Melvins at Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT, on July 30th, 2013
Melvins booked across the states this summer with their 30th Anniversary Tour. The lineup of the manifold outfit, this time around, featured King Buzzo on guitar and larynx, Dale Crover on drums, accompanied by second drummer Coady Willis, of Big Business and White Shit, and ex-Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus on bass. Jeff Pinkus was filling in for Jared Warren, Willis’ bandmate from Big Business.
Pinkus’ group Honky opened for the Melvins, providing a well-executed manifestation of Texas founded American metal groove. The vibe survived for the Melvins’ act to follow, for their set, listed below, left nothing to be desired. The 300+ crowd crammed into the tavern was hypnotized and hormonal minutes into the first song. The opener was “Hag Me”, from the relative blockbuster album Houdini. No song might have brought the pit into a colder kinetic daze more quickly; the oppressively shattered riff, the howling vocals that the song so proudly boasts. The tidal effect of the music was upon us, and the pit was buzzing, awakening from the pre-show slumber. “Hag Me” is one of the most defining vocal achievements of Buzz’s career; as slow and desperate as it comes. The song beset the club in all of its deconstructed glory. The atmosphere had moved in, and Buzz prophesied the plague with a punch.
Following the classically executed opening, it was now apparent that there would be no such thing as a break between numbers. The concert followed as a cohesive, wound-down wonder of sludge creation. The main event of the show, after Buzz had had his moment requesting to be “Hagged” (whatever the connotation of that may be), was surely the double drummers. While Dale and Coady certainly contributed to the metronome-defying dirge of the first number, it was the rest of the show that would allow them the escalating apotheosis that had already ossified in the minds of the fans. Syncopated drum intros to each song, and kit solo takedowns toward their completion. The two drummers, one, providing the audience the entertainment of their energetic visual cues and unique onslaught of their instruments. All eyes were routed on center stage, the audience only attending to the rest of the act with the secondary audio equipment on the sides of their heads. Play proceeded most gratifyingly, and in the indiscernible wash issued from the speakers, “Sweet Willy Rollbar” suddenly rode forth, true to the under-the-hood rush that the album version promises. At some point a second mike was pressed against the bulk of Buzz’s speaker, positioned and immediately inundated in a sea of fuzz, filling the venue once again with its promised commodity.
The intimate Arch Street Tavern itself served the crowd wonderfully. A couch ran the perimeter of the modest stage, and at points various audience members could be witnessed on top of it, whipping their heads to the rhythm. In true club fashion, the stage revealed itself to be inappropriately short, for I ended up hurled on top of it a handful of times throughout the show. A veritable orgy of anger befell the audience from the less respectful concert-goers at intervals throughout the show, an exacerbated and more potent form of the steady wave motion with which the show had started. The choruses to “Lizzy” were especially brutal, interspersed among the detached verses characteristic of the song. Aside from the irratatingly aggressive teenagers, the audience demographic was primarily older, more conditioned, and willing to lift up a friend that had fallen into the center of the crowd during any one of the unforgiving musical moments.
“You’re Blessened” was one of the most chilling moments of the entire show. The vocals transcended the track, slicing in with live emphasis on top of their base desolation. “The Water Glass” was a treat; an expertly-executed drumming kickoff, followed by the engaging and energetically random call and response. Really, such descriptions could come from each number of the set, which was executed in such a way that no recorded material could ever provide. Buzz’s wild crown of weathered curls was thrown to and fro without regard. Coady’s white spaceman jumpsuit must have increased its mass in sweat twofold throughout his dynamically percussive playing. Eventually, the show concluded with a doubled drum solo, executed on a nearly deserted stage. Sampled cymbal crashes put the crowd into a silent trance, and the slow conclusion elicited silence and respect. The Melvins spared no one in their indulged performance; and for this a few paragraphs may rightfully perish to adjectives and imagery.
We Are Doomed
War on Wisdom
Sweet Willy Rollbar
A Growing Disgust
Let It All Be
The Water Glass
Evil New War God
Roman Dog Bird
Lysol (Butthole Surfers’ cover)