The Melvins Plow Through Slims, 8/22/13
The Melvins' dual-drum assault at Slim's last night. Photos by the author.
Thursdsay, Aug.22, 2013
Better than: Led Zeppelin cover bands... and occasionally, the real thing.
After Melvins parted ways with their last full-time bassist Kevin Rutmanis, drummer Dale Crover and guitarist Buzz Osborne (the only original Melvin remaining) did what any self-respecting, over-the-hill divorced dad does: forsake marriage, start dating, and go young. From the mid-aughts onward, the Melvins have been resolutely polygamous with their rhythm section, sometimes opting for polymath Trevor Dunn (Fantômas, John Zorn), and other times preferring their nuclear option: subsuming the entirety of bass/drum duo Big Business (drummer Coady Willis, bassist/vocalist Jarred Warren) into their fold.
The results of the latter, as evidenced by the band's seminal recording, A Senile Animal, are nigh-on elephantine. Warren's and Osborne's melodic shouts match well, while Willis and Crover synchronize, playing in near-unison throughout. The Melvins are presently touring with said nuclear option in honor of their 30th anniversary as a band, performing in front of a sold-out crowd tonight at Slim's. Despite the forest of impassable dudes inside (I'm tryin' to take a picture here!), tonight promises much and delivers on that promise frequently.
I miss openers Honky (interesting to name yourselves after a Melvins album) but I'm told by a bartender they were "actually pretty good." As it turns out, they're actually mostly Melvins, led by bass alum Jeff Pinkus and featuring Mr. Crover (filling in?) on drums.
No matter. Gravity in the room alters from excitement and sheer volume as the Melvins interrupt Black Sabbath on the PA (there's some symbolism there, for sure). Before a proper song begins, a man is escorted out, dazed and clearly having just vomited -- this bodes well. The show begins with the Willis/Crover double-drum synchronization over Osborne's tweeter-ripping drone. They borrowed Honky's wizened bassist, as Jared Warren was inexplicably absent.
But then, nothing is explained tonight; it seemingly conflicts with the Melvins creed. They don't break. They don't banter. The drummers solo between songs as though they'd been slacking. Osborne has the energy of a man half his age and more charisma and general rawk swagger than most of the humorless sludge-metal bands he inspired. Classics like "Let It All Be" and "Night Goat" elicit the biggest response, but the crowd laps up all of it tonight.
It's hard to consider rock 'n' roll a young man's game after watching Melvins give their all, something they do and have done consistently for three decades, without druggy dramas, primadonna attitudes, and nary a phoned-in release in their collection. Of course, they never experienced the meteoric rise to fame so many of their peers had. But then there's something in the DNA of their music that's repellant to that kind of fame-seeking trajectory. Even when the Melvins play a resolutely poppy tune like "Evil New War God" -- which plays like a football fight song composed by glam rockers Sweet -- one can't imagine them getting that kind of break. Not in a million years. And one can't imagine them wanting it any other way.
Overheard: (Dude with ponytail, into his phone): "Can we inject some sanity into this?"
A young man wearing a sweatshirt with percussionist and Mills College professor William Winant's visage on it shows the sweater to security, asking if he's seen this man, "But about 10 or 15 years older than in this picture?" Security hasn't.
Matt Pike of High on Fire was spotted rocking out stage-side -- by the guitars, of course, Buzz acolyte that he is.