On Monday night the tenth of July I headed with my dad and a friend to the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, where the Melvins — a trio made up of Roger “King Buzzo” Osborne, Steven Shane MacDonald, and Dale Crover — were scheduled to play. At the time I anticipated the show, but something else had been nagging at me. My love for the Melvins, which peaked between the first semesters of my junior and senior years in high school, was receding a bit, as their albums (Ozma, Lysol, Gluey Porch Treatments, Pigs of the Roman Empire, Bullhead, Stoner Witch, etc.) got less and less rotation; I don’t know why. I simply felt less attracted to the music. And so, on my way to the show, I wondered whether I was going to like it, whether the band would play the good old stuff which Buzz had dismissed in interviews or concentrate on what I thought was their lesser new material, and whether my guests would like it.
I was not disappointed. After a middling group called Spotlights (generic heavy psychedelic metal) and an intermission during which a Brit next to me pointed out Jello Biafra in the crowd, the Melvins came out and proceeded to noise it up for a minute before easing into Flipper’s “Sacrifice”, a(n almost) nostalgic move which delighted and surprised me. The first part of their set, in fact, featured the cream of their early-Nineties output, with songs from Ozma, Lysol, Bullhead and Stoner Witch; this was not one of the hilariously confrontational shows that made them notorious, like their Warfield opening slot for Rush where they played each consecutive song slower than the last, or the Seattle concert where they played a single note (maybe a version of “Hung Bunny”?) for over an hour. Perhaps they had decided to just give the crowds what they want, having recognized the precarious financial situation that abandoning their tiny fanbase could put them in, but I like to think they were reciprocating the crowd’s enthusiasm and attempting to put on a fun show in response.
They played a number of songs I didn’t recognize, which is hardly surprising given that I only own about eight of their thirty-plus albums; most were in the perfectly decent vein of A Senile Animal, with harmonies and pentatonic riffs; I think I like them better now that I’ve seen the show. (The “Death” disc of their recent album, A Walk with Love and Death, refines this approach and really deserves a listen.) By subsequently listening to their new album I managed to identify a couple of its tunes, likely “Sober-delic” and “Euthanasia”.
Three performances caught my particular attention. The first was “The Bit”, which appeared about halfway through the concert and caused me to sway back and forth with my eyes rolling back in my head. (Now THAT was a groove.) The second was “Euthanasia”, which managed to harken back to the cliches of GPT while still being a tuneful rock song — I thoroughly recommend that new album, guys. And the third was a fantastic rendition of “Hung Bunny” that I didn’t even recognize for the first several minutes, so different was it from the Lysol version. That night, instead of including the lengthy guitar-drone passages, the band bashed their instruments between the emphasized notes and made a whole lot of noise until the thudding part, when I finally realized the song’s identity and rocked back and forth with a scrunched blues face until the opening bars of “Roman Bird Dog”, which was similarly glorious.
The show ended after that medley and the spectators poured out into the street. We hailed a ride back to the BART station and went home awed by the performance we had just witnessed. Even my dad loved it.