Muh-Merica

Hurricane Melvin, meet Hurricane Jeanne

You don't listen to the Melvins--you absorb them. Or your body rejects them like a failed transplant, completely unable to handle that notorious creepy-crawl through rock, punk and metal. The word "sludge" comes up a lot. Twenty-year band vets guitarist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover (and newish bassist Kevin Rutmanis) were supposed to share a week in the life as a schizoid fucked-up band taking on that most schizoid, fucked-up of states--Florida, of course. But nature had other plans: Hurricane Melvin, meet Hurricane Jeanne.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 24: TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA

Buzzo has Florida and the Melvins' place in it wired: "Florida is a combination of vacationland, Disneyland and Ted Bundy with a death penalty on top," he says. "The Bundy crowd is more of the college crowd, the TGI McFriday's crowd, so generally speaking, they're not around. But there are a lot of other weirdoes and freaks that tend to come to our shows.

"Florida has always been on the verge of thinking it was going to do really well and have it not work out. The ground isn't firm; the people are insane. There's desperation and this sense that something big is going to happen but never does."

With the newswires abuzz with warnings of the onrushing Hurricane Jeanne and the damage wrought by Hurricane Frances, Buzzo knows what's really going on. He says, "I've seen no evidence of any hurricanes whatsoever. Seems like bullshit to me. I think they're just using file footage from years ago. There's never been a hurricane here ever." He ends the conversation abruptly: "We're afraid of and apologize for nothing," he says.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 25: FLEEING ORLANDO, FLORIDA

With Buzz's words still floating in the humidity, Dale re-assesses things. "I don't know if you've been watching the news or not, but there's a big hurricane coming right now, so we're getting the hell out of here," he says. "We canceled our next three shows, and we're going to a different state."

SUNDAY, SEPT. 26: ATHENS, GEORGIA

Four hundred fifty miles away from Orlando, and Crover's ready to put the flight into perspective. "We saw that big hurricane coming; we said, 'Let's get the hell out of here.' Makes me really sad to see that money go down the drain. We've all got house payments, you know? We like to work. But, something bad could have happened, so . . ." He trails off. These Melvins certainly answer to a drunken, seemingly arbitrary muse, but they're pragmatists all. They wouldn't be escaping natural disasters in a Ford Econoline and a truck full of equipment 20 years after forming if they weren't. "We have what we call band meetings at Disneyland," Crover says. "That way we can write off all our purchases."

MONDAY, SEPT. 27: ATHENS, GEORGIA

Crover sums up the break so far: "Not too much to do but spend a bunch of money." And lots of reading and watching DVDs, says Rutmanis. Aside from the first season of Green Acres, nearly forgotten cop spoof Sledgehammer is a big favorite--and he's enthusiastic to speak to another fan. No one else in the Melvins has heard of it.

"Not these squares," he gripes. "They only care about Elvis and whiskey." À la "Jesus and Tequila"?

"Oh, no, they're big Minutemen fans," he says. "Only they hate the three guys that play in the band."

TUESDAY, SEPT. 28: ON THE ROAD TO BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

The first show in days: "I've been laying on my back, staring at the ceiling," says Rutmanis. The crew is restless, he says. There's roadie Jeff: "Ted Bundy, only not as civil." There's soundman Kurt: "A cipher-ish, easy-going hippy." Road manger Tim "Pigpen": "He's like one of those speed-brewing bikers." While he's describing the crew, Rutmanis decides to break down the band, too: "Buzz is like a chia pet with a black shirt on . . . that never shuts up. Crover is like how Duane Allman sees himself. I'm a giant blinking cone of sanity."

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 29: BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

"Just another bar show to me," says Rutmanis. "University of Alabama Birmingham!" screams roadie Jeff somewhere back in the van. "We're in the George Wallace Wing," Rutmanis continues. "Running around in gold-plated wheelchairs, shrieking, 'Stand up for freedom! Stand up for freedom!' And we've changed the phrase 'My America' to 'M'Merica,' so now it's just muh-merica. Muh-merica. It's like My Moons Over My Mammy." Uh, we say. Talk to you tomorrow.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 30: ON THE ROAD TO NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

Jeanne is gone; Melvin storms on, happy to be in the less soggy part of the South. "I like the South, frankly," says Rutmanis. "I like it a lot. I think it's physically attractive, and I think the people are very friendly. Since my earliest days of touring, I could look like the most fucked-up piece of shit and they would never give me a hard time " The weather? Fuck it. That which does not kill the Melvins, etc., right? Yeah, says Buzzo: "We've never done anything straight."

 
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