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Monday, 29 October 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Melvins (Live Review By Rich)

Melvins & Jon Spencer at Y Plas, Cardiff

It had been a good long time since I went to a gig in Y Plas (or as it was formerly known Solus) and I had forgotten what a nice venue it is with great sound and great views from around the room. It was for a nicely varied and unusual mix of music for which I returned to the venue.

There was no local supports on this tour so the evening started with the mighty Jon Spencer (7). Jon Spencer is a name I have heard mentioned many a time by my music loving friends especially The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion so I was interested going into this set with no prior knowledge of his music. On this evening he was playing simply as Jon Spencer in promotion of upcoming solo album Jon Spencer Plays The Hits and what we got was a mix of garage rock, punk rock, rockabilly and straight up dirty rock and roll. The band was made up of Jon Spencer himself on vocals and guitars backed by Quasi frontman Sam Coomes on vocals and keyboards, M. Sord on the drums and Bob Bert on percussion which was a rudimentary drum kit made up of various metal items which Bob would rhythmically strike with hammers to great effect.

This was a pure rock and roll assault with Jon’s loud distorted guitar riffs mixed with the low end provided by the keyboards positively making the room shake. As I am completely unfamiliar with his material I cannot tell you what was played but material off the upcoming album was definitely played as well as material from Jon’s previous projects and maybe a cover version or two. Although this isn’t really music I would go out of my way to listen to I did thoroughly enjoy the set. It was complete badass rock and roll and Jon Spencer is a wonderfully charismatic frontman with a brilliant almost stream of consciousness vocal style. A great way to get things going.

Headlining the evening were the legendary Melvins (8). Despite prolifically touring the UK many times over the last few years I have never managed to catch Melvins live before until now and with the band having such a long and varied discography and having dabbled in so many different musical styles I really had no idea what to expect. All I hoped was it would be heavy and weird and my hopes were met on both accounts. Apart from the main core of frontman King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover for this tour the band comprised of not one but two bass players - regular Melvins bassist Steven McDonald and the awesome J.D. Pinkus (formerly of Butthole Surfers). Melvins are known for being intensely loud generally but they were a force of sonic devastation with the twin bass attack. The material ranged from crushing sludge metal tunes to more straightforward alternative rock tracks as well as avant garde experimental tunes and a good few cover versions including songs by David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and of course Butthole Surfers. 

The band made a good effort to cover as many of their albums as possible in the set with highlights for me being The Kicking Machine, Anaconda, Honey Bucket, Don’t Forget To Breathe and The Talking Horse. There was very little in audience interaction during the set with the band proceeding to let the music do the talking and sonically batter the audience. The hero of the show though was definitely Dale Crover whose drumming had my jaw scraping the floor. Truly one of the finest drummers out there. Melvins played a fantastic set which was varied and a great representation of their unique sound.

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