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Thirty-five years later, the Melvins are still rockin’ as hard & loud as they ever have

MelvinsPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

The Melvins with ModPods, Yen Yen //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
July 16th, 2018 //

For as many times as the Melvins have performed in the Bay Area over their extensive career, I just hadn’t gotten around to seeing them. Several friends of mine have praised them as one of, if not THE best band to catch live, and though I admittedly didn’t know their material beyond a few songs that I had heard on occasion, I was happy to have the chance to catch them. With the sold-out gig taking place at one of my favorite venues in SF, that made it all the better.

Arriving at the Great American Music Hall about 15 minutes before showtime, I ran into a few good friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, which made the whole experience that much better. Kicking things off were Yen Yen, a Swedish electronic duo whose ethereal, 25-minute set was a refreshingly different sound when comparing it to what was supposed to be a Monday night of sonic bombardment by the mighty Melvins. As one of the band’s members twisted and turned knobs to manipulate some swelling synth-pad samples, the other waved his hands over what looked like a theremin type synth. Twenty-five minutes was the perfect length for their set, as much more than that might have become long in the tooth, but I did enjoy what I heard and it was pretty impressive to see what they could do with sound.

Next up were the Los Angeles-based ModPods. The three-piece dance/electro outfit proved to be another nice addition to the show’s bill and offered those in attendance a chance to shake their ass a bit. Singer Myriad Slits held court onstage as she delivered some strong vocals that exuded both soul and style. Instrumentalists Mindee Jorgenson and Daniel Guzman switched between bass, guitar and drums, layering sounds over backing tracks to each song. Although they were minimalist in their approach, the songs kept the crowd wanting more and I would venture to say that the ModPods won over the crowd with ease. I foresee them making some big waves in the future.

Melvins

But the time had finally come for the legendary Melvins to hit the stage. Over the years, the group has undergone quite a few lineup changes, with lead vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osborne (aka “King Buzzo”) being the one constant member and drummer Dale Crover being a close second. For this roster, former Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus and Redd Kross/Off! bass player Steven Shane McDonald signed on to be part of the equation, creating a rich, punchy and crunchy element to the already fuzz-heavy sound. This was one show, after all, that you definitely wanted to have earplugs for.

I’m far from an expert on this kind of thing (because I’m not), but I didn’t expect to see the Melvins perform with the amount of energy that they showcased. For a band that has been touring and putting out new material for the past 35 years, they performed as if everything depended on it. You weren’t going to catch “King Buzzo” standing in one place for too long, with his signature fro whipping in the wind from the fans that were on the stage, McDonald and Pinkus holding it down on their own instruments, and Crover beating the living hell out of his drums. Fans were ready to receive the band and responded to the various sonic blasts coming from the amplifiers. During the thrashy songs, they formed a brutal pit, and during the sludgier songs, they lit up joints and bobbed their heads to the music.

I, myself, was pleased see that the Melvins were thoroughly enjoying themselves and weren’t just going through the motions. Their 18-song set in SF included cuts from across their entire catalog, a handful of covers — including David Bowie’s “Saviour Machine”, Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sway” — and toward the end, “Don’t Forget to Breathe” from their most recent full-length album Pinkus Abortion Technician.

Setlist:
Sesame Street Meat
At a Crawl
The Kicking Machine
Saviour Machine (David Bowie cover)
What They Say (Redd Kross cover)
Anaconda
Stop (James Gang cover)
Moving to Florida (Butthole Surfers cover)
Edgar the Elephant
Sway (The Rolling Stones cover)
Let It All Be
Honey Bucket
The Bit
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad
The Talking Horse
Evil New War God
Eye Flys

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