with Melt Banana and Vaz
Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando • August 11, 1999
Keith Mercer and Andrew Chadwick
Vaz opened the show. Their sound reminds me a little of Unsane, with vocals being somewhat weak at times and inspiring at other times. The guitarist and drummer two man set up is somewhat unique, and fortunately, did not seem thin, considering the mass of sound produced.
Melt Banana was in top form tonight. Plow-ahead speed bulldozed over disjointed structures with total turn-on-a-dime noisy guitar skittering and attack, somehow still managing to keep the idea of a song alive through all the twists and turns. Agata’s maelstrom guitar antics were fascinating to watch and decipher. Oshima’s blasts kept the foundation under all the madness, blasting through quick-paced beats then easing off, then back again. Great facial expressions. The bass player (Rika?) was on the far end of the stage from me, and I didn’t notice her too much, but musically I can say there was nothing lacking. Yasuko was probably the most mesmerizing of them all, though. Her vocals are unique — part sung, part yelped. Lyrics are minced poetry filled with alliteration and homonyms, attacked and spit out with alternating machine gun rhythm. There were familiar songs and songs I had never heard — they have so much stuff out and some of it is so limited it’s hard to keep up with it all. I liked the barrage of their shorter songs (under 10 seconds) all in a row, punctuated by a quick “Thank you. This next song is called…” Their cover of “Surfin’ U.S.A.” also never ceases to be amusing. Quite a performance, filled with crazy energy. Documentation of Melt Banana live can be found on their somewhat recent CD MxBx 1998/13000 Miles At Light Velocity on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, recorded live in the studio at the end of their last U.S. tour. There are also videos floating about. As it is with most bands, though, you really need to see them live in person.
The Melvins are such a strange machine to watch in a live setting. The nearly absurd amount of repetition in their songs never seems quite right on record. Live, however, it is a tension building 50 stories tall. It is also an interesting experience to see the drummer’s kit with its rows of haphazard looking rhythmic devices. It almost looks like a hurricane hit a welding shop. The singing was mainly drowned out by over mixing of the guitars and drums, but what I could hear was the rawk-n-rawl yowl we all have come to know and love. The drone was monstrous and, by the end of the show, we all left quite sated.