Could there be a more incongruous show than Mission of Burma at the UR Commons? How is it that the post-punk pioneers who influenced everyone from REM to the Pixies to Nirvana ended up at such an unlikely location? And why is that campus like the Devil's Triangle?
My girlfriends and I started at Mezzanine for dinner and wound up on the heated patio due to a full dining room and half an hour wait inside. We made a meal of an array of starters: fried risotto balls with Parmesan and broccolini over marinara sauce, kale salad, Mobjack Bay oysters, noodle-wrapped shrimp, a beet stack with goat and bleu cheeses, and Portabella pizza (with the mushroom subbing for the crust).
There was enough of a variety of flavors and textures to satisfy all three of us. Cocktails accompanied the meal and a chocolate mousse with toffee bits finished it. We joked about the difference in this pre-show meal compared to what we might have had before a concert in the past, but no one was complaining, either.
We piled tightly into one truck for the trip and, armed with GPS assistance to help us locate the Commons, we eventually found not only the building, but a front row parking space. Walking through the automatic doors though, we were met by a surprisingly small crowd enjoying openers the Amoeba Men. It was striking how few people were there.
When I ran into an acquaintance, I lamented the lack of advertising for this show; a guy passing by agreed heartily and said he'd written to the RTD's music critic to lambast her for not even acknowledging the show. My reaction was, would she even know who Mission of Burma was? That made him laugh, but acknowledge that it was unlikely.
Fortunately, by the time MOB came on, more VCU and city types had arrived, but the crowd was still nowhere near what it should have been. As was to be expected, a fair percentage of the crowd was of an age to have owned Mission of Burma on vinyl. There did seem to be some UR students there; I heard a group discussing Husker Du, so they obviously knew enough to be there (although they were agog when a friend told them that she'd seen Husker Du in '85). The UR crowd could be best summed up in the attire of the student standing in front of us: a yellow popped-collar polo shirt with a flannel-lined hoodie over it. Enough said.
I could complain about the sound op who was clearly out of his league despite precise direction from the band, but I'd rather focus on how enjoyable it was to hear the energy, tape effects and hooks of the band. Their sense of humor and obvious pleasure in what they were doing didn't hurt, either. At one point, they told the audience, "Now more songs to dance at prom to." As if, but it gave the devoted in the audience a chuckle.
An incongruous meal before an unlikely band's performance at an incongruous location...that's the beauty of Richmond on a Friday night.