Mudhoney / Melvins w/ Flipper – [Live]

Sunday, 23 September 2007

When I heard that Flipper was playing in Los Angeles I didn’t think it could be true. When I told my other friends who also grew up listening to this band, they didn’t believe it either. Not much has been heard in Los Angeles from Flipper at all. Ever. They hail from San Francisco and usually headed north, east or even overseas, but rarely just a few hours south. The Music Box theatre isn’t a venue you would expect to see Flipper in, either. Being a historic theatre that was renovated into a music venue, it has a size to it that just didn’t seem Flipper appropriate, even in their heyday. Despite the large size of the venue, being the opening band and relatively obscure to younger generations Flipper managed to win the crowd in the end.

Flipper started the set with “Ha Ha Ha” from 1988’s Sex Bomb Baby. This version was exactly what Flipper fans love about Flipper—noisy, dissonant and in your face. Ted Falconi broke a string on that very first song, which was difficult to tell as he stays back in his corner most of the time. During the string-change, singer Bruce Loose entertained the audience by talking about everything from garbage (pieces of tape and paper) on the stage being a workplace hazard to the responsiveness of the crowd to a possible bass solo, while pacing back and forth along the front of the stage. While the crowd was entertained by Loose, the sound of bass distortion bombinated simultaneously. On bass, Krist Novoselic looked less enthusiastic than in his acoustic MTV Nirvana performance. It was somewhat surprising as he has stated in various interviews how much he/Nirvana was influenced by Flipper. I imagine he and the rest of the grunge world were, and I suppose if I was playing with a band as cool as Flipper I’d try to look cool too. Drummer Steve DePace added to the slow drone that is a part of most Flipper songs. The sound in the venue was surprisingly good, although not nearly as loud as the later bands. Overall, they played a lot of new tunes (anticipated new album, fall 2007!) as well as another old favorite, “Sacrifice,” a song usually heard being covered by the Melvins. This 30-minute set was so quick that the crowd didn’t begin a proper pit until the eighth and very last song where everyone was told to “Dance!” And they did, Flipper style.

After a short break, the Melvins hit the stage to officially kick off L.A.’s edition of the Don’t Look Back Concert series. First, allow me to state the obvious: Buzz Osbourne's hair is always the first thing to notice at a Melvins show. It's as signature to the band as their precise, hard-hitting and flawless performance. But as I shifted focus from the curly crown of hair that can only be worn with such style for so many years by the mighty King Buzzo, I see two drummers. Two drummers, center stage, both looking like they are keeping up with eachother in a friendly competition of who can have the coolest pieces in their respective drum kits. This is a huge change in dynamic for this band since I last saw them at a 2001 show at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit. In the last year, Buzz and long-time drummer Dale Crover joined up with Big Business drummer Coady Willis and singer/bassist Jared Warren. I knew of this recent union, but actually seeing it on stage in front of me gave me a new feeling of excitement to see how the whole show would play out.

As the curtain rose, the sound of the ominous distorted guitar hum of "Hag Me" rang through the place. The band's setlist consisted of all the tracks off of the classic, ever-popular album Houdini. Obviously, with "Hag me" as their first track of the night, they are not playing all the tracks in order. Doesn't matter. This is a perfect choice for an intro. As the sludgy (dare I say grungy?) chords slowly changed and crept in, Crover and Willis started to pound on the toms in unison with the same slow intensity. Buzzo wailed away with the familiar lyrics to the track, followed up by the drums progressing into what sounded like an aggressive army march. Then it all stopped. A brief pause…and then after about 30 seconds of a total fury of pounding, crunching and basic overall craziness (all in perfect timing), I think that this could only be a continuation of a great intro into something even better. I thought right.

A brief silence, then the chugging of Buzzo's guitar. "Los ticka toe rest. Might likea sender doe ree." That's right, the first track off of Houdini, "Hooch." This is probably my favorite song consisting of lyrics that are complete and total gibberish. I notice that the energy and movement in the crowd is starting to pick up. I proceeded to down the last swallow of beer in my glass, chuck the empty cup in the nearest trashcan, and throw a fist into the air. As I do this, it was funny to see the clouds of pot smoke billowing up from the crowd. Beer cups were flying through the air, and I knew that security at the Music Box would no doubt be busy for the rest of the night. People were going absolutely, totally nuts. They play this track flawlessly, to then lead into the rest of the tracks from Houdini.

