Although the current Melvins tour is being pitched as "the Melvins Lite," by the end of their concert at Slims in San Francisco it became abundantly clear that "Lite" referred to the relative weight of the band because even with Trevor Dunn's acoustic bass temporarily standing in for Coady Willis' drums and Jarred Warren's electric bass, the band was as heavy as plutonium. As they cut through a set of new songs with some reworked classics, the Melvins exemplified just how malleable their songs are July 20.
The Melvins Lite tour features the band as a trio with Buzz Osborne on guitar, Dale Crover on drums and Dunn on acoustic stand up bass. In order to give focus to the band's newest element, Dunn opened the show with a Neoclassical rendition of the Melvins classic "Eye Flys." While the studio version is an exercise in drone lumbering, the acoustic bass version made the song feel cinematic and threatening, as if something terrible was about to happen.
Then, Buzz Osborne took the stage and the band kicked into their set proper. Equally as heavy as their four-piece incarnation, the band ripped through their set without breaking between the songs. Eyes were on Dunn as he was the new guy and it was fascinating as to how he was able match the loudness and massive sound of both Osborne's guitar and Crover's drums. Interestingly, instead of the typical rockabilly presentation, Dunn chose to snap the acoustic bass with his bare hands in heavy strokes to provide Osborne with a new canvas to lay his massive riffs. At other times, when Dunn was the focus, he played the bass with a bow, emulating a classical sound and even at one point, cutting into a version of the Jaws theme.
With Osborne, Crover and Dunn, the band retained their sludge metal sound. As with their most recent songs, they maintained a rapid progression, interested in smashing through songs rather than pulling them to a slow drone. But, Dunn's bass was also used as a switch for the whole band to change their expression.
The band seemed to flip back and forth between two formats. On one side, the band would cut through energetic versions of most of the tunes off the new Freak Puke and some older tunes. In this phase, the band didn't focus so much on Dunn as they simply allowed the acoustic bass to create a different sound for the band that congealed with the electric elements quite naturally. However, every third or fourth song, while Osborne tuned, Dunn took the spotlight and created avant garde pieces featuring the range of sounds found on the acoustic bass, sometimes sweet and sometimes atonal.
Equally interesting was the reworking of the older material. Classics such as "Inner Ear Rupture" and "Shevil" were morphed to meet the acoustic backing. Interestingly, they were as loud and as aggressive as before, but had a new type of solidification than before, which made the songs somehow warmer. Equally interesting was the reworking of the new "National Hamster" off the four-piece The Bulls and the Bees. Challenging themselves, the band attempted to match the heavy, nasty studio version in energy and volume and for the most part succeeded.
Just as the band reworked their own older material, they also included their cover of Wings' "Let Me Roll It." As with the studio version, the band retained the original composition of the song, but increased its swinging rhythm to make it heavy, spooky, but just as welcoming as McCartney's version.
While the name is a wink at the band's membership (and waist lines), the phrase "Lite" did not do the band justice in a live setting.
-Things that I saw at a Melvins concert that I did not expect to see at a Melvins concert file: Two elderly lesbians getting funky and I mean really getting funky…ifyaknowwaddaimean.
-In stark contrast to their usual tour, the band did not have any tour-only records and worse, had hardly any tour merch at all!!! ARRRRRGGGGG! Now I know what it feels like to go through heroin withdrawl.
Worm Farm Waltz
Leon Vs. The Revolution
Mr. Rip Off
A Growing Disgust
History of Drunks
Baby, Won't You Weird Me Out
Let Me Roll It
Set Me Straight/DCH
Inner Ear Rupture