These legends have been on my concert bucket list for some time now. With two of the members that were on stage being a part of this band for longer than I have even been alive, I consider it an honor to have even been given the opportunity to see such pioneers of the rock and metal community.
The Melvins began their set relatively tame, warming up the crowd with some of their grunge and rock style tracks. This being my first experience with them live, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried that maybe they had lost some of their steam. I had heard stories over the years of the Melvins being one of the craziest live shows to see, and the beginning was not living up to the hype.
That being said, by about the fifth track my wonders of whether or not these gentlemen are really the gods that so many close friends claim they are were quickly crushed into dust. The gradual build up and low energy beginning were clearly part of the plan. As each new track found its way to the forefront of the wall of sound they were building, they got louder, dirtier, and more vicious with every note. King Buzzo’s eyes got a little crazier with each scream, and Dale Crover’s drumming appeared to get faster and more aggressive with every downbeat. Not to mention the TWO bass players that were laughing at one another as the stage began to rumble more and more beneath their feet.
The ability that these men have to take some of the heaviest riffs I have ever heard and transform them into something just a hair heavier with every four bars is something I have never seen live. Noise rock, doom metal, and sludge are some of my favorite styles to see live and play myself, but never have I seen it done with such a unique approach and masterful touch. As the performance continued on, the music induced psychosis began to sink in and eventually The Melvins had utmost control over the crowd in front of them. People were screaming at the top of their lungs and thrashing into each other inside a venue that hardly looks like the type of place for a show this heavy in Park West.
After witnessing some of the most unorthodox solos I have ever seen, I began to wonder how much of this was improvisation and how much was orchestrated. While I didn’t quite get my answer during the show, one of my favorite moments was a break they did in one of the last tracks where each member stopped on a dime and then did completely dissonant and seemingly unrelated fills collectively before kicking right back in in perfect time, then just a few seconds later did the EXACT same break. It was something you would need to see live to understand but I can say I have seen some pretty impressive odd time and melodically experimental stuff over the years but nothing quite like what the Melvins had to offer. Being a bass player that is struggling to find a distortion tone I like for my own rig, It was so wonderful to hear such violent guitar tones that have been put together over years and years of experimenting and fine tuning. Every single aspect of this performance astounded me. I’ve literally got goosebumps just thinking about the energy that was emanating from those musicians.
Any weathered Melvins fan reading this knows full well that I was ignorant and misguided to question the abilities of such sludge metal madmen for even an instant and that this quartet still has well over a full tank of gas beneath them. In fact, the gas nozzle is currently overflowing all over the side of the car and King Buzzo himself is lighting a cigarette with a smirk on his face as the car ignites in flames. Thank you to one of the nicest venues in Chicago for hosting one of the most vile bands in rock history. It was a night I won’t forget.