There’s something so entrancing about the grimy heart of downtown Los Angeles. The old, art deco theaters converted into pawn shops and jewelry exchanges, the frames of the high-rises blocking out any of the remaining evening sunlight, and if you’re anywhere more than a two blocks away from the Staples Center and LA Live how even the fast food restaurants shut down early due to the city’s overall shadiness. In this run down and burnt out shell of a bustling metropolis lies the Mayan Theater. Despite lying in the heart of what is essentially a slum, the Mayan is Los Angeles’ most architecturally stunning venue, featuring hand carved walls and supports that make visitors feel like they’ve stepped into the Temple of Doom, not to mention it also houses the biggest god damn disco ball I have ever seen over its stage. Last night Minus the Bear owned it. Having sold out the 1500 seat venue, they were joined by indie-pop upstarts Young the Giant and bluesy alt-rockers Everest.
Young the Giant started things off. With the crowd still filling in, they played a rather entertaining set full of jangly tunes that came off sounding like a slightly less adventurous version of The Dodos. Once the crowd, an awkward and segregated mix of NPR types and teenage scenesters, warmed up to them they fed off of the audience’s applause, making the final half of their set more lively than the first. Everest on the other hand, while good at what they do, overstayed their welcome on the stage. Their Eagles-esque rock tunes were captivating when they went into full on “jam” mode, often working their way up to crashing crescendos, but their slower numbers were flaccid and uninspired, leaving most in the crowd counting down the minutes until Minus the Bear took the stage. Luckily for them, their set closer was a loose number that built up into a powerful sea of cymbal crashes and shimmering guitar leads. Their strongest moment to be sure.
Minus the Bear were downright fantastic. With Omni having been released only two weeks prior, it was obvious that it would make up most of the set list, which it did, but their 18 song set was a career spanning look at the best of Minus the Bear with three cuts from Highly Refined Pirates, three from Menos El Oso, four from Planet of Ice, and the surprise of the evening “Fine +2 Pts” from their EP They Make Beer Commercials Like This to compliment the new material. I know that Omni had a somewhat mixed reception from those that were more partial to the lush, dense sounds of Minus the Bear’s Planet of Ice, but it was clearly evident watching the band masterfully awe the crowd with newer sections such as “Hold Me Down”, “Into the Mirror” and “My Time”, that Omni was meant for the stage. Having seen Minus the Bear a handful of times, I came into the show knowing that I was going to be in for a good time, but by the end of their performance I was blown away. The set was missing a couple of my favorite tracks, “Ice Monster” and “The Pig War” to be more specific, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen them play.