The Cow Haus, Tallahassee, FL • June 8, 2002
About ten years ago in Orlando, a bunch of moronic GWAR fans tried to boo The Melvins off the stage. But like I told someone earlier, booing off the stage means that the band actually vacates the stage and doesn’t, y’know, punish them with 40 minutes worth of sluggish riffs and tombstone deep percussive throbs. I’m just saying…
I’m just saying that it’s a known fact that bands get shittier over time. A truism, even! Ten years on, and your band should be a footnote on a “Best of the ’90s: The Alternative Revolution” comp. You should be a joke. People should shake their heads at you as you tout your new “dance-pop” direction. You can’t get better. It’s impossible. Only Billy Childish has avoided this. Maybe Nick Cave.
Ten years later. Tonight. Tonight’s a special night. It’s a night to be proven wrong.
Somehow younger, louder and snottier than they were a decade ago, The Melvins have roared back on the scene with a horse-choking handful of records EVERY YEAR! Trilogies, triptychs, sagas, they’re all here. And they’re fucking incredible. The live experience too has been honed down diamond-sharp and rearranged with The Melvins coming on as rocking warlocks and proceeding to destroy you with the most desolate and bizarre vision of rock=EDs present and future yet.
Singer/guitarist Buzz Osbourne and bassist Kevin Rutmanis are both clad in matching tunics — raven black with a lurid red X spraypainted on the the chest and there are small devil-may-care slits on the sides to show off their brutal jackboots. Rutmanis looks like a shaggy-haired corpse and his eyes are ringed with heavy black lines. He=EDs the one who alternates between frightening stares and raging and jerking about in front of his amplifier to coax out peals of nearly subsonic feedback. The erstwhile King Buzzo, however, is a man possessed. Wearing his tight tunic like Rasputin the mad monk, Buzzo demonstrates demonic possession in his countenance and stalks the stage like an unholy union of the shambling Man-Thing, a druid, and Tony Iommi. Jesus. Help. His Sideshow-Bob-In-Hell hair is teased to the point of self-parody and ravaged by lightning bolt streaks of gray. I think there=EDs a wind machine or a draft or something because Buzz’s insane afro is flailing back and forth like Slash’s hair in the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” video. These visuals are perfect.
Throughout the set, I keep edging closer to the stage. The thought continually crosses my mind to crawl into the speakers. I want this sound to drown me, to possess me, to destroy me — I need to feel it pulping my ears and trickling into my very blood. Just like the Sirens, man. My ears are ringing, every cymbal crash is painful. Good. More. The sound is like a life-giving fluid, a blanket to wash over you and show you that there is something good and beautiful left in this shitty world. At one point a lone moth flies in the path of the spotlights and careens about violently, trying to wrench itself free from a tomb of aural amber. Fuck me.
Buzz Osbourne’s voices are like the voice of doubt boring into the very back of your mind, near the base of the spinal cord — insidious, probing, hissing sibilantly everything that you ever wanted to forget and repress. Then there’s Dale Crover — utter madman. After tonight, I don’t care about Keith Moon anymore. Imagine a skinny half-naked mid-seventies Neil Young, pale, frail, hair dripping with sweat, thrashing away with incredible death-metal-defying-intensity at a spider-like drum kit. No, it’s not my secret homoerotic fantasy. It’s Dale Crover, ladies and gentlemen! His elephantine hurricane drumming, never letting up once, interlocked perfectly with the deceptive simplicity of The Melvins’ sound pushing it further and further. Drum solos? He’ll do ’em if he damn well wants, pounding out more in one minute than Neal Peart ever dreamed.
Songs blurred one into another, with no pause to soak up fickle mortal applause. Like they need it, what they’re doing is keying into the secrets of sound and music, they have no need for a bunch of indie drones and fashion victims to numbly applaud.
Out of nowhere, about one-hour-plus in, they just stop, dead stop, and the place predictably surges with emotional release. The Melvins don’t even acknowledge it. Rutmanis and Osbourne stand stalk-still next to Crover’s drumkit; they watch us watch them. All movement ceases. Applause. Baleful stare. Applause. Baleful stare. Laughter. Baleful stare. Confusion. Baleful stare. Confused applause. Baleful stare. Murmurs. Baleful stare. Rally of applause. Baleful stare. Melvins don’t even fucking blink. Mass Confusion. Kevin Rutmanis then offhandedly turns around the mini glowing “Melvins” sign on his amp, and it now reads “Thank You.” Clever bastards. Clever fucking bastards.
They even closed with my favorite song, a Godzilla version of “It’s Shoved” from Bullhead. Now how did they know that?