There’s an old adage in baseball, “Get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in.” In other words, get the show going, keep it going and bring it on home. Washington work horses Melvins did just that on a sweaty summer Friday night at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater.
Melvins (Buzz Osborne – guitar/vocals, Dale Crover – drums/vocals, Steven Shane McDonald – bass/vocals) have been at it since 1983. When one draws the family tree of Seattle rock music, the Melvins would occupy several branches of said tree. Influential in their sound and the scene they helped forge, it is not a big leap to say that without the Melvins there would be no Nirvana.
Under the glare of red stage lights the entire show, there were no mincing words, no time wasted. The band took the stage and immediately stepped into the psychedelic wash of “Eye Flys.” The near capacity crowd entered the zone, swaying and head bobbing to the lengthy intro.
A quick segue into a hyped-up cover of KISS’ “Deuce” followed. Osborne, with his trademark mane a blur, created riffs that echoed those of Ace Frehley in his ’70s heyday.
The band ripped through a setlist from its vast catalog spanning 33 years. They are currently touring their new album Basses Loaded, an album recorded with a plethora of bassists that includes Krist Novoselic of Nirvana fame, Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle, Fantomas and Tomahawk and Jeff Pinkus from Butthole Surfers.
Current bassist Steven Shane McDonald, sporting a black shirt labeling his profession in KISS-style font, was front and center the majority of the show. He spent the night revving up the crowd with pure showmanship and a solid focus on the low end. If the band’s history is any indication, McDonald’s tenure in the band may be short-lived, as Melvins tend to employ more bassists than the fictional Spinal Tap did drummers. However, it would serve Osborne and Crover well to keep McDonald on board for the long haul. He brings a spirit of energy to the band that would be difficult to replace.
A chunky take on Alice Cooper’s “Halo of Flies” worked up the crowd as Osborne delivered superb riffs reminiscent of Tony Iommi. Crover’s tribal drums held the faithful captive throughout this take on the Cooper classic.
What truly captured fans’ attention however, was the appearance of “AMAZON” from The Maggot album. The song took on an epic feeling of a looming apocalypse. Osborne whirled around the stage during the instrumental parts as Crover mesmerized with more tribal beats. McDonald particularly shone during this performance. It was during “AMAZON” that the trio truly seemed to gel.
The show closed with the new dirgy bass-heavy jam “The Decay of Lying” and the equally sludgy Houdini classic “Night Goat” before giving way to the new album’s closer “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (Yes, THAT “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”).
As the satisfied crowd dispersed to the sounds of Ronnie James Dio singing his classic Sabbath tune “Neon Nights,” the steam rising from the worked-up crowd provided a visual metaphor for what this legendary band did to this little venue in the Syracuse art district.