The Melvins showcased their newest wares last Wednesday to an enthusiastic Velvet Jones crowd as they ignited their latest tour with a set that was every bit as explosive as lead singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne’s hair.
Playing several tracks off their new release, Nude With Boots, Osborne, the golden toga-clad bassist Jared Warren, and both drummers-that’s right, there were two of them-Dale Crover and Coady Willis, shook listeners with a thunderous sound. That is, until one unruly fan took a nostalgic stage dive and unplugged Warren’s bass, bringing the performance to what an enraged Warren called “a screeching halt.” But the Melvins haven’t been around for 25 years because they let clueless people ruin their gigs, so after giving the interloper a public dressing-down, they soldiered on, unfazed by the interruption. The Melvins aren’t much for conversation in between songs, so the snafu served as the band’s only interaction with the crowd-and the only lull in the rapid-fire set.
Songs like “The Kicking Machine” carried the legacy of the Melvins’ technical wizardry and Gregorian chant-like harmonies, while “Suicide in Progress” moved from a thrashing tumult of an introduction to a melodic and almost enchanting close. The new offerings found a welcome reception on the floor and even die-hard fans were forced to abandon their disdain for all things new and bang their heads in approval.
In addition to tracks off the new album, the band also covered The Who’s “My Generation” and graced the audience with their rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” reminding fans why they were asked to perform at the ever politically irreverent Jello Biafra’s fiftieth birthday.
Osborne’s characteristic combination of powerful guitar and guttural singing was unhindered by the large black frock he donned for the evening. Looking like the high priest for some obscure pagan sect, Osborne led his flock through a brooding and invigorating ritual while the rest of the Melvins provided the musical accompaniment. At one point Osborne even seemed to be orchestrating the two ferocious beasts behind the drums as they pummeled their way through a complicated percussion solo.
While the Melvins are a band that easily defies classification, genres like sludge, grunge, and stoner rock have been hotly debated for years. While you won’t find the Melvins participating in any of these discussions, their performance at Velvet Jones-and the calculated fury that is Nude With Boots-show that “heavy” is the preferred nomenclature.