I arrived about 20 minutes after 8:00. After I purchased my ticket, I was asked if I was there to see the opener or the Melvins. After some contemplation, I said “the opener.” The guy waiting behind me deadpans, “Wow. I was not expecting that.” “Why? Because I’m a dude?” I ask. “No man, cause it’s the Melvins,” he says, utterly bemused. “Hey, I respect the Melvins.” I tell him.
I got into Le Butcherettes a few years ago with 2008’s Kiss & Kill and 2011’s Sin Sin Sin. The latter produced by former Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who also produced the bands latest release Cry is for the Flies and collaborates with Le Butcherettes singer Teri Gender Bender in the bands Bosnian Rainbows and Kimono Kult.
I never had any Melvins stuff growing up in the 90’s. Which is kinda weird, but at the time the market was saturated. I couldn’t get to everything. That said, I’ve always respected the Melvins and their place in music history. To get prepped for the show, I purchased some songs from their latest album Hold It In, as well as some tracks from the albums The Bride Screamed Murder and A Senile Animal.
Trees was about half full when I arrived. A mixed crowd, representative of a band with a near 30 year history, mingled about the venue as 90’s era rock played overhead and the NBA finals were showing on one television. Saw two 30-something dudes, one wearing a tie and slacks, his wingman in a faded The Flash t-shirt. Men easily outnumbered women, but a fair amount of young artsy girls were present, no doubt there for Le Butcherettes, but maybe that’s presumptuous of me.
LE BUTCHERETTES went on at 9:00 sharp and they were on fire from the get-go. Front woman, Teri Gender Bender began the set wearing some kind of sequined veil that she eventually pulled off half way through the opener “Burn the Scab,” whipping her hair around as she jabbed at her keyboard. Later she donned some kind of mascot’s bird head as she frantically danced around the stage. Bouncing between keyboards and guitars and never once stopping for a breath, Teri Gender Bender is a captivating performer in every sense of the word. She’s spastic. She’s graceful. She’s sexy. She’s asexual. She’s weird in the best sense of the word.
Playing about an 8 or 9 song set, featuring 3 or 4 tracks from Cry is for the Flies, the Butcherettes were in top form. The rhythm section of Chris Common on drums and Jamie Aaron Aux on bass provided the skeleton that is fleshed out by Gender Bender’s guitar and/or keyboards. At times during the set it felt like Common and Aux were holding everything together for dear life as Gender Bender seemed on the verge of spontaneous human combustion.
Honestly, I could’ve watched Le Butcherettes all night. Their set was electric. The songs from Cry is for the Flies mix well with the other material, including the tracks “We No Owe,” and “The Devil Lived,” that appear on the tour split single (reviewed at the end of this article). If you’re already a fan, you’ll be there and you’ll love every minute of it. If you’ve never heard of Le Butcherettes, you’re in for a treat. There simply isn’t a band out there that wouldn’t want Le Butcherettes to “warm up the crowd” for them. I’m just hoping for a headlining tour where I can get more than 45 minutes of this brilliant band.
MELVINS went on at 10:00 (set list here). Band leader Buzz Osborne, aka King Buzzo, took the stage wearing a muumuu and was joined by mainstay drummer Dale Crover and Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus. Pinkus and Buttholes guitarist Paul Leary joined Buzzo and Crover on the Melvins 2014 LP Hold It In. Pinkus is touring with the band and also appears on the split single.
First things first: the Melvins are incredibly loud. A day later, I still feel the tinnitus. King Buzzo’s huge guitar riffs, Crover’s pounding drums, and Pinkus’ throbbing bass combine to sound like a symphonic demolition crew. Songs from 2014’s Hold It In (“Bride of Crankenstein,” “Sesame Street Meat”) blended seamlessly with tracks from 1993’s Houdini (“Hag Me,” “Night Goat”) and 2004’s Stoner Witch (“Sweet Willy Rollbar”). They also played a raging version of “Captain Comedown” that appears on the tour split single.
