Monday, May 30, 2011

Photos: Mission of Burma @ Space Gallery (Portland, ME)


Mission of Burma @ Space Gallery, May 28th, 2011

It goes without saying that I'm a Mission of Burma superfan. Ever since randomly stumbling upon the band's phenomenal performance at the 2004 Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, I've caught MoB live every chance I've gotten. They are easily the one band I've seen live more than any other out there and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. So when I heard they were playing a somewhat reasonable five hour drive away (reasonable for an obsessive Burma fan I suppose), my brother and I plotted our trip to Portland, Maine for an epic Mission of Burma Memorial Day trip. And of course, it was totally worth it.

The venue itself was perfectly fitting for the band. The Space Gallery is a nonprofit art gallery and performance space located in Portland's art district, probably didn't hold more than 300 people, and sounded wonderful. While getting a drink at the bar before the opener went on, I spotted Eric M. Van, who you may know from the excellent Mission of Burma documentary This Is Not A Photograph. Van is not only a Burma superfan like myself, but a legitimate Burma historian. Surprisingly, he informed us that Bob Weston would not be on tape loops for the night, and he wasn't for their show two nights prior in Rhode Island either, but assured me the trio had figured out ways to mimic Weston's unique contributions. Another piece of information Van passed along was that the band was planning to enter the studio in June to begin work on their fifth full-length album (their fourth since reuniting in 2002). This news filled me with a sense of great joy that could only be topped by having Mission of Burma rock my face off yet again. And that's exactly what happened nearly an hour later.

Opening with new song "Second Television," the trio reminded me once again of their permanent relevance. I am constantly asking myself, as I did on Saturday, how does a band this late into their career still write one great song after another? I really don't know how, but I assure you they do. Though they were "Westonless" (and referred to themselves as the original '79 Burma lineup), they still sounded as raucous as possible. Without wasting time, Burma dove right into Obliterati standouts, "Donna Sumeria" and "Spider's Web" (two songs I feel stand at the top of Burma's catalog), and while Pete Prescott shouted from behind the drumkit, he also operated some sort of theramin contraption to simulate the missing tape loop effects. Needless to say, it sounded fantastic.

Other new songs scattered throughout the set were Miller compositions "Opener" and "Fell Into Water" along with Prescott's "Sectionals in Mourning" and Conley's "7's." Hopefully all these songs will make their way onto what they're working on in June and it's clear to me that once again Burma are up to something really good (Conley has since confirmed with me that Burma will be entering the studio this summer to lay down basic tracks, but will probably not get back to finish them until this fall). They made no hesitation in whipping out the classics, the highlight of the initial set being a sorrow and beautiful version of "Einstein's Day" off of Vs. Another highlight was Conley's "Feed" off of 2009's underrated The Sound, The Speed, The Light, which just may be the band's most gorgeous track (Eric M. Van agreed with me on that one).

After blasting through Obliterati single "2wice," Mission of Burma closed the set with their hits "This Is Not A Photograph" and "Academy Fight Song" at which point I moved a little further back from the front of the stage so that I could jump around with the rest of the crowd. After a brief moment offstage, the band returned for a trio of insanely good songs, starting with one of my favorites "Mica." Almost immediately after its completion, Roger Miller strummed those very familiar opening chords to "Red", which subsequently made the twenty or so of us in the very front come to a near mosh pit. Miller was successfully able to simulate the integral tape loop effect that is essential to the conclusion of "Red" by making the high pitched "oooh" sound with his own voice. Clint Conley, humbly staring down into his microphone then nonchalantly said, "....that's how I escaped my certain fate." before the band blew into that very song. It was pretty incredible.

I've seen them close with "Fate" before, and it always works, and it always leaves you wanting more. And if there's one thing Mission of Burma are absolute masters of, it's leaving you wanting more. They didn't come back for a second encore, as they usually do, but Miller set up some merchandise and spoke to fans for a good twenty minutes or so till the place emptied. Both Prescott and Conley hung around and talked to us while they broke down their own equipment. Miller told us we were absolutely insane for driving up there from New York City, but I know I'm not alone in my Burma fandom.

Cheers to the greatest band I know, and as always, I can't wait to see them again. Full set of photos from the night are below, and a slightly inaccurate setlist made from memory (with the help of Clint Conley's memory)...















I know all of these songs were played, but the order is probably wrong, and there may be one or two songs missing:

UPDATE: below is the correct set list as per Eric M. Van:

Second Television
Donna Sumeria
Spider's Web
Devotion
Opener
Sectionals in Mourning
Feed
Fell into Water (debut)
1,2,3 Partyy!
Einstein's Day
7's
Good Cheer
2wice
This Is Not A Photograph
Academy Fight Song

Encore:
Mica
Red
That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate

11 comments:

  1. Hey, Chris! Thanks for the shout-out. Great photos! The second one of Rog is particularly amazing.

    You got the first and last three songs of the main set correct. In between:

    Devotion
    Opener
    Sectionals in Mourning
    Feed
    Fell into Water (debut)
    1,2,3 Partyy!
    Einstein's Day
    7's
    Good Cheer

    Pawtucket Set:

    Second Television (debut)
    Donna Sumeria
    This is Not a Photograph
    "Tell Me" (debut Peter)
    "S.P." (debut Clint)
    Mica
    1001 Pleasant Dreams
    1,2,3 Partyy!
    Einstein's Day
    Sectionals in Mourning (debut)
    2wice
    Dust Devil (debut Roger)
    Nancy Reagan's Head
    Spider's Web
    Academy Fight Song

    Red
    That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate
    Learn How

    So the 11 new songs are:

    Roger: Hi-Fi, Epic, Opener, Dust Devil, Fell into Water
    Clint: 7's, Second Television, "S.P."
    Peter: Part the Sea, "Tell Me," Sectionals in Mourning

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  2. "Another piece of information Van passed along was that the band was planning to enter the studio in June to begin work on their fifth full-length album (their fourth since reuniting in 2002)."

    HELL. YES.

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  3. Traveled up from Syracuse, NY to this show- 7 hours! It was definitely worth it to see them in a small space like this after having seen them a couple times in larger venues. Stayed with friends in Portsmouth the night before but had to go back home right after the show to work the next day... grueling drive, but worth it!

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