By Avinash Mittur
April 13th 2012, The Troubadour, Los Angeles CA: The Melvins is a band that I have consistently taken for granted when it comes to their live performances. This band has been on tour nearly non-stop over the past few years, and I couldn’t even count the number of times they have stopped by my area. For the first time, I finally took the chance to see the band live, and I was certainly not disappointed. This may not have been a mind blowing concert to end all concerts, but it was a good deal of fun, and it was certainly worth the twenty dollars most people paid for their ticket.
One thing I immediately loved about this show was the short bill. Where far too many metal concerts attempt to attract more fans with wildly different acts on one bill, this show truly succeeded because of its small number of bands, only Unsane and the Melvins. The fact that show was sold out weeks in advance is even more evidence that this concert didn’t need a ludicrously large lineup in order to get people in the door.
Unsane, was a great choice to start the show and started the night off with 45 minutes of their unique blend of hardcore punk, noise rock and sludge metal. The band’s music is definitely different than that of the Melvins, but they are still similar enough that fans of one band could enjoy the other. In short, this made for a great bill filled with music that the whole audience could enjoy. Chris Spencer, the vocalist and guitar player for the trio, weaved intricate lines and arpeggios about Dave Curran’s thunderous bass while managing to shout his lungs out for their songs. The two drummers for the Melvins, Dale Crover and Coady Willis ably filled in for an ailing Vinnie Signorelli. Unsane had a good level of energy, especially since they barely had any room onstage to move, and their set was a good primer for what was to come. For fans who grew up listening to 90s sludge and hardcore, Unsane’s set was a wonderful throwback to the past, and for all in attendance, a great compliment to the Melvins’ upcoming performance.
It’s worth noting that the sound tonight was very good, if extremely loud. The mix was clear the entire time, and I had no trouble picking out any instrument during both sets. The volume was definitely a bit much, but earplugs easily remedied that issue.
After a short wait, Dale and Coady took the stage to begin a cool drum jam. Their dual drumming was an integral part of the entire set, and added a truly unique element to this show. Guitarist Buzz Osborne and bassist Jared Warren soon joined them and the band slowly went into Dog Island after a small dose of feedback and noise. The band then returned to one of their many classic albums from the 90s, Lysol, with a medley of the Hung Bunny and Roman Dog Bird. The rest of the set was mainly focused on the recent material Dale and Buzz have recorded with Coady and Jared. Nearly every song featured extended solos from Buzz and washes of feedback to both introduce and end the track. Much to my surprise, Dale and Coady’s dual drumming was a pure delight to listen to and added a truly unique element to the Melvins’ set. The sheer precision and tightness with which they played was stunning, and the bottom end sounded monstrous with the two and Jared providing it. In addition, Dale and Coady would usually have a quick drum jam in between songs. This was a great way to keep the audience engaged while Buzz and Jared retuned their instruments, and kept the downtime to a minimum.
The Melvins have been noted for their eclectic covers over the years, and the Troubadour was treated to their version of the Wipers’ Youth of America this night. For me, this was the absolute highlight of the night. Buzz’s mammoth riffs drove the song forward, while Dale and Coady’s titanic fills punctuated the end of every section. Buzz was a manic presence onstage compared to the more subdued Jared; even though he had only a few feet of room to move about, Buzz was always in motion and made sure to get up in front of the fans in the front when he soloed. When it came to the vocals, everyone turned in fine performances, and the many times that all the band members sung together were great to hear.
After showing off a new track, A Growing Disgust, off of their upcoming record Freak Puke, the Melvins played their recent EP, The Bulls & the Bees, in its entirety. For fans of the EP this was a neat part of the show, but dropping a couple of those tracks for older classics would have resulted in a more balanced setlist. Buzz and company threw their more old-school fans a bone by ending the set with The Bit. Buzz then left the stage, while Jared, Dale and Coady finished off the night with a cacophony of cymbal crashes and bass feedback. The Melvins gave a solid 90 minute set that managed to give their fans their money’s worth. For only twenty dollars this was easily a show worth attending. In fact, I actually have zero complaints about this show. There were no sound issues, no unprofessional shenanigans from the bands, and the audience was given appropriately long sets. It may not have been one where I walked out reeling from what an amazing time I had, but it was still a great way to kill a Friday night.