Melvins Lite at Bluebird Theater, 9/12/12
Tom Murphy Melvins Lite at Bluebird Theater
MELVINS LITE @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | 9/12/12
Melvins Lite? There was nothing "lite" about this show. As soon as the stage lights dimmed, a loop of the coughing at the beginning of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" filled the air for what seemed like a comically extended period of time until Trevor Dunn stepped on stage -- dressed in what looked like a cross between an Australian school boy, á la Angus Young, and a day trader right after work -- and the main riff came in. He quickly took his place and overwhelmed any loop with a bowed upright bass riff that sounded like a musical foghorn, the likes of which could have served as the end times sound at the denouement of Kevin Smith's film Red State. Even before Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne strode on to stage, the show began on an especially weighty note.
The dynamic of this line-up was fascinating to see, as Osborne and Crover at times seemed to be waiting to see which direction Dunn would take the song and where it would break. Also, you could feel the creation of tension between Osborne and Crover, which was released at the perfect time. Even as cutting as the guitar sound could be, there was something very sinuous about the execution. Dunn and Crover's syncopated rhythms made for a superb dynamic in which neither dominated that side of the music. Surely these guys are well practiced, but their ability to work with each other seemed telepathic in its automatic ability to synch up and anticipate where the rhythm and textures should flow.
Osborne gets pigeonholed as a master of sludge metal, which he is, but at this show, the sheer diversity of moods, modes, textures and atmospheres was very impressive. Playing with Crover and Dunn, it was like seeing what could have been a very odd jazz band if it wasn't so grounded in rock and roll. Dunn, especially, brought in some jazz sensibility, not just because he was playing an upright, but because his passages of apparent improv clearly guided parts of songs, as mentioned before, with Osborne and Crover looking over at him looking for the subtle cues to change tempo or volume or tone immediately.
Throughout the show, Dale Crover proved that he is one of the most -- if not the most -- versatile and impressive drummers in rock music alive today. He shifted effortlessly across a wide range of techniques and styles, displaying taste, power and an ability to not only set the pace but to match his bandmates with the fluidity of a true master.