Melvins Lite at Grumpy's, 9/19/12

Categories: Last Night
Melvins_Steve_Cohen_1.jpg
Photo by Steve Cohen
Melvins Lite with Tweak Bird
Grumpy's Downtown
9/19/12

Long-standing cult band Melvins seem to always be moving in interesting directions. Last night was day 15 of the epic Melvins Lite tour to promote their 18th record, Freak Puke, as well as to attempt to break the world record for longest U.S. tour. This would be impressive for any band to undertake, but it's especially amazing to see from some old dudes, who formed the band nearly 30 years ago, pile in a van to hit "51 states in 51 days."

The newly adopted "Melvins Lite" moniker stems from their slightly stripped-down line-up, now featuring Mr. Bungle vet Trevor Dunn on the stand-up bass, in place of the two-person third member Big Business (who I guess are on their own tour or something). "Lite" might not seem like an accurate term for the sludgy rock outfit, though they do break out bows and brushes on a several songs.

They remained heavy as ever on stage in the Grumpy's parking lot, even while veering into ever-so-slightly jazzier or ambient territory then we've ever really heard them do. I've never heard a stand-up bass get as evil-sounding as it did here. Complete with distortion and looping and echo effects, the bass rattled and punched exactly as you hoped it could, and created some nice atmospheric moments when the songs were brought down a bit.
Melvins_Steve_Cohen_4.jpg
Photo by Steve Cohen
The band seemed to especially enjoy building tension, starting off the set with Dunn solo, droning deep on his bass before King Buzzo or Dale Crover even arrived onstage. Once they arrived, Buzzo's guitar feedback and Crover's rolling drums began to slowly rise, only to be torn away again and re-established. It took maybe a solid 10 minutes but once the beginning riff started to take shape and the vocals got added, the tension made sense as a pre-cursor. It was a technique they repeated a few times throughout the set, and Dunn's expert hand helped move the music between riff and drone territory smoothly.

The re-incarnation of the group did allow for more melodic exploration than Melvin's former dual-drummer format allowed, and the set seemed to mostly weave in tighter and faster tracks from the group's backlog of songs. New tracks like "Leon Vs. the Revolution" played really well to the outdoor crowd, and classics like "Hooch" seemed tighter and cleaner than normal. 
Melvins_Steve_Cohen_3.jpg
Photo by Steve Cohen
Melvins_Steve_Cohen_2.jpg
Photo by Steve Cohen
Nothing was radically different than other Melvins' sets I've seen; it played a bit lower key than usual, but the crunch of Buzzo's guitar and Crover's frenetic drum pounding remained wholly intact. Only on closer "Shevil" did they really experiment with bringing the sound down, with Buzzo playing without distortion for portions, Crover using a light hand, and Dunn holding high and low tones for extended periods.

The bass got plenty of shine, especially at the beginning and end of the set, and especially before the encore, where a noodling solo slowly became a rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The new lineup is interesting, though I personally prefer the sheer power of the non-Lite version. The audience seemed to really enjoy the set, though there was considerably less moshing or dancing than I expected. Thankfully we caught them now, before the fatigue of this insane tour sets in down the line.

Critic's Bias: With such a massive discography as Melvins have, it's hard to keep up with everything they've done, and I haven't been up on much of their later material.

The Crowd: A decent range of ages. There's clearly a cult following for the group here.

Random Notebook Dump: The line to get into the parking lot was stupid long and poorly set up. The back of the line shifted, split, and weaved into cramped spaces, and it took me forever to get outside, causing me and several others to miss openers Tweak Bird.

Overheard in the Crowd: I don't know if stage banter counts, but King Buzzo provided the quote of the night: "This is Trevor Dunn; one of his favorite things to do is take a roofie and a Viagra and just see what happens."

Setlist:

Eye Flys
Captain Pungent
National Hamster
Leon Vs. the Revolution
Mr. Rip Off
A History of Drunks
Hooch
Let Me Roll It (Paul McCartney and Wings)
Set Me Straight
Sky Pup
Electric Flower
Shevil



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