Words: Stuart Preston
The general consensus when this gig was announced was – fuck yeah! The Melvins, in Norwich? Count all of us in. This very much felt like the place to be this midweek night, and sure enough a large crowd had gathered to worship at the altar of these alternative American rock legends.
Chatting to a few people before the gig it seemed that many of us were there on the strength of the name, rather than being lifelong fans of the band. Sure, there were plenty of people going for it front and centre, but there were also plenty of people there to see if the band could do their legacy justice. Sporting, not one, but two bassists the sound was huge from the off. For Buzz Osborne’s guitar to be able to cut through the fat bottom end it was going to have to be loud, and bone shakingly loud it was. Topped off with Dale Crover’s superbly controlled and powerful drumming, I was instantly pulled into the thick musical stew. The Melvins are seen as one of the forefathers of the sludge metal scene, they were grunge before that phrase was coined and have stuck resolutely to their musical guns for 35 years now, theirs is an almost perfect union of punk rock and metal. At times ultra-slow, although the pace was varied nicely throughout the set, there was much to admire on the stage – Dale’s drumming and Buzz’s guitar playing were exemplary, but it was the twin bass guitars that held my interest. Jeff Pinkus bossed stage left with his silver flying V bass, but for me the star of the show was Steven Shane McDonald. I know Steven mainly from his work with Off! but he was a preening, posturing presence in his red suit, fan set to full blowing his mane back in a hair metal style. He was hugely entertaining to watch and ensured that the show wasn’t going to be taken too seriously.
There were certainly moments where my attention wandered and I suppose that’s part of why I’ve never become a huge Melvins fan – it’s more about the vibe than the song. Indistinct would be a word I’d use to describe them – loud, heavy and dense but with too few hooks or choruses to make much of their material truly memorable. It was a fun night all round though, Norwich and the Waterfront at their best – tons of familiar faces in the crowd and a band perfectly suited to their surroundings.