The Melvins current tour is called 51 States in 51 Days, because they support statehood for DC and their show at the Black Cat was their 34th consecutive date. As the band themselves has stated numerous times, this is an insane endeavor. The only person to have accomplished anything close to it was George Thorogood and apparently he bitched out before finishing his tour. For “51 in 51,” they are doing things a little differently than they have the past half decade, which saw them performing as a monster 2-drummer setup with the members of the band Big Business. This time around Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover are playing as a three piece called Melvins Lite with virtuoso bassist Trevor Dunn (he of various Mike Patton-related projects, most famously Mr. Bungle).
Opening band Tweakbird were a lot of fun, reminiscent of Dead Meadow but with more delay pedals and noise. The lineup was cool: a guitarist/singer, a drummer/singer, and another drummer/singer; the two drummers were not onstage at the same time for every song. At some point toward the end of the set, the band messed up a song and restarted it twice with the guitarist telling the audience he didn’t give a shit about them and that the band was just going to go ahead and practice for the next night’s show, which was hilarious. After a few songs, the high-pitched harmonies began to grate a little and left me yearning for something a bit heavier to match the music.
After about 30 seconds of Sweet Leaf played over the PA, Trevor Dunn came in wearing a dress shirt and tie and nerdy glasses, picked up his standup bass and began bowing it. A couple of minutes into his noisy (and very cool) solo, Buzz and Dale came onstage and the tension started building. Buzz started off with some noise and some sparse hits from Dale on the drums. It continued like this for about 5 minutes until they launched into their first song.
The set mostly focused on songs off their most recent album as Melvins Lite, Freak Puke, and their 1994 classic Stoner Witch. The guys were very tight and more importantly you could tell that they were enjoying themselves: Trevor was dancing around with his upright bass, even getting down on the floor with it. Buzz was a riot in his onstage banter about how he thinks it’s weird that people ask him who he’s voting for (Muhammad Ali) and saying his political beliefs were against both kinds of marriage, gay and straight. Overall, I like what they are doing with Dunn, especially the solos he does between songs, but I found myself wishing that for some of the songs he’d just strap on an electric bass and rock the f#$# out. On some songs the upright didn’t cut through and made the sound feel thin in a way that seeing the band with Big Business never felt. All the same, it was a very fun show and the band is in the middle of doing something extraordinary; let’s wish them luck.