April 23, 2001
Mint; 300 capacity; $8
Brit bands almost always have an easier time than Yanks of grasping the intricacies of the Laurel Canyon sound that ushered in a new era of folk rock in the late 1960s. American acceptance has been well-earned by Minibar, which has found kindred spirits in Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown (recording one of his songs), Wilco and the Jayhawks (opening shows) and T-Bone Burnett (producer of band's Universal debut Road Movies). This is one of those rootsy acts that understands how to layer pop elements -- particularly three- and four-part harmonies -- and deliver them in an oh-so-mellow, soothing fashion.
Minibar's showcase gig at the Mint lacked some of the sharpness of the disc, a summery and enjoyable debut that brims with deft compositions and the steady hand of Burnett. The title track, a delightful midtempo ode to California, came off strongest in the hourlong set, as they hit the harmonies with the wistful innocence of a wandering visitor to the Golden State. That sunshine-and-freeways vision has a melting quality when it comes from a foreigner; they've so perfected it that it's absolutely jarring when leader Simon Petty spoke with British accent rather than a twang from the Valley.
As they charged through their rougher material, Minibar displayed leanings that, while decidedly British, defy the state of Britpop. Geffen had a similar act, albeit American, a few years back called Big Blue Hearts. Minibar isn't as slick as that act just yet, but they beam with a similar sincerity as the Hearts, and that may just be the band's ticket to something more.
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