The Melvins with Big Business

Thursday, 07 December 2006

Sometimes there are bands you’ve heard mentioned a million times, but you’re just not sure who they are. When I told people I was going to see The Melvins, most people looked at me, nodded and said, “Ah, yeah, The Melvins…” with no rhetoric to follow. The band definitely has name recognition, but not without a lack of fans. The show at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa was reportedly the first-ever online sell-out in the venue’s history as the top indie-rock venue in the county. Then, during the show, rumors of tickets selling for $150 a pop were flowing like an agitated menstrual cycle. All it said to me was, people have been waiting a long, long time to see this band live.

The show featured a line-up of four bands: Altamont, Porn, Big Business and The Melvins. The incestuousness of these bands’ members would be deemed illegal in 10 states. It’s hard to really get into who’s in what band, but let’s just say it involved a certain drummer from one band dressed as Elvis and another singer dressed as Santa, a sound guy, a few other dudes, and let’s not forget the Japanese guy who looked like Evel Knievel’s stunt double, doing the robot on stage next to a guitarist using an electric mandolin to play his guitar. As amazing as it was, it’s damn near impossible to describe.

A little after midnight, the band I’ve been desperately waiting to see since I picked up 2005’s Head For the Shallow finally came on stage. Watching drummer Coady Willis and bassist/lead singer Jared Warren walk out, sporting interestingly large wigs, with wigged-posse in tow, basically said, “We’re gonna have some fucking fun right about now.” They played a flawless set, as Warren’s bass sounded like a growling beast hiding in a cave and Willis’ drums made you duck as you thought you were in the middle of a war zone. Their set included songs from their debut record like “Off Off Broadway” and “O.G.,” which sounded more blistering and powerful than the record. It’s insane to think that all that racket comes from two guys. Let it be known that while there are two guys on stage, it comprises of half of The Melvins’ current line-up. On the fourth song of the Big Business set, Buzz Osborne hops on stage and accompanies his friends on lead guitar. They start off with “Easter Romantic,” which has a lead guitar part and back-up vocals, so it’s nice that they got a pal to help out. In the middle of a long, droney, rumbling break-down, Osborne and Warren entered a dueling call and response vocal-line of “Meka-leka hi, Meka-leka hi” that was freakishly entertaining. After six powerful and mesmerizing songs, the Big Business set was done—luckily for us it was sans musical fissure.

The final member of The Melvins, drummer Dale Crover, jumped on stage behind what appeared to be two drum sets fused together like an Erector Set project gone wrong, then put on one of those Janet Jackson head-set mics and yelled, “Give me a beat I can take my pants off to,” and that was when the crowd began to pulsate. Now the foursome that recorded their fall release A Senile Animal was in full effect, playing a majority of the songs from the new album, like blood curdling cuts “Rat Faced,” “A History of Bad Men” and “Blood Witch.” By this time the venue was reaching oven-like temperatures, so the wigs were finally coming off, only to reveal Willis’ fashion-forward pom-pom hairdo, which seemed to keep him cool. Unfortunately Buzz’ hair is real, and couldn’t exactly remove the giant afro that would make Side Show Bob jealous.

The show’s peak moment occurred when the band played “Hooch” off of 1993’s break-out album Houdini. It was at this moment the old school fans chimed in and all you could see were a few hundred fans mouthing the words, like it was the moment they’ve been waiting for since they were in high school. The energy was at peak levels the entire night, and why not since it was the closing date of the tour. So what if a few teeth were chipped? So what if the crowd got a little unruly and had to get escorted out by security? Most of these incidents went virtually unnoticed, as the crowd was fixated on greatness, on a band that helped define a generation and influence the bands that would influence the generation after theirs. There was respect and it was great to be a part of it. Now if only I could explain why there was a guy in a monkey mask dragging band members off stage, perhaps the night would make more sense.


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