They introduce "Night Goat" with a droning hum, and Crover banging on the gong placed behind his drum kit. Crover and Willis start playing in robotic unison on just the cymbals, then the toms. The placement of the two drummers on stage, and the fact that one is right-handed and the other is left-handed makes their whole performance seem like they are a mirror image of one another. They are playing in perfect time with each other. On top of all this, they’re occasionally juggling sticks with each other, WHILE they are playing. Amazing. Progressing through "Night Goat," I see about half the crowd raise a hand in the air as Buzz growls and screams through the chorus: "Like a hog dance, Like a pig dare, Mind warp deceptor wan!" To follow this is "Lizzy," staying with the track order of the original album. I get the feeling everyone appreciates this, since we are all so used to hearing the tracks in this order. Nostalgia is definitely a big part of how we all expect to hear the tracks played, so it is great to hear these two tracks back-to back. Before they go into the next track, we hear drum-machine clapping that makes me think of to "Pearl Bomb"(?), but this is brief and then leads into "Joan of Arc." They play this track slow, lurching, heavy… as perfectly as I remember it. After this, some creepy noises, and what sounds like screeching of small animals?? I don't recall this from the original recording, but welcome it as a perfectly weird addition/intermission. The rest of the set consisted of "Set Me Straight," "Teet" and then finally, "Goin' Blind" which is what I expected as the last track to their set. Well done.

But wait… I forgot about "Spread Eagle Beagle." The last track of Houdini is really something that you would not expect to hear performed on stage. It is the weirdest, most warped drum-solo track that you could ever imagine. Crover and Willis were left alone on stage and brought together a dual-effort drum solo that was not so weird, not warped, but something that drove everyone in the crowd to the point of pure adolescent nuttiness. More beer cups flying, more pot smoke clouds, more mayhem. I think that everyone was expecting Buzzo to come back out, but this never happened. When they finally finish after many many many minutes of drum drum drum, Crover and Willlis both launch their sticks off of their cymbals into the crowd at the exact same moment. Brilliant.

A short smoke break on the roof of the Music Box and then right back on the floor for Mudhoney….

There is something that I love, that I think was adopted from the early 80s punk scene: bands that hit the stage and immediately go into their set. No "Hey, how's everyone doing tonight?" bullshit. None of that. Mudhoney got on stage, strapped on their instruments and immediately went into "Touch Me I'm Sick," the first track off Superfuzz Big Muff. They performed all the tracks from this album, but like the Melvins, not in the same order as the original recording. They did it with such conviction that I knew the rest of the set was going to be hot. This is a nice throwback to the early 90s. The nasally, crackly wail of Mark Arm's vocals are reminiscent of the so-called "Seattle Sound" that was such a huge thing back then. Don't get me wrong, I loved that era of music. I just think that the media made it so that certain "scene" was dominated by one certain band (or maybe two). It's really great to now rediscover Superfuzz Big Muff. It makes me realize that me, and all of my friends, invested way too much in Nevermind and Badmotorfinger (again, don't take that the wrong way, those are both great albums).

Mark Arm kept switching his guitar out every other song. He went back and forth between a brown one (maybe a Les Paul?) and a silvery one. Anyway, I think it was the brown one that he used to play "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More." Fucking great. He uses a finger slide on this one, which this song needs to really express the dirty, sexual nature of the lyrical content. he he, he he. Next comes "Need." Wow. Then "Mudride." At this point, I realize that they have split up their smash hits! The first five songs of Superfuzz Big Muff are comprised of five of Mudhoney's most-played songs, ever. And we've only heard two. Next was "If I think" then well… you know what. We wanna be free. We wanna ride our machines and not get hassled by the man! We wanna get loaded! "In 'n’ Out of Grace," Super good. "Jesus take me to a higher plaaaace!" This is followed up by a complete and total psychedelic guitar freak-out, which reminds me more of a shoegaze Jesus and Mary Chain or Ride style of music rather than these guys. But hey, it was well executed and it sounded great. Up next, "Halloween." A song that weighs in at over 6 minutes, this is an epic for these guys. Then, the three songs that I expected were split off from the beginning of Superfuzz and saved for last: "Burn it Clean," "You Got It (Keep It Out of My Face)," and "Hate the Police." Man, you really can't expect more than that, but then Mudhoney came out for an encore. Mark Arm led into the encore by saying something like "This is the future…we've already done the old shit."

The encore consisted of three songs…plus one. The last one was a surprise, so I will not tell you until the end. The first three Mudhoney songs were "The Money Will Roll Right In," two songs I don't actually recognize, and then comes the surprise. Keith Morris! Mark Arm introduces Keith Morris (of Black Flag/Circle Jerks) to the stage to rip though a fast-paced cover of Black Flag's "Fix Me." Keith looked great (albeit crusty as hell with his long-ass dreadlocks), and I'm glad to see that my brutha is still alive after all these crazy years. Hey, cheers to REAL fuckin' punk rock, my friends!

For more on Don’t Look Back, click here:

For more on Flipper, click here:

For more on Melvins, click here:

For more on Mudhoney, click here:

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