Mission Of Burma at 400 Bar, 9/27/12
Photo By Jeff McLaughlin
Mission Of Burma
400 Bar, Minneapolis
September 27, 2012
The legendary post-punk band Mission Of Burma hit the 400 Bar on Thursday night intent on not only solidifying their venerable status with the old-guard of the local music community, but adding to it, as the power-trio out of Boston delivered a potent and feisty 70-minute set which drew from all eras of their celebrated career, with special emphasis shown to their stellar new album, Unsound. Guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley, and drummer Peter Prescott (with Shellac's Bob Weston engineering the sound and effects) all played with a passion and exuberance which belied their age and only added to the urgency of the songs themselves.
After their sound guy generously but ominously offered earplugs to anyone in the crowd who needed them, he finished getting the stage set up properly, placing a glass shield around Prescott's drums and putting Miller's Marshall amp in the very front of the stage due to Roger's lingering tinnitus. The band wasted no time hitting their stride after they took the stage, as they let the ovation die down and immediately launched into "Secrets" from their acclaimed 1982 album, Vs. After that it was a blur of new songs, as the trio tore through "Dust Devil," "Semi-Pseudo-Sort-Of Plan," "What They Tell Me," and "This Is Hi-Fi" with a raw, untamed ferocity, with Miller, Conley, and Prescott trading off vocals from track to track.
Conley then asked for the lights to be dimmed, with a few people in the crowd offering to throw their beers up there to smash the bulbs during the brief delay. Prescott then asked the crowd to give a cheer to Weston, who was at the back of the room manning the boards and manipulating their sound. No one heard him, apparently, because no one clapped at all (not that we don't all love Bob). Perhaps it was just a result of the fact that when the band were playing, it sounded like a fleet of jets were taking off within the intimate confines of the club.
Photo By Jeff McLaughlin
After the rousing run of new songs, Conley warmly thanked the appreciative crowd: "Thank you all, you're very kind. It's great to be back in Minneapolis. We've always had a lot of fun here--even in the 'olden days.'" And after a pause, he chimed back in "Did somebody say olden days?" as the band kicked into the incendiary classic "Trem Two," which fully ignited the set. The band then dusted off some post-19-year-hiatus songs in the middle of their set, with "Dirt" from 2004's ONoffON, "Birthday" from 2006's The Obliterati, and "Feed" (which Conley stated was co-written by Minnesota native Holly Anderson) from 2009's The Sound The Speed The Light, all fitting insistently alongside both their early and current material. Someone in the crowd then ordered the band to play their whole catalog, every song, which got a chuckle from the group though I'm quite sure the guy was dead serious.
The band were really locked in by this point, with Conley stating, "We've got a lot of new shit for you guys tonight. You've been pretty good about it so far," before the band went back to Unsound for the last time in the night, delivering forceful renditions of "7's" and "Sectionals In Mourning" before digging deep into their catalog for the rest of the fiery set. "Spider's Web" and "2wice" both churned with a modern vitality and edge, while "Red," from their exalted 1981 debut EP, Signals, Calls, And Marches, truly set the place off once and for all. That boundless energy carried over into the explosive last song of the main set, "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," which bristled with an agitated punk fury that most current bands try in vain to capture.
While Weston provided some portentous low end as the band took a brief but well-deserved break, the crowd clearly wanted more. And the volatile three-song encore gave us exactly what we needed, as an assured, intense version of "This Is Not A Photograph" vehemently reminded everyone that Mission Of Burma wasn't a museum piece, not by a long shot. The band kept with Signals, Calls, And Marches for a rousing rendition of "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," which got everyone singing along to the assertive anthem. They closed out the set with a timely cover of the Dils classic, "Class War," which sadly remains as true in our times as it did when the California punk band wrote it in 1977. It was a great way to end the night, reminding everyone in the crowd that even as you grow older, you can't stop fighting for what you believe in.
Personal Bias: I saw one of Mission Of Burma's earlier reunion shows, and have long been a fan of their early work, but this set was far more potent than anything I remember.
The Crowd: A full house packed with aging guys wearing all black.
Overheard In The Crowd: Someone kept screaming for a good five minutes after the show ended.
Random Notebook Dump: I was happy to see that the band hasn't backed away from their strong political conviction over the years, as they proudly had an Obama/Biden sign hung over Miller's amp.
What They Tell Me
This Is Hi-Fi
ADD In Unison
Sectionals In Mourning
That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate
This Is Not A Photograph (Encore)
That's When I Reach For My Revolver (Encore)
Class War (the Dils)(Encore)
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