Day One: Melvins

I’ll start by outlining my original plan for the weekend, Friday to Sunday: Friday, I was to see Dark Knight with bandmates Kai and Jordan, and then we were going to a birthday dinner. Following that, we would go to his house and crash, then I would leave Saturday to meet up with other friend Lindsey to see Girl Talk. Sunday, I would sleep at my own leisure, and go to The Hold Steady with Kai and Cara. Two shows in a row? I must be crazy.

But, it gets much, much more crazy. I mentioned the fact that grunge rock elder gods The Melvins were coming to town. She asked why I wasn’t going.
“Logically, I could, because I do have the money for it…” I stated.
“Then go with logic!” she told me.

And go with logic I did. The next day I made my way over to the nearest Ticketmaster location, paid a goodly salesperson $22 for my ticket, and was on my merry way, safe in the knowledge that I am going to die this weekend.

And thus marks a personal music festival of sorts: three shows in three days, and three acts that I have wanted to see for a good, long while. It is to be a celebration of life, happiness, and damn good music. And, to go with these shows, I have decided to review each show, and create a real-time account of what three shows in three days does to a person. But, enough banter. What about them Melvins?

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I arrived at Portland’s own Wonder Ballroom 15 minutes before the show was scheduled to begin. Just in time! I took my place at the front, played with my camera, and waited anxiously for this group called Big Business to start shit off.

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But, Big Business was, of course, not the first act up, as is usual. Instead, a man with a guitar came to a soundboard, and started playing it. Then came a drummer, who started playing as well. Finally, a man with a strange soundboard (manipulated by laser pointer more than knobs themselves) knelt on the floor near the drum kit. And for 25 minutes, give or take, these three men played an endless experiment in shoegaze-esque noise music, involving a great deal of sludge, and a lot of distortion.

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At the end of their set, I turned to three boys behind me (who I talked to before this set) and said, predictably, “What the fuck was that?!” “I don’t know, but I liked it,” said one of the boys. After marveling over their sign for a few moments, another turned to me and said the words to shut me up. “It’s just noise. That’s what it is.” And so it was. (Note: the band in question, I discovered, is called Porn.)

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Next up was Big Business, who wailed through another 30 minutes of set time, complete with a Tim Harrington-esque bassist/frontman Jarred Warren. I had not heard this band before seeing them live, so I had no idea what to expect. Two songs into the set, the mosh pit built itself, and I, naturally, got the heck into it. It was, to say the least, fairly brutal.

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And then… Melvins. There’s not a lot that can be said about a Melvins show that hasn’t been said by the people who have been lucky enough to experience them in the last 20 years. Frontman Buzz Osborne is 44 now, and even if he isn’t the oldest dog in the game, he’s old enough that he should logically be past his prime. Don’t tell that to King Buzzo, though. Dressed in a toga and with his hair as insanely frizzy as it is gray, the band took the stage and let flow a torrent of noise of the highest order. Admittedly I am not quite “with it” when it comes to Melvins, but I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the bile-filled noise that came from the dual screaming of Osborne and bassist Jarred Warren (back, and dressed in a toga as well), and twin drums of Coady Willis and Dale Crover, who lock together and pound everything out in double time. When everything fuses together, the spew that swells from the band is the kind of noise that will make you beg for the end, even though it becomes a plea for more. I can’t say that I was able to fully experience the performance of the band, as I found it impossible to escape the ever-growing mosh pit (and really what grunge show is complete without a mosh pit?), which pulled me deeper and deeper, no matter how many times I tried to escape.

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I was forced to leave the venue early, but I was compelled to halt my retreat when I heard the band stop the caterwaul to unleash one of the more bizarre things of the evening: the national anthem. I couldn’t help but feel inspired by Osborne and Warren’s grunge cover of the nation’s anthem, and it just goes to show that, even if you’ve been in a game that encourages nihilism and dissent, it’s still possible to show some love for your country. I really couldn’t tell you if they did it for laughs or because they truly love America, but either way, it was a nice way to close out an evening, as I left the club, smiling, as the harbingers of doom on stage flung themselves into another song.

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