Photos By:  David Evanko AKA Minivan Photography

By: Corey McComb

The trick to getting an up close and personal spot for any headlining act at the Observatory North Park is simple: Beat the bar. By the time the opening act is done, an AC unit fills up our lonely theater while the overflowing bar of West Coast Tavern sip anxiously; calculating the time left for another round before the house lights fade to signal us in.

Tonight, it’s race to the bottom of the glass and a spot in the pit for Seattle’s progressive, math-rock quintet Minus The Bear. This year marks their most noteworthy album Minus El Oso 10 year anniversary and the band is here to perform it in its entirety.

Minus El Oso is a dark record. Serpentine in movement, lucid in expression. Watching the band unravel it live offers no clues to its rhythmic riddles, but provides new perspectives. The panicked storytelling of “Memphis and 53rd” and romanticism of “The Pig War” hits notes that bend the mood of the room from nostalgic pasts to inspired futures.

Guitarist Dave Knudson stands stiff at the end of the stage like a solider. Chin up, forward stare. His fingers tap dance up and down the neck of his instrument while his feet shift the gears of a pedal board, sending out unforgettable Oso frequencies. When frontman and lead singer Jake Snider twists his body and telecaster towards him, it’s a guitar duel that only 15 years of chemistry can explain.

“Pretty predictable set so far right?” asks Snider, breaking up the pace to let us catch our breath. Those of us in the know are expecting the treasured “Pachuca Sunrise” next and we are not disappointed.

The theater is long since packed and no AC is going to waste. The songs we came to hear have been performed with near perfect precision and another milestone can be crossed off 1200 San Diegans musical bucket list.

“Thank you” says Snider, bowing his head as the album’s grand finale “This ain’t a surfin movie” rings out it’s last chord. “That was Minus El Oso.