Arriving at the Concorde 2 on Brighton’s seafront just as modern garage rock legend Jon Spencer was taking to the stage in his newer ‘solo’ band, aka the HITmakers, it took me a while to realise that the second drummer on stage was actually playing a range of metallic ‘trash’ with a hammer and wrench instead of drum sticks.
In some ways this set the mood for the set which was, as it went on, eccentric, disjointed and discordant but through that managed to coalesce in place into some great garage-y rock ‘n’ roll.
Spencer is clearly a fine band leader as he directed his backing trio from centre stage with his vintage guitar sound leading the charge.
As well as Bob Bert on the trash the band was made up of M. Sord on the drums and Sam Coomes on keys and occasional vocals.
In another twist on things Coomes played bass through one synth while adding organ sounds from another.
While some of the tracks, particularly later in the set, picked up it seemed a mix of unbalanced sound and a largely not so interested audience meant things were not as raucous as Spencer was maybe aiming to achieve but in amongst it all there was some great rock ‘n’ roll power to be found.
By contrast as soon as (the) Melvins took to the stage it was raw power from the off.
I have to admit to not being that familiar with the band by anything other than reputation and, with the current line up featuring two bass players in Jeff Pinkus and Steven Shane McDonald (both renowned for their work in other bands as well as this one), I was expecting something of an extreme walk of noise type affair.
What I actually got was as varied as you could ever expect from a band who’ve made their considerable reputation in the US grunge/indie under ground with extreme noise, classic rock groove, hardcore punk and even occasional hints of glam rock creating a heady brew of sound that was irresistible.
The two basses played off each other excellently with both producing different tones and, along with King Buzzo’s guitar, shared the space of lead, rhythm and generally fuzzed up noise brilliantly.
While McDonald was all KISS style high kicks and posing, Pinkus was a more understated but powerful presence and there was no denying that whenever Buzzo stepped up to the mic or the front of the stage he owned the room with an intimidating glower under his shock of Eraserhead meets Sideshow Bob grey hair, while his voice ranged from an enraged bark to a demented drawl in the best of ways.
Behind all this though seemed to be the real general of the band, drummer and vocalist, Dale Crover.
Along with Buzzo a mainstay of the band almost since their inception, he kept the sound rocking, rolling, grooving and moving in his own impressive style and has to be up their with the best I’ve seen behind the kit.
Within all of this the band were also clearly having an infectiously great time as they played tracks spanning their entire career from recent album Pinkus Abortion Technician on down and a few really kicked off a mosh while all kept heads banging.
All this combined to make for something that far exceeded my already fairly high expectations and certainly means I will be diving headlong into Melvins’ back catalogue at the nearest available opportunity.
Added to this those who I attended the show with, who are more dedicated followers of the band already, said this was one of the best shows they’d seen by the Washington State rockers and that, just maybe, this was their best line up to date.