Mynabirds frontwoman Laura Burhenn’s quiet revolution 

click to enlarge Activism at home: Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds supports making changes for peace and building community, particularly in Omaha. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Activism at home: Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds supports making changes for peace and building community, particularly in Omaha.

Like anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film “Network,” Laura Burhenn is as mad as hell, and she’s not going to take it anymore. Disheartened by today’s greedy, corporate-controlled society, The Mynabirds frontwoman vents about it on her existential new sophomore CD, “Generals,” which she opened with the zenlike koan “Karma Debt.”

“That’s the first question I asked on the album: ‘What is my role as musician? And even if I sing my lungs out about this, is it going to make any difference?’” she says. “That’s where the whole thing starts — is it too late? Maybe it is.”

Tired of cursing the darkness, Burhenn — who brings The Mynabirds to The City this week — wanted to light a few lyrical candles, too.

So she included a crucial optimistic bridge in “Karma Debt” — “I’d give it all for a legacy of love.”

She says, “It was all very personal to me, and it breaks my heart and makes me want to do something. But thankfully, I live in a community in Omaha where I’m surrounded by some really amazing people, who just keep plugging away every day, and it’s so inspiring.”

Burhenn wasn’t content to just make peaceful points on “Generals” protest songs like “Greatest Revenge” and “Mightier Than the Sword.”

Last year, she joined with other change-seeking women in launching the Omaha Girls Rock Camp, which teaches guitar and songwriting classes to kids, and she believes it made an impact and brought the community together.

“Sure, there are larger acts of revolution, and I tend to get myself involved in a lot of those,” says the grassroots activist. “But it’s the neighborly acts of kindness and love that are often the most revolutionary.”

The keyboardist’s old outfit Georgie James had ties to Omaha’s thriving Saddle Creek scene, so naturally she wound up moving there, signing to the imprint, and even joining the touring band of local heroes Bright Eyes.

Living in the plains also reconnected the Blackfeet-descended Burhenn with her Native American heritage, which colors the songs “Wolf Mother” and “Buffalo Flower.” “Being close to where that tribe has been located historically really made me think in those terms — there are a lot of magical animals on the record, because I wanted it to feel very primal,” she says.

Additionally, The Mynabird studied the work of Naomi Wolf, Gloria Steinem and legendary abolitionist and women’s rights pioneer Sojourner Truth.

She learned a valuable lesson in the process. “It’s not about shouting in the streets,” she says. “It’s more about feeling empowered within yourself — that’s a big part of being able to be a revolutionary.”


The Mynabirds

Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., S.F.

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $10 to $12

(415) 861-5016;

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Tom Lanham

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