For some strange reason, it’s difficult for most people to appreciate the best things in life at the moment. It’s somehow easier for us to reminisce about them well after the fact, like, Oh, wasn’t it grand 10 years ago when we were traveling Europe together? Yet, it’s likely that a decade ago, that same speaker might have been worried about their sweaty clothes, a dwindling bank account, or the difficult job waiting back in the U.S. after the excursion abroad.
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This phenomenon of appreciation is something that Dave Knudson, guitarist, and co-founder of the Seattle-born rock band, Minus the Bear, knows well. Knudson has lived it, and in a way, can now live it over and over again by listening to his band’s newest album, a forthcoming live compilation comprised of songs recorded in 2018 during Minus the Bear’s final tour together. The LP, Farewell, is set for release on Friday (October 29).
“The band ended with three sold-out nights at the Showbox,” says Knudson, of the major concert venue in Seattle. “Which was an incredible way to put a bow on it, so to speak. There were some questions about whether we’d do a final tour. People just get older and priorities shift. But I think on the last tour, knowing it was the final time, we were able to appreciate it in the moment.”
When a trip to Philly or New York City is another stop along a trek across the United States, it may not feel as special on any given day. But when you know it’s your popular band’s last honest-to-goodness trip to that city to hit a favorite stage, it’s an entirely different matter altogether.
“We were firing on all cylinders,” Knudson says. “Putting our best effort into every performance. It was the rare time when you could, while playing on stage, really soak in the immense love and gratitude, and really soak in all the passion that you put into it.”
Minus the Bear, which began in the Emerald City in 2001 and played its first show three days after 9/11 at a venue called The Paradox, was known especially for its live shows. But the funny thing about live shows is that they’re little ecosystems. Songs can change as a result of playing. And over the course of, say, 15 years, many of Minus the Bear’s best tunes altered. Choruses were attacked differently, outros were invented. And on Farewell, Knudson says, he can see, in a way, many of the band’s songs concluded, in their final state.
“This record really documents how the songs ended up,” he says. “It’s really awesome to have that last document.”
Knudson, who grew up in Tacoma, Washington, about 45 minutes south of Seattle, grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s listening to Michael Jackson, Metallica, and other popular songs on the radio. As the years went on, he dove deeper into music, especially the guitar. He had visions of playing baseball or the trumpet, but neither worked out. So, he turned his attention to the acoustic guitar leaning up against his bedroom wall. His parents had divorced by this time and so he had his fair share amount of time to himself. He took a few lessons, got better, and after high school, moved north to Seattle and began to play in bands in the city. Later, Minus the Bear formed, an amalgamation of members from other groups.
“We’d all been playing in other bands around Seattle,” Knudson says. “I was in a hardcore band called Botch. Jake was in a band called Sharks Keep Moving. Cory and Erin were in Kill Sadie.”
The group of aspiring musicians wanted to form a new project and since they were friends, hung out in the same dimly red light lit bar (the city’s old Cha Cha Lounge) and enjoyed listening to similar styles. They decided to get in a room and see what happened. Their collective efforts worked out and the band kept growing. They gained placement on MTV with a music video for their song, “Pachuca Sunrise.” As the band toured, it got more and more of a reputation for wild, rocking, even psychedelic live shows. Their albums, Menos el Oso and Planet of Ice, charted well on Billboard. They were off and running.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Knudson says, “to fly across the globe and have people sing your songs back to you in English when that’s not their primary language.”
This is the stuff that’s captured on Minus the Bear’s 26-track LP Farewell. It’s a time capsule of a single final tour as well as one of an entire band’s history. With the members strewn all over the world from New Mexico to Brighton, the live record is a way to keep connections thriving. For Knudson, who is working on his own recording projects in Seattle, that’s the beauty of the art form, the bridges it keeps intact.
“The part of music,” Knudson says, “that is connecting with a crowd and connecting with people on stage and having a common experience with other people and to be able to share that with another person is pretty special.”