Melvins celebrate 30th anniversary at Turner Hall (with a little help from Mudhoney)
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Three decades is a long time for any band to be an ongoing concern, especially a band that has had as many personnel changes as the Melvins. Plenty of musicians have circled through their ranks over the years, but founding member Buzz “King Buzzo” Osbourne and drummer Dale Crover (who joined a year in) have guided the group through a remarkable underground existence: from their early days in the 1980s, when they reinvented punk and hardcore; through the ’90s, when their close association with Kurt Cobain thrust them into an unlikely mainstream spotlight; and on to the new millennium, where they’ve found new life as the elder statesmen of sludge. They’ve been prolific too, issuing something pretty much every year for 30 goddamn years, though their devoted cult following deserves a lot of credit for its dedication.
A significant segment of that following turned out Sunday night at Turner Hall, with black-clad metal-heads and, er, similarly black-clad noise-rock nerds packing the room to help the band celebrate its 30th anniversary. Also along for the ride were two special guests, although one was a tad more special than the other. The first was normal tour opener Honky, a trio led by longtime Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus, who came off like a cross between ZZ Top and Blueshammer, all tongue-in-cheek southern rock rippers about getting high and getting into trouble. Honky was fun, but the real treat was a set from grunge legends Mudhoney, who jumped onto the tour only for the Minneapolis and Milwaukee dates. The band just released its first studio album in five years, Vanishing Point, and the energetic new material, most notably “I Like It Small” and “Chardonnay,” dominated its 40-minute slot, but the group also made time for oldies like the essential “Touch Me I’m Sick.”
Mudhoney provided a huge added draw, especially with tickets only $20 at the door, but the Melvins were the stars of the show, and their performance alone was well worth the price of admission. Walking on, appropriately, to cacophonous noise mixed with Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf,” Crover and their second drummer Coady Willis fired the opening salvos with a brain-rattling display of competitive percussion. Pinkus was back on bass, filling in for current member Jared Warren, and, of course, King Buzzo was presiding over it all, a grimacing mop of grey hair emerging from a sort of cosmic monk’s habit. Once they got started, they never let up, unleashing an avalanche of doom-y guitars and bruising drums that lasted an hour and a half, with diverse tunes like “The Water Glass,” “Roman Dog Bird,” and “Lizzy” emerging as memorable moments. By the time they put down their instruments and let the feedback play them off, it was plain to see, again, why they’ve lasted so long.