The Melvins Crank Up The Bass At First Avenue

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Walking into First Ave is always a treat. Walking into First Ave to cover and photograph a legendary band like The Melvins makes it a magical treat. Given that this was a Sunday night, the crowd was elbow to elbow in the main room. If it wasn’t a legit sell out, then there had to be maybe only 1 or 2 tickets left. IT WAS CROWDED IN THERE. It might have something to do The Melvins bringing two bassists out on this tour in support of their new album Pinkus Abortion Technician. I know I was ready for the two bass onslaught and I didn’t just double check, I triple checked my bag to make sure I had my ear plugs in. I also brought back ups with me just in case. I wasn’t going to wake up with tinnitus and a headache.

The crowd slowly filled in and the older folks quickly claimed all the limited seating and the ones who couldn’t grab a seat in time, hung out in the back. The front barricade was pretty much empty up until the first band hit. The crowd was a typical mixture of stoners, punks and 90’s kids. It was a good collection of music lovers coming to First Ave to see what King Buzzo had in store for everyone.

First up was the mysterious drone band Yen Yen. I knew nothing of this band going in and didn’t know there was another band on the bill. They just mysteriously showed up and started doing their thing. Their hypnotic music kept the attention of all the people that were already in the room and the ones still making their way in. And just as mysterious as they arrived, they were gone. I still don’t know anything about this band. I had to find out their name from the set times sheet that First Ave has posted by the stage. They showed up, did their thing and disappeared. Sometimes that is all you need: Arrive, Entertain, Disappear. No questions asked.

Next up was Jon Spencer. The mastermind behind The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore and many more. As the screen raises, Jon and his band are on stage in Rock and Roll fashion to give Minneapolis a taste of his new solo album Spencer Sings the Hits. The garage rocker kicks things off with their first single Do the Trash Can. There is a reason they kicked off with this song. IT ROCKS! From the swinging drum intro to the buzzy guitar riff, the song is a great way to wake the crowd up. I knew the Melvins were going to be bringing two bass players out for this show, but I didn’t know that Spencer would be bringing two drummers out! This wasn’t your traditional two drummers, there is one regular drummer and the second drummer was using hammers to bang on metal and other things on his makeshift drum kit. I got a kick out of this and it added that extra bit of garage-y vibe to the set. It didn’t feel like we were watching band on the main stage at First Ave. It felt like were hanging out a Spencers house and he was just jamming for us and other friends. 

The entire staged was washed with purple, red and blue lights. That color combination felt right for this style of garage-blues-rock that we were witnessing. From the riffage to the solos, Jon, basked in the colors from the stage slayed away up there with his trusty guitar while screaming “I’m a Ghost, I’m a Ghost, I’m a Ghost”. There wasn’t any banter. There wasn’t any chit-chat. There was just good old dirty, bluesy, garage rock and roll and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. If this was a taste of his new album, I’m going to be first in line to purchase it when it is released sometime this fall.

During set change, a mosh pit broke out. I found that really weird and I loved it but I thought it was a bit odd.

Now it is time for The Melvins! While the band sauntered onto the stage and King Buzzo stalked erratically around the stage, I made my way the photo pit. You could feel the anticipation from the crowd. Jeff Pinkus had his bass cranked passed eleven and started fiddling with his fx pedals and was making a real intense spacey sound and just when the anticipation was at a fever pitch, BAMMM!!! The band kicked it into Sesame Street Meat and I’m oh so glad I had my ear plugs. That double bass was something fierce. The low-end frequencies were ricocheting off of my chest and I LOVED IT! The crowd loved it.

While being stabbed by the dueling bass guitars, King Buzzo was throwing daggers of his own with his guitar. It was hard to keep up with Buzzo. He was running around the stage and I was getting tired and wore out just by watching him. When not singing, Buzzo is stalking the stage while slamming his guitar with fury. Buzzo has been doing this longer that I have been alive and I don’t think he is going to be stopping anytime soon.

Drummer Dale Crover kicked it off into the next two songs, At a Crawl and The Kicking Machine with his heavy hitting drumming. I don’t see how his drum sticks or drum heads lasted with those songs. He beat the living hell out of his kit while Buzzo, Pinkus and McDonald beat the hell out of their own instruments.

The double bass of Pinkus and McDonald was something special. The musical chemistry those two have is a perfect combination. They also couldn’t be more different on the stage. Pinkus is a hard hitter and just brutally beats his bass with force while McDonald is jumping around and playing with the fans without missing a beat. It is a perfect bass duality on stage with them.

The duel basses rip into the opening riff of the Redd Kross song What They Say and then say, “Come on Minneapolis, lets Fuck Shit Up!”, at which the still moshing crowd continued moshing, but the pit grew almost twice its size.

With the buzzsaw guitar riffs, the ferocious vocals, the extra heavy duel bass guitars and the pounding Crover gave on the drums, the crowd possibly couldn’t handle any more. After the band finished up Eye Flys, the band thanked the crowd and said good night. The crowd wanted more. Asking for “ONE MORE SONG, ONE MORE SONG”. Unfortunately, the room lights came on and the stage screen slowly lowered and that was the show.

The legendary Melvins playing at First Ave was exactly what a Sunday night needed. The gospel of Buzzo and the deafening sound of Pinkus & McDonald was a perfect way to end the weekend. Couldn’t have asked for a better, painful night.

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