If you have never seen the Melvins perform live, there is really only one way to describe the show: Oh My Lord!
The Melvins recently played the elegant Howard Theater in DC, and it is the probable cause of any future foundation issues that the historic building might have. If it wasn’t the loudest show I’ve ever been to, it’s in the top three. This is one powerful band. And there’s only three of them!
For this tour, Melvins played their album Bullhead (1991) almost in its entirety at Howard Theatre on Sept. 22. The only song that has not made an appearance is “If I Had An Exorcism.”
And there was one difference this tour, compared to past tours. Drummer Dale Crover underwent emergency spinal surgery just before the tour commenced. In his stead, the drum stool was filled by Coady Willis, who had played with the Melvins on their A Senile Animal album. So he’s very familiar with the material.
Stream Bullhead by the Melvins on Spotify:
The band emerged as only the Melvins can: Coady Willis in a t-shirt and jeans, bass player Steven McDonald decked out head to toe in red, and founding member and guitarist/singer Buzz Osborne in what appeared to be some kind of wizard’s robe. Even more striking than Buzz’s clothes is his trademark hair. What was not expected was the band coming out to Ah-Ha’s Take On Me in front of an enormous projection of Endora from ’60s TV sitcom, Bewitched. (Editor: Actress Agnes Moorehead!)
But once the first blast of feedback hits you, everything else is secondary. When the Melvins play, you feel the music just as much as you hear it. The set officially began with “Ligature.” The song set the tone for the rest of the show — big, chugging riffs, blasts of feedback, Buzz’s crop of hair headbanging, and Steven sporting some awesome rock star poses.
Vocal duties were handled by Buzz but the between-song banter was all Steven McDonald. There wasn’t a lot of it, but at one point, when introducing the band, Steven gave the crowd a little bit of an update on Dale Crover’s recovery and asked for positive vibes, thoughts, prayers, and good energy for the drummer.
The show was impressive. Steven was having a blast. When he wasn’t jump kicking, or machine-gunning the crowd with his bass, he was mugging. Coady did a masterful job filling in for Dale. And Buzz…Buzz was Buzz. The man is like a magician, summoning otherworldly sounds from his custom plexi guitar from Electrical Guitar Company.
But being sandwiched between openers Mr. Phylzzz and headliner Boris, the Melvins set was a little on the short side, at 11 songs.
Their evening ended with the song “Boris.” I loved this because the song ends with Buzz alone on stage, wrapping up the set as the sole original Melvin.
This was my first time seeing the Melvins live and it was powerful. My personal highlights were “Ligature,” “A History Of Bad Men,” and “Night Goat.”
If you’ve thought about seeing them, do it. But make sure you’re prepared for the sheer volume. It’s loud. It’s powerful. It’s an experience. The Howard Theater was a great place to catch this show. There are multiple levels so its not hard to get a good vantage point. There’s an upper level with a bar and seating while the lower level is mostly standing room. And the crowd for this show was fun. They were a little more mature, so the mosh pit was smaller and slower, but it was still there. I caught myself smiling and shaking my head in disbelief at the energy of the music, the crowd, and (I’ve mentioned it a lot here) the power. In fact, I’m still smiling.
- Your Blessened
- It’s Shoved
- A History Of Bad Men
- Honey Bucket
- Night Goat
Here are some photos of Melvins performing at the Howard Theatre on Sept. 22, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Marc Shea.