All words: Travis Andrews — All photos: Jenny Greenley
There’s that old adage about The Velvet Underground that only 1,00 people ever heard them play but each of those 1,000 people started a band. Mission of Burma has a similar story: These aren’t the guys your older brother listened to. Instead, they’re the guys the guys your older brother listened to listened to. Grammatical and structural follies aside, the chance to see a band like this is both inherently exciting and also undeniably going to be disappointing.
Managing one’s expectations and all that. To tell the truth, I never really listened to Mission of Burma before. I had a friend back in high school who did. His name was Dave, and he lived around the corner from me. His brother Jack lives in DC and probably reads this blog once in a while. Dave and I would also drive places together (or Dave would drive while I rode shotgun … he had a car; I didn’t). He listened to a good bit of music that was a little older than us — I think we can thank Jack for that — on those car rides. The list included Fugazi, Mike Watt, The Dismemberment Plan and Mission of Burma.
The Dismemberment Plan has become one of my favorite bands, it not my favorite. They’ve definitely released two of my top ten albums. And, for the first time, I was able to see them live recently.
All of this is to say, that experience was everything I would have hoped from it, but only because I knew what to hope for. They aren’t a band like, say, The Flaming Lips with some elaborate stage show. And neither is Mission of Burma. And with that in mind, the Mission of Burma show at the Black Cat was pretty kick-ass.
To sum them up in one word is to write this word in as large of print as possible: LOUD. They reminded me of Dinosaur Jr. up there, older and loud, seemingly kind of out of it and not aware of one another, but just jamming out song after song after song. After song after song. I swear these guys, while not playing for too long, must have hit at least 15 songs in the first half-hour. Workhorses.
I’d say a more about the music itself but either you know Mission of Burma or you don’t. If you don’t, it was a bunch of LOUD, brash, pounding punk rock. The drummer had a plastic screen in front of him. I don’t know why. They barely spoke, and when they did it was asking the crowd to yell the word “fuck” or tell them to vote on November 6. Mostly they yelled and yelped and, once in a while, vaguely harmonized. They did this to a mosh pit that was struggling, but I think was still in it.
The Black Cat could have filled up a little more: it was a Saturday night and this band influenced Sonic Youth. Instead it stood half-full, but the folks who were there were about as into it as people can be.
Otherwise, there’s not much more to say. On stage, Mission of Burma is exactly what you’d expect Mission of Burma to be. In that way, seeing old legends is never disappointing. Just don’t hope for more than fast, LOUD, brash punk music with a couple of random, seemingly drunken comments tossed in here and there.
Oh, and yell “fuck” as loud as you can when called upon. I mean, respect your elders, for fuck’s sake.