A crisp evening in Cream City provided a fantastic background to a busy night at the famed Rave/Eagles Ballroom. The line of fans waiting to enter the facility was a generational mix of people. Young and old came to see The Melvins do what they do best, grind. The performance being held in the Rave2 room of the venue provided a bit more of an intimate feel. It is located on the basement level and is a transformed bowling alley. All that is left is the hardwood floors. The amount of legendary acts that have shaken those floorboards is countless. The Melvins once again added their storied name to the list.
The Melvins remain arguably one of the greatest sludge, grind, metal, or whatever genre you want to put them in artists. The cohesiveness they have managed to hold on to has sustained them over the last 30 years. Musically, they touch and experiment bending their hardened metal sound every album out. One thing you can absolutely bank on is the quality of their material. This tour is labeled Twins of Terror. With tourmates Boris on the bill you knew entering through those huge wooden doors you were in store for perfection personified. Buzz Osbourne or King Buzzo to most, represents the noise and sludge community in all of its glory. With his writing style being unconventional compared to radio-driven standards the songs build and layer on top of themselves allowing one to let it sink in. As with tradition, Buzz has his right set up like he always has using his ‘79 Sunn Beta solid-state amplifier, which is a gem and extremely rare in the world of touring musicians. Most use tubed amplifiers. His cabinets and pedals are placed in the same position almost religiously. Buzz often checks his tuning and sound rocking from his custom Empress cabinets armed with 15” and 12” speakers. Being such a music junkie his precision is a huge advantage as an audience member. Instinctually knowing you will have the best experience sonically only heightens the performance. Even the way he maniacally waves his hair around or slings his aluminum guitar head around while performing is a long-time patented move. Everything he does screams full effort. His fellow cornerstone Dale Crover unfortunately was unable to perform on this run of dates while he recovered from spinal surgery. His ability to control the tempo was sorely missed, but Coady Willis of High on Fire fame filled in. His energy was felt with every snap of his stick. Powerful blasts pushed the groups playing. He slid right in and met every demand of the position. On stage left, Steven Shane McDonald’s tall lanky physique towered over the crowd. Dressed in a red suit he visually grabbed one eye while delivering the low-end shakes of his bass strums. His engagement with the audience up front was fun and rather playful. He was there to put on a show.
As a whole, they haven’t changed much at all and that is about as reassuring as it gets. They know their audience and they know their material. They do not care if you want to hear their most popular tunes. They are going to give you what they want to perform and what you really need to hear. This tour The Melvins paid homage to their 1991 release Bullhead. After 30+ years the material was still experimentally fresh every track performed was nailed note for note. The feel of the album’s straightforward chugging and wall of noise felt like a precursor to many of the larger acts you see today. Hearing it being performed nearly in its entirety was an adrenaline rush in and of itself. Glimpses of Buzz smiling in between continuing and haunting vocals often ended with his timeless grimace before riffing his way out of songs. Perhaps most notable on the opening track of the evening Ligature. Tucked behind the stage speaker a couple of the members of Boris watched and head banged along. It was unique since the track Boris is where the Japanese rocker got their name from. The Melvins also closed their set with the song. Of note later on Boris themselves covered the track to close out the evening. Nothing against the band Boris, but the old saying that nothing is better than the original rang ever so true. The most up-tempo and crowd-moving song of the evening It Shoved was a quick tutorial on the vast range of metal capabilities. Hearing the album in its almost entirety was an amazing thing to have witnessed. Albums that are huge within an artist’s discography will always be revered by its fan base. The Melvins are no different. This album set the tone for their entire history of work. Despite that, the eager audience also got to see easy setlist write-ins Honey Bucket and Night Goat off of their most popular album Houdini.
When I was standing in line waiting to enter the venue a fellow patron said to me, “I just want to vibe out and let the music carry me tonight.” In all honesty that sentiment is the perfect way to describe The Melvins experience. They are always fundamentally sound and a well-oiled machine that continuously keeps turning out absolute rippers of songs. King Buzzo and company handle that experience with care live. The timing and structure of the setlist always complement one another. They do not talk much in between songs. They are there to perform and punch you in the mouth because that is what they are best at. In the rare instance they spend time on the microphone the commentary is about the music or thanking the crowd. The goal is always performance-based. That reason alone is why The Melvins will always be a band to never miss when they come to town.
2. Your Blessened
3. It’s Shoved
7. A History of Bad Men
8. Honey Bucket
10. Night Goat