MISSION OF BURMA/MAJOR STARS at Warsaw, 7/14/06

Clearly I’m biased as to how awesome Mission of Burma is, as not only do I work at Matador Records, but was recently promoted to product manager, and will probably work with Burma. But that disclaimed, I gotta say that their show yesterday at Warsaw in Greenpoint, Brooklyn was one of the best, most powerfully loud rock shows I’ve seen in some time. Warsaw, for those who don’t know it, is a venue located in the Polish National Home in Greenpoint, and is a short walk from my new apartment. After taking the day off work and completing the finishing touches on my move into my new place, it was a pleasure to leisurely stroll through Williamsburg and Greenpoint on the way to Warsaw. Once inside, a $5 plate of pierogies and $4 Okocim beer were consumed, both of which add up to Warsaw being one of the friendliest, most non-pretentious rock venues in the city.

While I skipped the openers, who were called Dead Vessel or something akin to that, I was psyched to see that Cambridge, Mass’s Major Stars were opening. Wayne and Kate, who also run the fine Twisted Village record store in that bucolic city, are the major stars behind Major Stars, and are as entertaining as hell. Loud, punishing rock riffs incorporating heavy psych as well as hardcore touches are what Wayne, Kate and third guitarist Tom (who perhaps may be the Jesper Eklow of Massachusetts) bring, and their rhythm section (Casey and Dave) keep pounding it all together. Their occasional singer Sandra Barrett was a bit off tonight, I thought. I guess maybe she couldn’t hear herself because she seemed to be over-singing a bit, but whatever. I had fun. Or something.

Burma’s two-set setup these days can sometimes seem a bit long (as it did to me when I saw them in February at Bowery Ballroom), but last night they zoomed through. Not once did I feel like checking my watch, even at the few songs I don’t know well (which ain’t much). Sound-wise, they were excellent, despite Warsaw’s high ceilings and usually tricky acoustics. And man, were they ever just excellent, entirely. Making jokes about Peter Prescott signing a pact with the devil isn’t far off; this guy has more energy than most twenty year-old drummers. I also like that their new songs showcase a somewhat prog (if that’s the right word for it) sensibility: not in the sense that they’re aping Yes or whatever, but that they now can write and play really punishing post-punk songs with lots of changes and textures. Not that they were ever “simple,” as a band, but you can really tell that with their new songs they’re really part of an overall rock continuum. And like a lot of the best bands from their original era, such as This Heat or Wire (or even John Lydon who was a big Beefheart fan), they’re not afraid to disavow the bullshit punk attitude that “complexity sucks, man.” The crowd, while not quite sell-out size, was very large and really into it, and that helped as well – it was hard to not get caught up in their enthusiasm. So much so that at some point I decided I should at least take a crappy picture with my cellphone, which is what you get up top. Yikes.

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