Sweaty bodies packed the dark confines of Portland’s Hawthorne Theater on Wednesday, July 12th. Despite the lack of space to move, the sold out crowd was pulsing with excitement waiting to catchy legendary sludge rockers the Melvins. Finally the anticipation was over and the trio took the stage. With his muumuu and mad scientist hair, guitarist Buzz Osborne looked like some sort of dark overlord. On the contrary, bassist Steve McDonald and drummer Dale Crover were all business, ready for a set of intense rock and roll. Though the Melvins just released their first double album A Walk with Love and Death – after what has been a prolific output over thirty years – their set on Wednesday was short and tight.
Kicking off with “Sacrifice”, Dale Crover’s drums exploded right out of the gate before a wash of feedback and bass. Wasting little time, Buzz laid into a riff like the mad wizard of shred. The trio unleashed a sinister groove with “Oven”, brought to thunderous levels by Steve McDonald’s bass lines hitting like a tank. “Kicking Queen” was bursting with huge, jagged riffs and towering drums, making for a truly Led Zeppelin moment, while the frenetic punk groove of “It’s Shoved” proofed to be a perfect predecessor for the beautifully manic tempo changes and breakdowns in the band’s inventive cover of the Beatles’ classic “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. Only a band like the Melvins could properly sludge-ify the Beatles, and the crowd went wild for it. New song “Euthanasia” showcased Buzzo’s vocal skills as his dark wailing soared over the crowd. The band would tear through songs like “Sober-delic (Acid Only)”, the grinding headbanger “AMAZON”, and the monstrously thick “Roman Dog Bird” before leaving the stage with no encore. While the fans clamored for more, there was nary a soul who didn’t get their face sufficiently melted by Dale, Buzz and Steve.
With such a massive catalogue of albums, picking a setlist that satisfies the fans is no easy feat. But the Melvins know exactly how to do this, and their set touched on a handful of longtime fan favorites. Even though they could easily dish out a bunch of new songs on the audience, they like to make their sets more of a retrospective. Whether through their monumental output or their relentless tour schedule, it was clear in Portland on Wednesday that the Melvins are stronger than ever and have no intention of slowing down.