When Minus the Bear played their debut show in Seattle back in September 2001, there was an immediate hype surrounding the band. The individual members had already established themselves on a national level with earlier music projects, and their debut EP This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic was already available at the merch table. Within the first few measures of their distinctive brand of nimble and dexterous indie rock, it was obvious to the audience that the insider buzz was well deserved. It may not have seemed like the most serious venture at first—there were the bizarre song titles, the underlying pop impulses, and an overall sense of fun that seemed at odds with the members’ reputation for heady and angsty music—but the band quickly proved that beneath their revelrous live performances was some truly erudite artistry. Twenty years later, we’re treated to Farewell—a 3xLP live album spanning their seventeen-year run and a sonic goodbye note to their fervent fanbase. Listening to Farewell, the listener is reminded of Minus the Bear’s ability to deliver their cerebral instrumentation, pensive songwriting, and serious musicianship with an infectious energy and celebratory spirit. It’s no wonder they ascended to such heights.
But all things must pass. And so it was that Minus the Bear said farewell to their audience over the course of a US tour in the fall of 2018. They had always been a band that thrived in the live setting, so it only made sense to document those final performances for posterity. Recorded across multiple shows in a variety of cities, Farewell serves as both an approximation of the average night’s setlist on that final tour (the song selection changing slightly from night to night) and a chronicle of the band’s sonic evolution.
Farewell opens with a highly energized performance of Menos el Oso’s crucial track “Drilling.” Part of the beauty of watching Minus the Bear was hearing their songs unfold on stage and realizing how little studio magic was actually involved in their albums. All the electric wizardry by guitarists David Knudson and Jake Snider, technicolor synth work by Alex Rose, and rhythmic interplay between drummer Joshua Sparks and bassist Cory Murchy happens in real time, and hearing the old favorites here in all their road-tested glory is an invigorating reminder of the band’s razor sharp performances and forward-thinking creativity. Minus the Bear were never a band to rest on their laurels, and Farewell immediately moves onto late career classics like the melancholic banger “Last Kiss.” The whole discography is covered—from first EP cuts like “Lemurs, Man, Lemurs” and “Hey, Wanna Throw Up?” to the title track of their final release Fair Enough. Longtime fan favorites like “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” and “Pachuca Sunrise” sit alongside newer hits like “Cold Company” and “Invisible.” And in between we hear the roar of the crowd, the heartfelt thanks and bittersweet ruminations on the passing of the years by Snider, and the occasional dad joke by Rose.
Farewell covers a lot of ground across the span of its 26 songs and two-hour run time. Yet every moment is a reminder of why Minus the Bear were such an experiential live band. They were always pushing forward, evolving their sound, and finding new ways to balance brainy musicianship, pop worship, meditative sentimentality, and adrenalized fervor into their own signature concoction. Further bolstered by the mix of Matt Bayles and master job by Ed Brooks at Resonant Mastering, the album sounds like a fully immersive live experience. Suicide Squeeze Records is proud to offer Farewell to the world on October 29, 2021 as a 3xLP and on digital formats. The initial pressing is limited to 3,000 copies (1,900 on custom opaque gray vinyl – retail exclusive, 600 on custom opaque gold vinyl – artist exclusive, 500 on custom opaque red vinyl – label exclusive).