February 03, 2003
Chico, CA - The Brickworks
Pictures from Tony Collins
Review from Synthesis.net
I had low hopes for the night from the minute I entered the club. Manic polka music was tearing out of the house speakers, and it was beginning to give me a headache when I asked a friend what exactly the deal was. “Oh, I overheard the booking agent say that The Melvins insisted this be played before the show,” he said. Inauspicious, to say the least. But expectations have a way of biting me in the ass, and this night was no exception. The opening act wasted no time in storming the stage and dutifully churning out Cro-Magnon stoner rock punctuated by odd time changes and snaking, sinewy bass lines. The singer / guitarist looked oddly familiar, and by the time the group had transformed into the headlining act (which I’ll get to later), I realized that it was none other than Dale Crover, The Melvins’ drummer. Their music made an appropriate precursor to what was yet to come.
After a half an hour of playing, the group went into an extended jam that seemed like it would never end. And it didn’t…all the members of The Melvins gradually infiltrated the stage, taking control. The fact that a guitarist became the drummer without my ever noticing is a testament to how seamless the transition was. The meager crowd howled in anticipation as lead singer King Buzzo took the stage. Buzzo was an engaging figure; two parts Ozzy Osbourne and one part Don King. The Melvins’ commercial success has been modest, and mostly related to being Kurt Cobain’s favorite band, which has left them with a diehard fanbase of freaks and stoners, both of whom came out of the woodwork for a dose of riff-heavy sludge rock.
Upon their arrival, I immediately noticed that they were all wearing tattered sackcloth dresses. With the exception of Buzzo, they all appeared listless, but still managed to put forth a powerful set. Consisting of patchwork drone, feedback and monstrous rhythms, their songs had a way of blending together while retaining distinctly different tones. A cool thing about their marathon performance was whenever you thought that they had settled comfortably into a groove, they would abruptly mix it up and proceed to rock the crowd with a sinister 15-second thrasher. By the same token, however, they were adept at picking up an unassuming riff and expanding on it until it became its own entity, only to incorporate it into the next piece. A second guitarist (who goes by the name of Adam Jones, better known from his day job as the guitar player in Tool) provided ample distortion, stopping occasionally to coax ominous noise from a keyboard. The only way their set could be described is like trying to sing along to a Flipper record while sinking in quicksand.
Just as the drummer started banging a gong and they began to wind down, everyone waited for them to do what they did last time: stand around for five minutes before one final jam. Then the house lights came on and Michael Jackson’s peppy “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” jolted the audience out of its collective trance. The Melvins had gotten us, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
– Raphael di Donato