Mission of Burma @ Spaceland Ballroom, Hamden

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since Boston’s finest, Mission of Burma, reunited with original members Roger Miller on guitar, Clint Connelly on bass, Peter Prescott on drums and Bob Weston (Volcano Suns/Shellac) replacing Martin Swope as the band’s sound engineer and live tape manipulator.  It’s even harder to believe that in just 4 short years spanning 1979 to 1983 the group released only one EP (Signals, Calls, and Marches) and one full length LP (Vs.) that would come to define and inspire an entire rock movement spanning the the 80’s on through the 90’s.  In Sonic Youth you can hear Mission of Burma’s art influenced avant-garde edginess.  In Guided By Voices you can hear the pop elements hidden under layers of static and lo-fi recordings.  In Fugazi, you can hear the lyrics of like-minded and politically conscious musicians.  The list goes on and includes many of my favorite bands; it’s no wonder Mission of Burma is among them.

Opening the evening were two acts I was eager to see for vastly different reasons.  The first, Minibeast, Peter Prescott’s latest endeavor outside of Mission of Burma was refreshingly improvisational but at times bordered on disorganized and confused.  Apparently there were some technical issues but had they not pointed them out they could have certainly gone unnoticed.  Next up was the amorphous and enigmatic Boston ensemble Sunburned Hand of the Man.  What began as a 4 piece featuring John Moloney, Robert Thomas, Chad Cooper and Rich Thomas has clearly grown to critical mass.  Their single song set featured a sage burning freak-out goddess who roamed the audience and stage with her occult cleansing wafts of smoke, an Allen Ginsburg impersonator at the controls of a little black box plugged into a practice amp, and a pair of screaming banshees, one sporting timberlands and a hoodie and the other in her metal mesh tank top and Dickies work pants.  Don’t get me wrong it was insanely entertaining but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

Mission of Burma took control of the bewildered crowd shaking them into a lucid frenzy with live wire guitar riffs and gut rattling bass chords propelled by a thunderous and rhythmic percussion.  Out of the gate, the trio+1 commanded the room with a veteran presence but youthful vigor that had their bodies and faces contorting alongside each teeth gritting note.  The set list included cuts off each of their albums with the exception of of their 2009 album “The Sound the Speed the Light” and the majority of songs coming from their last release, 2012’s critically acclaimed “Unsound”.  Of course classics such as This Is Not a Photograph, Max Ernst’s Dream, Academy Fight Song, and an encore that included That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate garnered the loudest applause from the appreciative crowd at the Spaceland Ballroom.

Setlist:

1. Fell Into Water
2. 2wice
3. Sectionals In Mourning
4. Spider’s Web
5. This Is Not a Photograph
6. 13
7. Man in Decline
8. Red
9. This Is Hi-Fi
10. Mica
11. Trem Two
12. Let Yourself Go
13. 7’s
14. Max Ernst’s Dream
15. Academy Fight Song
Encore:
16. That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate