Melvins Lite w/Retox, Club 9One9, Victoria, BC, July 16Who can really keep up with just exactly what the Melvins are up to at any given moment? There are new releases like clockwork. They have always been a prolific band and we suspect they always will be. If nothing else, they'll have a discography that stretches on for ages by the time they're done. And clearly they're not done. This latest incarnation of the band, Melvins Lite, features founding members guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osbourne and drummer Dale Crover along with Fantomas/Mr. Bungle/Tomahawk bassist Trevor Dunn. The Big Business boys are out for now, but apparently not permanently.
This Victoria date was added last minute, and for that we give Melvins Lite much thanks and praise. And considering its late addition, there was a decent crowd for a Monday night. The venue, a basement techno danceteria, was the perfect place, as it turns out for this show. The flashy lighting, behind-the-band video screen and sunken dance floor in front of the stage made a surreal performance all the weirder.
The fact that openers Retox seemed kinda normal in contrast to the rest of the spectacle says a lot. They are a frantic quartet of short-coiffed ragers who always seemed in a hurry to get somewhere. Their music was precise, abrasive and unpredictable. The vocalist yelled till he was outta breath, then yelled a whole lot more. They tinkered with all kinds of sounds from total power violence to surf rock and most tunes lasted a minute or two. We suspect the Melvins started out on a similar path back in the early '80s before they slowed things down.
Melvins Lite is an altogether different beast than Melvins Mk I, or even Melvins Mk whatever number they are on at this point. Let us recount some of the ways. First, bassist Dunn played a stand up bass all night long. And by "played," we mean he both slapped it with his fingers and sawed on it with a bow, depending on what the song called for. In fact, Dunn—dressed like he just got done filming Revenge of the Nerds—kicked off the set with a few simple bowed notes that gradually Crover and Osbourne, dressed as, I dunno, intergalactic overlords (our friend said Osbourne's get-up looked like a monk's frock with a tea cozy sewed on the front) joined in on a tension-fraught improv that kept the crowd anticipating a crescendo that never arrived.
Ah, but the rest of the show had plenty of peaks and valleys. Though the addition of "Lite" to the Melvins brand may seem to indicate something less than heavy, it's not quite so cut and dried. The overall impression we were left with was that this incarnation allows Buzz and Co. to swing a little more, to ride some grooves, to indulge in a few Grand Funk Railroad riffs. Look, we're not going to go so far as to say there was "jamming" going on, but there was a profound looseness that was kind of, uh, fun. Bits of songs ran together—including the Paul McCartney gem "Roll it to Me," from Freak Puke—and we're not sure that there was a true pause in the last third of the set. It was like, once they had a head of steam, they weren't going to slow down for anything.
The sound rolled off the front of the stage in physical waves. Crover's ferocity is unbelievable. He hits way harder than he actually needs to, but, man, does it have an impressive effect. Between the surely unintentionally bizarre light show, the band get-ups and swirling music, there was a definite psychedelic vibe to the performance that seems to suit the Melvins (Lite) well. We don't know if they'll revisit this lineup in the future, but we're damn sure stoked they brought it to Victoria.
Melvins Lite 51-Date United States Tour September 5, 2012 – Anchorage, AK – Bear Tooth Theatre and Pub September 6, 2012 – Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market September 7, 2012 – Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theatre September 8, 2012 – Boise, ID - Neurolux September 9, 2012 – Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge September 10, 2012 – Salt Lake City, UT – Club Sound September 11, 2012 – Cheyenne, WY - The Depot September 12, 2012 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theatre September 13, 2012 – Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck September 14, 2012 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note September 15, 2012 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room September 16, 2012 – Des Moines, IA – House of Bricks September 17, 2012 – Sioux Falls, SD – The Vault September 18, 2012 – Fargo, ND – The Aquarium September 19, 2012 – Minneapolis, MN – Grumpy’s September 20, 2012 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon September 21, 2012 – Chigaco, IL – Double Door September 22, 2012 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue Theatre September 23, 2012 – Louisville, KY – The Vernon Club September 24, 2012 – Detroit, MI - Smalls September 25, 2012 – Cleveland, OH – The Grog Shop September 26, 2012 – Morgantown, WV - 123 Pleasant Street September 27, 2012 – Allentown, PA – Crocodile Rock Cafe September 28, 2012 – South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground September 29, 2012 – Dover, NH – Dover Brickhouse September 30, 2012 – Portland, ME - Asylum October 1, 2012 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club October 2, 2012 – Pawtucket, RI – The Met Cafe October 3, 2012 – Newhaven, CT – Toad’s Place October 4, 2012 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg October 5, 2012 – Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s October 6, 2012 – Wilmington, DE – Mojo 13 October 7, 2012 – Baltimore, MD - Ottobar October 8, 2012 – Washington, DC – Black Cat October 9, 2012 – Charlottesville, VA – Jefferson Theatre October 10, 2012 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle October 11, 2012 – Knoxville, TN – The Square Room October 12, 2012 – Greenville, SC – The Handle Bar October 13, 2012 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club October 14, 2012 – Birmingham, AL – Bottle Tree October 15, 2012 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall October 16, 2012 – Jackson, MS – Duling Hall October 17, 2012 – Little Rock, AR – Juanita’s Cantina October 18, 2012 – Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon October 19, 2012 – Austin, TX - Mohawk October 20, 2012 – Norman, OK – Opalis Production October 21, 2012 – Albuquerque, NM - Launchpad October 22, 2012 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom October 23, 2012 – Las Vegas, NV - Artifice October 24, 2012 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Forever Cemetery October 25, 2012 – Honolulu, HI – The Republik