Musical Map Of The USA: Idaho—Minus The Bear

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My first car was an ’85 Mercedes SEL 500. It was 2003, and I was playing snare for the Crusaders drums corps out of Portland, Oregon. My dad flew over from Boise with me for a rehearsal. We bought the car for $1,000 and he drove it back to Boise in the night. So exhausted from the practice, I slept the whole way. Later, when I got my license, I’d sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to drive the battleship aimlessly. Once, my mom was awake reading at 1 a.m. when I was leaving. She asked what I was doing and I told her and she said, “OK, see you.”


I remember that night specifically putting on Minus the Bear’s debut EP, This is What I Know About Being Gigantic, in the CD player–itself a feat of electrical wizardry to install in an old German heap. I was a 5-foot-five junior with no girlfriend to meet up with, driving aimlessly with the windows down in the hot Idaho night. With all the freedom granted, the music itself became liberating. It is a green record, the abstract verdant cover notwithstanding: there’s that brightness and vitality of those summer nights, a timbre that extends to the music. The way the band flexes the tempos, the insistence on different timbres, the way you can dance to it, and really the innocuous lyrics—these things still hold up for me, if only because I understand the world the band created better, after the fact.
But in it, at sixteen years old, I didn’t realize a culture around just making new sounds was real, let alone a culture based around only, like, designer jeans and drugs and shit. The Seattle-based band released this record on Suicide Squeeze, meaning when I finally got to see them play this stuff my senior year of high school, they brought labelmates Hella along with them. Back then, Zach Hill looked like a Vietnam-vet who became a painter, playing on broken cymbals. At that show, I heard a rumor that the guitarist from Minus the Bear ran some kind of porn site. And they all were just so cool. This song truly led me to believe there was something out there bigger than myself. I only had to find it. And the music was the decoder. Before my car’s fuel injector crapped out, I trace it back to those winding Boise nights.
This is one of more than 50 posts that make up our musical map of the United States, published by region—the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast—by writers who have strongly associated a song with a state.

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