Geronimo and Burmese : At the Hemlock, SF, CA, 4/5/09 By Federico

May 17, 2009

Yesterday, my friend let me know that this band Burmese was going to play at Hemlock ( His band has played with them many a time and he’s a big fan, so he thought we ought to go check it out. Then he casually mentioned that he heard from one of them that they were going to play a whole Circle Jerks album. What?! I got excited, and wanted to know right away if it was going to be Group Sex, one of the best punk albums ever. There, I’ve said it. I won’t take it back!

My friend kind of missed the Circle Jerks, so he didn’t know what all my hubbub was about. He investigated for me, however, and then confirmed that it was indeed Group Sex they were going to play. Oh boy. I got more excited. I mean it’s not like it was the actual Circle Jerks, but still. I was a bit too young to have caught them on the Group Sex tour, so I was happy to check this out. But I get ahead of myself.

Two other bands were playing with Burmese: The Human Quena Orchestra and Geronimo. We missed Human Quena, and got there when Geronimo ( was on. Let me tell you, it was loud. It wasn’t very crowded in the bar, but the jukebox was playing, and the sound of Geronimo coming from the back just totally overwhelmed it. It seemed necessary to go and have a peek.

We went in and I totally loved the song they were playing. It was heavy. The drummer was hitting his kit like a motherfucker. It was very minimal, and almost trance-y in a metal or experimental kind of way. The beat went 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 for ages and ages, for a little while the drummer was counting it out, every beat he was killing it. Seriously. I cannot emphasize this enough! The bass was super loud and sounded like Jaws. There were suitcases of electronic devices that one of the band members manipulated in a way that perfectly complimented the driving bass and drums, electronic feedback, and screeching and broken typewriters. There weren’t a lot of vocals, but when there were, they were relatively (to me) indecipherable. One could make comparisons to a very heavy Ministry (although the real drums and bass made it sound a lot more, well, real), with a little 400 Blows thrown in for good measure.

The second song, probably longer than the first one we heard (I’m talking about fifteen minutes or something, they made time) was slower and more menacing and scary. It was even more spare and sludgey, and required more investment. I liked the beat of the first song better, but regardless, I thought they were excellent. A very pleasant surprise.  

Next came Burmese ( I feel like maybe I have seen them before, but I’m not positive - I think I’d remember more concretely, because they seem pretty fucking excellent. I can’t really say for sure, though, because they did play Group Sex, and that’s all they played. So I didn’t get to hear what they really sound like themselves.

One thing about Burmese is that they have two drummers. Have I mentioned before that I love two drummers? I’m pretty sure I have. Have I mentioned that Group Sex songs played with two awesome drummers is totally fantastic? I don’t think so. But guess what? It is. You better believe it.

One thing that was cool is that the only people on the stage were the drummers. The singer, guitarist, and bassist were on the floor, and I liked that. It was cozy. Also, they left a big light on. It kind of reminded me of seeing punk shows when I was a kid, like a matinee show in a church basement or veteran’s hall or something like that. It was a good color.

So they went right into it, and they did an amazing job. They killed it, they really did. It was totally fun and they brought some intensity that made me imagine wistfully how amazing Circle Jerks must have been circa 1980 (although the wistfulness happened after the show - during the show I was too busy rocking out, as they say). They have a female singer and she was excellent. She was totally tough and right on. You have to be when you’re singing about having the world up your ass, you know what I mean? I certainly was utterly nonplussed that a female singer was covering songs that a male singer originally sang, and I have a feeling that those in the back did not even realize that she wasn’t a dude. The drummers sometimes took turns playing some of the parts and it made me realize what a fucking excellent drummer Lucky Lehrer was. That was only one guy doing that on the record, you cheaters! But really, the drummers were great, and the guitarist and bassist were also totally excellent. I loved the sound, it was perfect. I gush!

The songs were fast as hell and even shorter. They played every song on the album and I think the whole set barely topped half an hour.

I emerged from the back room grinning and elated. Thank you, Burmese.