Monday, July 20, 2009

Live: Mission of Burma + Fucked Up

When: July 12
Where: Williamsburg Waterfront

The McCarren Pool Parties are now minus the Pool. And minus the McCarren. But they've still got the party, and they kicked things off right this summer with this free show at their new location at the East River State Park.

I missed out on the first two acts - Jemina Pearl of Be Your Own Pet and Baltimore's illustrious Ponytail. I was bummed to miss Ponytail, because I know how amazing their live show is. Rumour is they were just as awesome on the big stage as they were in the tiny club where I saw them (in fact, certain people were texting me with things like "I can't believe you're missing this," which is hardly very nice!) So, though I can't offer a review, I can offer a plug - Ponytail are one of the most original and daring bands around today. And they kick serious ass live. [MySpace]

As for the bands I did see - the first was Fucked Up, a hardcore punk band that falls pretty far towards the "thrash" end of the spectrum. I'm not hugely into thrash or those ridiculous vocals that come with it. However, even fore the show, I suspected I might be a fan of the band live, and I was definitely not disappointed.

On the surface, Fucked Up sounds like a lot of ubermacho metal-ish bands, but, however inexplicably, Fucked Up's unleashed rage is not macho in the least. There is the presence of a woman on stage (Sandy Miranda on bass), and there's the fact that lead singer Damian Abraham publicly commented on his rather small wanker. (After stripping to his boxers, he realized it had been visible to some of the audience, and remarked "Trust me, it works just fine. I have a baby to prove it."). Indeed, his clear pride at being a new father, his willing vulnerability in undressing in front of hundreds of kids despite not having a body convention would describe as attractive and his obvious sense of humor all served to remind the audience what punk is really all about: the freaks and losers making rock music, finding community in one another and having a fuckload of fun.

Fucked Up (
Fucked Up (picture from MySpace)

Also, despite their flippant name, the group's lyrics are intellectual, their songs carefully crafted and their stage presence welcoming. As musicians, they are outstanding, perhaps not so much in terms of virtuous playing as in their complex, thoughtful arrangements featuring constant guitar interplay. My only complaint is the presence of three guitars on stage - it's no secret that I don't like superfluous musicians in a band, and there's no reason for any hardcore thrash band to need more than two guitarists. Still, that's small potatoes compared to the intense show the group delivered. [MySpace]

Headliners Mission of Burma are one of the great bands of the second wave of American punk, helping uproot hardcore and broaden punk's horizons before hardcore had even had a chance to see itself as a movement. The band has always kept their edge through a combination of exceptional songwriting, sonic unpredictability (thanks to an off-stage fourth member on "tape loops") and a certain darkness that came with the band's relative maturity at the time of their formation - they were in their mid-twenties in an era of high-school aged punks, and thus never gave themselves over to sheer manic energy at the expensive of musicianship.

I've seen the band once before since they reunited back in 2002 and both shows were amazing. Though most bands reunite for money or as an outlet for a midlife crisis, some do better than others at keeping the independent, edgy spirit of their music alive, and none I've seen have accomplished this as well as Mission of Burma. Recent releases by Dinosaur Jr and the Meat Puppets have been great, but represented a step towards convention for both bands, while MOB remains as edgy (if not necessarily as relevant) as they were in 1979.

The set list was a good mixture of new material and old classics. Of course, there were many songs I wanted to hear that didn't get played, but since the majority of the songs the band put out in its 1979-1983 incarnation are classics, it would be impossible for them to hit anywhere near everything. They were playing well and having even more fun that the crowd was - and that's a lot! And just seeing one of the great American punk bands playing against a sunset and the Manhattan skyline...unforgettable. [MySpace]

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