Sunday, October 17, 2004

Concert Recommendations: Mission of Burma, Metro; The Cramps, The Vic Theatre; both shows 9:00 p.m., Saturday, October 23

One big frustration of music journalism is the lack of real impact. Publicists and writers don't like to admit it, but press alone doesn't sell records, certainly not the way radio airplay does. So it's gratifying when the written word has a significant effect on connecting worthy music with an audience. Such is the case with Mission of Burma. The band broke up in 1983, ahead of their time musically and in terms of the supporting infrastructure needed to support the kind of music that was ahead of its time, namely a network of specialized clubs and non-commercial radio stations. But inspired by their inclusion in Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, where they were among 13 influential bands profiled, the band reunited in 2002. They toured to glowing acclaim and now have a CD of new material, ONoffON and are on tour again.

The only problem is that the show conflicts with the Cramps. Based purely on the amount of sweat generated in an average performance, Cramps frontman Lux Interior is the hardest working man in show business. The guy gives his all, stomping around the stage in high heels, tearing off most of his clothes, even vomiting on stage in the middle their set at the 1990 Reading Festival while barely missing a beat. And his lovely wife Poison Ivy Rorschach is an underrated guitarist with a huge, distinctive sound. If that's not enough, try these three words: "Elvis Fucking Christ!" It's the highlight of last year's Fiends of Dope Island.

Which show gets the edge? I'm going with the Cramps because it's my first concert in almost four months, my first time leaving my baby with a sitter for the evening, and the Cramps are a sure thing. Television's reunion tour also earned rave reviews but I found them too cerebral, making me hesitant about MoB; however, drummer Peter Prescott's Volcano Suns were so amazing in 1990 that I saw them twice in just over a week, the second show being the best three-band line-up I've ever seen (on between the Unrest and the Wedding Present). So there are no losers except those who skip both shows.

Mission of Burma play the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 9 p.m. on Saturday, October 23 with Eleventh Dream Day and Pit er Pat.  The Cramps play the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago at the same time, with the Gore Gore Girls and Ladies and Gentlemen.

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