Pitchfork Music Festival 2008: Mission Of Burma And Sebadoh Look Back

Sparks Plus was flying the first night of the Pitchfork Music Festival. The promised thunderstorms never materialized, though the clouds remained generally ominous throughout, and we got soaked en route to the grounds. (Well, I got soaked. Amrit wisely invested in a handsome grey poncho. I decided to roll the dice and lost.)

Set-wise, it was nostalgia inc., another installment of the All Tomorrow’s Parties/Don’t Look Back series. It’s often better not to look back, true, but that wasn’t the case with Mission Of Burma, who performed a tight, urgent rendition of 1982’s Vs. The band’s benefited from a successful reunion and great post-reunion albums, 2004’s ONoffON and 2006’s The Obliterati. They also have a smaller, tighter oeuvre than a lot of the bands who do these things. In fact, you’ll likely remember hearing certain Vs. songs seamlessly woven into their set when they played the Pitchfork Festival in 2006. So, basically, that’s how Mission Of Burma escaped the certain fate of other Don’t Look Back participants, and why this didn’t feel like a nostalgic dog-and-pony show.

MoB’s fourth (and tonight invisible) member, Bob Weston, whose post-Martin Swope tape-loops add attack ambiance to the power of trio, is a nice thread between MoB and another Massachusetts trio, Sebadoh: The Chicagoan produced Bubble And Scrape, Sebadoh’s post-III and pre-Bakesale collection. Sadly, the combative nature of the classic-era lineup of Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Eric Gaffney has lost its intrigue, their constant instrument switching and between-song banter its charm. Of the three bands who performed last night, Sebadoh seemed the least necessary — and this from an avowed fan/follower of the early work, who can honestly say their III-supporting set at Maxwell’s in 1991 changed my life. Most of Bubble — opener “Soul And Fire,” “Happily Divided,” “2 years 2 Days,” “Cliché,” “Think (Let Tomorrow Bee),” etc. — undoubtedly hold up (and then some) on record, but there wasn’t much of reason to see the guys do it live. Sometimes it’s also best to let yesterday bee.

Note: Amrit got into a fight with the photo pit crew during Mission Of Burma’s set, which should add a nice component to the weekend, and also explains the heavy dose of side-stage angle shots. Things are more straight ahead for the Sebadoh photos.

MISSION OF BURMA

SEBADOH

[Photos by Amrit Singh]