Melvins, Honky Warehouse Live Studio August 8, 2013
Kind of feels like the Melvins have been around forever, doesn't it? There's just something primordial about the band's sludgy, signature sound. But it's actually only been 30 years now since the weird, noisy little Washington rock group began showing everybody exactly how much was achievable with high dosages of ambition and distortion.
King Buzzo and company could never sit still long enough to break up, so the Melvins never got a shot at the big reunion tour. Instead, it was a trek celebrating three contiguous decades of crushing riffs and crashing cymbals that rolled through Warehouse Live on Thursday, and the band's cult of fans turned out in numbers to witness the deafening spectacle.
The crowd's eardrums were warmed up thoroughly by Honky, the Austin superboogie power-trio that last played Warehouse Live in support of Down. On Thursday, their bottom-heavy tunes about hard luck and easy livin' were anchored by the Melvin's Dale Crover on drums. Crover's playing has always reminded me a little of Alex Van Halen, and while I'm not sure either guy would appreciate the comparison, his driving style on the skins was a great fit with Honky's high-octane riffing.
Crover wouldn't be the only one pulling double duty with the openers. Honky bassist Jeff Pinkus, much admired for his time with the Butthole Surfers, is filling in on the four-string for the Melvins this tour. Their regular bassist, Jared Warren, is at home awaiting the birth of a new child.
Halfway through their first song of the night together -- the crushing "Hag Me" -- it was clear that if Pinkus ain't quite an official Melvin, he's at least kin. A longtime friend of the band, the bassist had no problem slipping right into the Melvins' peculiar sonic palette. In fact, it was a little hard to believe he'd ever not been in the band.
Much the same could be said for drummer Coady Willis. When I heard the Melvins had added a second drummer to their lineup, I wondered where they would find the space in their songs for twice the percussion. After all, how many cymbal crashes does one band really need? Having now seen Willis in action alongside Crover, though, it seems bizarre that the Melvins were ever content with just a single drummer.
Throughout the set, Willis and Crover bashed away in perfect synchronicity, backing Buzz's rumbling guitar with all the fury of an entire Nick Cannon drumline. Osborne, sporting the attire of an alien praise and worship leader, generated wave after wave of hard, smogged-out grooves that had fans rocking and quaking, shaking their fists at the exposed ductwork.
But the Melvins' loyal audience was hardly given a chance to clap and cheer. There were no proclamations between songs, no "how ya doin,' Houston." The Melvins prefer drums to applause and squalling guitar noise to silence. The band arrives at every gig ready to wear out your entire family, and they've still got all the passion and aggression they need to pummel even the most jaded rock fans either into an orgiastic freakout or simple, broken submission.
The Melvins never stopped to catch their breath through an hour and a half of material culled from the past 30 years. The huge, blocky riffs on songs like "Night Goat" and "Roman Bird Dog" were so stony they could have been used to build the pyramids. The titanic drum duet that finally brought the band's time onstage to a close sounded like the hammers of a thousand masons crafting an unassailable temple to rock and roll weirdness.
But of course the Melvins weren't really done. If there's anything that the last 30 years and 20 albums have proven, it's that the Melvins are never done. They are everlasting. There will always be another tour, another record, and soon. They'll be back at it tomorrow night, and the night after that, pounding away forever the way they've always done.
Happy anniversary, gents. Stay loud.
Personal Bias: Not stoned.
The Crowd: White thirtysomethings.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Oh SHIT, I lost an earplug!"
Random Notebook Dump: Very nice weeknight crowd in the Warehouse Live Studio.
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