa and Polish Beer available at every event. Friday May 5th- Cinco De Mayo- the Warsaw played host to the distinctly non-Polish and certainly un-Mexican lineup of Russian Circles, Hail Social, Mewithoutyou, and Minus the Bear.

As a reporter who is against fabrication, I must admit to you dear reader that I did not catch Russian Circles' performance. That said, I do own a copy of their soon-to-be-released EP, Enter, and I must say that on record the Chicago three-piece bust out some nice, intricate and proggy rock/metal/punk instrumental mishmash.

The second band on the bill, and the first that I caught, Philadelphia's Hail Social took the stage not long after my arrival. The group plays poppy indie rock with some jittery rhythms. It is not a unique approach, the style having taken hold in the past few years, but Hail Social work the genre pretty well, if failing to take it to new heights. The exception to the band's rule of stylistic understatement is the frenetic and memorable "Hands are Tied," a song which opens the group's 2005 Polyvinyl full length. The song is powerful enough to serve as opener or closer, and on this night it was the group's last number, affording them the set-up to leave the stage appropriately on a high point.

Mewithoutyou have garnered some praise and attention and was no stranger to the crowd of hundreds some of which emphatically sang along with front man Aaron Weiss, who recently appeared in an animal rights campaign for PETA. The group, who are occasionally loud and blistering, had the venue working against them, the sound system and acoustics unable to meet the band's challenge and reducing the set to a loud mush. In spite of the muddy audio the group was energetic and entertaining; Weiss has apparently figured himself an Iggy Pop-in-training and pulls off his antics without being overly self-conscious. A bit of energy was occasionally zapped from the live set as the group has an unusual penchant for breaking up songs with percussion interludes full of maracas and tambourines. Highlights of the group's short set included, "January 1979" and "Bullet to Binary."

As Minus the Bear assumed their positions on the stage the crowd swelled. Kids seemed to suddenly materialize and pack the 800-capacity venue, testifying to the Seattle group's burgeoning fan base, which has developed organically through years of touring. As it turns out they seem to be getting rather huge, and in a sense that is unusual.

Yes, the group is awesome. And yes this show proved it. But they aren't traditionally awesome. They don't play the confessional songs over huge soaring anthems that typically inspire large followings. Even at this show there were no gigantic sing along moments, no obvious incidents of crowd cohesion. What is captivating about the group is their extremely unique quality of being able to play disjointed, math-rock type songs, but also add an element of overt pop to soften the delivery, a tendency otherwise completely lacking in the genre. Take for instance a number from the band's Friday night set, "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!," an intricate and complex structure not typical in the 3/4 chord rock that is eternally popular. But here in Brooklyn it was popular, and the group blasted through most of their latest full length, Menos el Oso, and some back catalog songs as well as a new song. The majority of the set was decidedly mid-tempo, but at the same time damn energetic and enjoyable.

After the set ended and the band departed, the crowd was exceptionally loud in its approval, forcing the band out for an encore that concluded with an amazingly brilliant rendition of the band's benchmark, "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse". Spent, and satisfied, Minus the Bear sauntered off the stage a final time and cued the crowd for the exits. As the jubilated numbers poured out of the sausage smelling concert hall and into the night it was clear that the show was great, just one of many Minus the Bear are now playing, solidifying a reputation as a talented group destined for continually bigger things.

SEE ALSO: www.minusthebear.com
SEE ALSO: www.suicidesqueeze.net
SEE ALSO: www.polishnationalhome.com

--
Dan Williams
A staff writer based in Brooklyn, New York, Dan Williams is a frequent contributor to LAS magazine. He once lived in Köln, Germany for a semester, is currently persuing his MBA in New York, and recently switched sides and began working as a publicist for Special Ops Media in New York.

See other articles by Dan Williams.

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