For lack of a better cliché, they sounded like a well-oiled machine. No banter between songs. No fancy light show. All business. The Melvins go song after song assaulting your ears. Luckily, it’s well controlled and executed to perfection. Simply put, a lesser band would sound like shit trying to pull this off. They even played the Butthole Surfers songs “Graveyard” from 1987’s Locust Abortion Technician and “Moving to Florida” from the 1985 EP Cream Corn from the Socket of Davis. Somehow these songs merged perfectly into the set. Those unfamiliar with those songs probably thought they were new or rare Melvins tracks. But, the crowd was drinking Melvins Kool-Aid. From my vantage point, I couldn’t see a pit necessarily, but there were at least two stage divers (including a dude in an Alice in Chains t-shirt) and some random crowd surfing moments.
One could certainly argue that the Le Butcherettes live show is carried by the stage presence of Teri Gender Bender. In contrast, the music is what carries the Melvins set. While many of the Melvin’s “grunge” contemporaries utilize(d) feedback as some sort of loud noise element, this Melvins set seemed considerably controlled and no less loud. And maybe I should mention here that the live sound mix was excellent for both bands. It wasn’t just a wall of overwhelming sound, I could decipher each musicians parts. From where I stood at various times during the set, I could never see Dale Crover’s face. But, his presence was unmistakable. As a Melvins novice, I’ll admit here that he’s certainly a better drummer than I was ever aware. Maybe it’s just one of those things that comes across better live than from the studio mix.
Not unlike the Ramones or Motorhead, the Melvins have a sound that’s timeless. Sure, they’ve experimented over the years, but there’s still an undeniable quality to their sound that is Melvins and Melvins alone (no matter how Sabbath-y the riff). It’s the quality that has helped them tack on younger fans as they’ve grown older. It’s the quality that has earned them the admiration of their peers. And it’s the quality that hits you in the face when you see them live.
Melvins and Le Butcherette’s are a great bill. They’re touring through the end of July and we recommended you attend when they visit your city. Both bands provide unique and powerful performances. Earplugs recommended for your safety.
Chaos as Usual – Split Single Review (CD & Vinyl, $5.00)
1. Melvins “Captain Comedown” (2:56) – A mid-tempo track for 2/3’s of the song before it turns up the speed at the end. There’s a really cool lead guitar part here that reminds me a little of Sonic Youth or The Process of Weeding Out era Black Flag. Buzzo slides and scrapes his guitar pick against the strings alongside a doom-y rhythm guitar. Pinkus on bass.
2. Melvins “Industrial Art” – (2:41) – Take the title as the literal meaning of the song. It sounds like the Melvins goofing in the studio, experimenting, and someone said “it’s industrial music,” and they all laughed. Random sounds, noise, the sound of white noise, a science fiction film soundtrack, feedback, these are all words that come to mind while listening to this “song.” Maybe it’s high art and I just “don’t get it.” Maybe. But, it’s meaningless fodder to my ears. Doubtless, hardcore fans will find it delightfully weird.
3. Le Butcherettes “We No Owe” (3:24) – The song starts with slow electric guitar strumming and Teri Gender Benders distant vocals before stopping altogether, leaving a moment of silence, then kicking in with the full band. A group chorus sings “We don’t know you, but we owe you, everyday.” The song is somewhat of a psychedelic Talking Heads track, with a loose, wailing guitar solo.
4. Le Butcherettes “The Devil Lived” (3:26) – This poppy little track is mostly a straight ahead rocker. An electric guitar riff, an “ooooh-oh-oh-oh” pre-chorus;” I’ll be damned if this isn’t catchy. It also recalls a Spinnerette’s track that I can’t put my finger on at the moment. I enjoyed this track a little more live than on this recording. But, I remedied that by just playing the song louder.
In summary, I feel like I got shorted a Melvins track. Nonetheless, “Captain Comedown” is a serious rocker that I’ve already added to my Melvins playlist. The two tracks by Le Butcherettes are first rate and serve as a nice sampler and introduction to the band. If you like these songs, you’ll like Cry is for the Flies. You hardcore Melvins fans may find more value in “Industrial Art” than I have. Either way, for 5 bucks and the added bonus of being there, I’m more than pleased.
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– J. Kevin Lynch
POSTSCRIPT – Given Buzz’s recent comments on the film Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, it made us wonder if he read our review?