Friday, June 26, 2015

Live Shows: Mission of Burma and Guerilla Toss, 3S Artspace, Portsmouth, NH 6/24/15

Photo by Ken Sears
After realizing I haven't seen Mission of Burma since 2004, and since I don't want to shell out the prices to see them open for Foo Fighters at Fenway Park next month, I had no other option but to road trip up to Portsmouth, NH on a Wednesday night. Luckily, there was also a brand new music venue to check out when I got there. 

3S Artspace has been open for about three months. It's a combination restaurant/gallery/performance space. Seeing a show at a "performance space" is always a bit iffy, but these guys seem to have it together. The diamond shape of the space and the chairs lining the walls gave off a bit of a rec center vibe, but once the show started that was all forgotten. Great sound, great lighting, and an air conditioned room made this one of my new favorite venues. Their calendar tells me I'll be heading up to Portsmouth more often than not from now on.

Photo by Ken Sears
Guerilla Toss opened the show, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I've heard great things about them, but their albums always seem a little too experimental to me. All the positive reports seem to come from their live show, and I now agree. Despite having an amazingly bad day (their van was towed on the way to the gig, leaving them stuck on the side of the road in Worcester, MA), they put on an amazingly energetic show. What first seemed like just pure discordant noise with no real rhythm or plan eventually started to show a real funk side. They introduced a few songs as "party songs," which turned out to be a legit claim once you paid attention and focused. Guerilla Toss just might be America's noisiest funk band. 

Photo by Ken Sears
You can't discuss Guerilla Toss without mentioning singer Kassie Carlson. One of the most energetic frontpeople you'll see in music, She barely stood still during the entire set and just personified their entire sound. What was truly unique is that she actually seemed to be focusing the music with her movements and not just going through a pre-planned routine. Even if you don't like the music of Guerilla Toss, check them out someday just for her.
Photo by Ken Sears

Mission of Burma are the absolute ideal band going through a reunion. At no point do they seem bored or just going through the motions for a paycheck. They seem genuinely happy to be playing together for the few shows they do a year. Roger Miller particularly seems thrilled for every song and has more energy than a musician half his age. It shows how strong a band's reunion is that they can make up half their set with newer material. Then again, the reunion has produced more of an output than their original run, so it makes complete sense. What is truly telling is that no one in the crowd seemed to care and reacted to all songs with enthusiasm. A song like "2wice" stands right up with classics like "Max Ernst." They even played a brand new song, "Buzz Your Soul." Peter Prescott was downright chatty behind the drum set, remarking that the crowd had the same make up they've always attracted: All men in the front row. They did go back to classics to close out their main set ("That's How I escaped My Certain Fate," "Max Ernst," and "Academy Fight Song") and closed out their encore with the one two punch of "This Is Not a Photograph" and "That's When I Reach for My Revolver."

Unfortunately, Mission of Burma doesn't have too many more live dates currently scheduled. Unless you're in NYC or Washington DC (or want to pay a bazillion dollars to watch them with the Foo Fighters), you're out of luck. If you are in those cities, go to their website for more details.

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