Sledge metal legends The Melvins rocked the audience weary at One Eyed Jacks
Thrashing drums, thumping bass, crazy eyes, bubble-bath hair. The Melvins surely lived up to their reputation Wednesday night at One Eyed Jacks. Although they released their first album in the late '80s, The Melvins charisma and innovated sound has not rusted in the slightest. The performance was energized and raw, selling out the small venue to a generationally diverse crowd clad in band T-shirts and black jeans. Through the crackle of the snare, heart rattling bass riffs, and ground shattering guitar, The Melvins proved that they are not a nostalgia band. The allure of sludge metal hasn't been phased by the evolution of music in the modern age, and The Melvins are integral in the continued evolution of a subculture that lives beneath the sewers, thrashing their heads to the rhythm of the feet that stomp above the surface.
After a powerful opening from The Spotlights, The Melvins took the stage without switching amps out, leading to an audible and visual showcase of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Steven McDonald setting up their equipment, tuning their instruments, and tweaking wardrobe. The audience was instantly intimate with the band. Osborne has said during past performances that he laments “non-venue venues” in big areas where you have to look through binoculars to make out the form of the artist you’re seeing. This non-introduction reflected that sentiment. The audience payed to see The Melvins create music for them live, and they weren’t going to get the typical mask of a performer blinding them from the intricacies that go into a live show.
The amps rumbled like the prelude to an avalanche. Then two drum kicks rattled through the audience, shattering the snow and rubble into free fall. McDonald sensually thumped the baseline to the opening cover, "Sacrifice" by Flipper. The show had begun. The cover was tantalizing. Between each bass measure, Crover smashed the snare, causing shivers to run down every spine in the red-lit room. Osborne erotically stared into the crowd, caressing the microphone. Then the chorus broke and the song erupted into an explosion of sound. With each chorus and verse, the audience alternated between hard head bangs and subtle sways. The track was the perfect piece of foreplay.
This show was part of the “A Walk with Love & Death” tour, but only three songs played were from the most recent album. Along with the opening song, The Melvins played two other covers, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles, and Saviour Machine by David Bowie. This isn't surprising coming from Melvins, as they started out as a Jimi Hendrix and Cream cover band and released an entire album of covers. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" brought the house down. Decelerating the tempo between each line, the audience was sent into a wonky, rock wormhole. This wasn’t a cover of The Beatles; it was a new metal song all together. On "Saviour Machine," Osborne wailed on the guitar, throwing his body like an exorcism in slow motion. Suddenly, he was paralyzed by the tempo change as Crover rattled the drums like a mad scientist.
The first half of the show was wild. The audience bounced to "Sober-Delic" and "The Bit" while McDonald stared into the audience, crazed with the eyes even the best therapist couldn’t fix. But the latter half of the show was left with a strange energy. The crowd was made up of men and woman ranging ages 19 to 40, and the generational gap began to show a literal fissure.
The front few rows of the venue were made up predominately of younger people and a few older men who tried to mosh aggressively. Perhaps this old school, pummel-to-the-death mentality was lost on the younger crowd and sent the brittle of the older crowd to the back. The Melvins may attract an audience from a range of generations, but those generations didn’t appear to view the music in the same way or enjoy it for the same reasons. For the younger half of the audience, The Melvins may be a stepping stone into the metal scene while others have been well indoctrinated into the it, and for them The Melvins are on the softer edge of that spectrum. By the end of the show, that split was tangible.
For the last two songs of the show, "Hung Bunny" and "Roman Dog Bird," The Spotlights joined the trio on stage to build the sound level to an all-night high. Banging their heads and shredding guitar, The Melvins and The Spotlights created an energy on stage that was nearly apocalyptic. With ringing ears, whiplashed necks, and wobbly legs, the audience wandered out of the bar dizzy and confused. The crowd had been rocked weary by disorienting tempo changes, killer covers, and wild personas, but the only dismay was in the fact that it was over.