The Continental Room
The pit at a Melvin’s show is a really bad place to hold a drink. It sounds like a no-brainer, but when the bar is barely more than 10 feet from the stage, the opportunity to multitask is just too tempting. Under almost any other circumstances, it would be considered the norm inside the blood red belly of the Continental Room to sip a drink while watching a show in front of the stage. But last night’s sardine-packed turnout for The Melvins created an raucous vibe inside the old Vegas-style lounge in Downtown Fullerton that made it impossible to do anything except rock the fuck out.
The benefit of the show was twofold. Those of us in the crowd got to experience an insane swamp of sludgy stoner metal from one of the most unique bands on the planet at one of the smallest venues in the county. And the Melvins got to warm up for the release of their 24th studio album Basses Loaded (out June 3 via Ipecac Recordings). The title doubles as a baseball metaphor and a direct description of the album’s stacked lineup of guest bassists including regulars Jared Warren (Big Business), Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers) and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle) as well as Steven McDonald (Redd Kross and OFF!), and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana). Drummer Dale Crover throws down some baselines on the record as well, though he’s been positioned firmly behind the drums during the band’s live set for the last 30-plus years.
Last night, McDonald took the stage with Crover and guitar-wielding frontman, King Buzzo. As per usual, Buzzo donned his flashy gold colored cave man cover-all punctuated by a pattern of open eyes and a green scarf that made him look like a cross between a wizard and a martian with his signature electrified white brillo mane thrashing atop his head. McDonald’s long haired charisma and nimble bass lines were an energizing presence to the lineup this time around. They commenced with the ominous notes of “Eye Flys,” a standard intro for the band that sets a tone of prehistoric doom and destruction. Thuds that sounded like footsteps of a T-Rex rattled the walls of the tiny bar like a tin can.
A wave of smushed and swaying bodies consumed the small dancefloor infront of the stage. By the time the band got past a sinister cover of the 1975 Kiss classic “Deuce” and the annihilating riffs of “Queen,” it was clear that the pressure in the pit was either going to crush us all or turn us all into diamonds.
“Who wants to die tonight?!” McDonald screamed into the mic. Obviously, we all did. The crowd responded with a collective roar. The band unleashed ammo from a cross section of albums that included Stonerwitch, Nude With Boots, The Bride Screamed Murder and of course the new album, Basses Loaded. The new and mystical, dirge-like jams “The Decay of Lying” and “War Pussy” sat well in the sludge as the band plodded heavily on bluesy chords and dissonant notes that they bent into submission. McDonald and Crover’s chemistry wasn’t limited to their matching, bedazzled copycat Kiss shirts that read “Bass” and “Drums” respectively. Both were locked in and smiling throughout the set. McDonald genuinely seemed to be having fun up there. So much so he accidentally hit the switch that lowers the stage curtain in the middle of a song. Good to know even rock stars aren’t immune to that time-honored blooper at this bar.
Midway through the set, the bravest of the band’s stoner acolytes attempted to crowd surf, even though the ceiling was low enough to be touched by the tallest guy there. Opening band The Side Eyes (fronted by McDonald’s niece, Astrid) actually deserve the credit for starting the trend last night when their bassist decided to give it a try toward the end of their set. Climbing over fellow fans to get a taste of the waves, a few dudes flailed around in the air as their Vans scraped the popcorn ceiling. The energy during the bootcamp chants on “The Water Glass” and Crover’s drumcore style snare work delivered another shot of adrenaline toward the end of the set.
The Melvins closed with their customary cover of Alice Cooper’s “Halo of Flies,” starting with the creepy two-note riff that builds into a beefy, classic rock salvo of melodic evil under Buzzo’s barking vocals and Crover’s swift pounding on the toms. Sensing the end was nigh, the crowd’s pulse began to pick up again, so did the push and pull on the dance floor. Whatever trace of alcohol was left in this writer’s cup either ended up on me or the person next to me (sorry, bruh). But by the time the band ended and the curtain lowered (on purpose this time), the feeling in the crowd was one of satisfied relief. Even those who sacrificed their drinks to get closer to one of the most unique ass kicking bands to come out of the Pacific Northwest weren’t complaining. Our glasses may have been emptied, but we left with our spirits full.