I’ve been to lots of concerts, but this may very well have been the loudest one I’ve ever attended. I’m not sure if that’s because of my location within the venue, which just so happened to place me right in front of two very large speakers, or because the show (particularly the headlining Melvins) was truly just that loud. In all likelihood, it was a little of both.
As Boca mag’s Arts & Entertainment editor John Thomason wrote in Your Week Ahead, the Melvins’ music isn’t for the faint of heart- but that didn’t stop a solid crowd from coming out to Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room on a Tuesday night for an evening of dense, sludgy, alternative punk music.
The group, which has performed literally thousands of concerts in its 35+ year career, was returning to the Culture Room for the fourth time this decade, and if Tuesday night’s show was any indication, Buzz Osborne’s pioneering group still hasn’t worn out its welcome in South Florida.
The Melvins were supported by veteran alternative rock band Red Kross, as well as longtime producer and associate Toshi Kasai. The groups are approaching the finish line of the massive “Escape from L.A.” U.S. tour, a truly herculean trek that clocks in at 54 dates in just over two months.
The first opening act was the aforementioned Toshi Kasai, who provided a 25-minute set that truly felt like a punishment for those attendees who arrived early enough to experience it. The act consisted entirely of Kasai playing synthesizers, mostly just droning them over one another, as an oscilloscope projected the waveforms onto the venue’s screen behind him. Though the visual aspect was interesting, it was a mostly headache-inducing performance that didn’t provide so much as a moment’s worth of actual music.
Kasai was followed by Red Kross, and the enduring alternative group produced a lively, uptempo set of rock music that woke up the drowsy midweek crowd and made a strong case for the band’s continued relevance.
It’s not often that someone other than a band’s frontman steals the show, but Red Kross bassist Steven McDonald managed to accomplish the feat in spades. By chance, I found myself on the balcony right above McDonald, so even though I may not have had a front-row spot for the entire show, I had a front-row spot for all of his kicks, dance moves, and other antics throughout the evening.
When the time came for the Melvins to take the stage, they did so with smooth jazz music playing over the PA- an intentionally ironic choice to precede the deafening show that was about to ensue. When frontman Buzz Osborne arrived dressed in a black, eyeball-covered robe, he almost immediately drowned out the jazz music with blaring feedback. Osborne carried himself with an aplomb that served as a potent reminder of his rock icon status.
Detached but not aloof, Osborne captivated the audience without actually addressing them once. His guitar playing made his distinctive aluminum Travis Bean guitar look like a toy, and his unmistakably powerful vocals were just as forceful as they were three decades ago.
The Melvins’ setlist, thankfully, was comprised almost exclusively of material in the vein of the band’s most recognizable style. Though the group has dipped into other genres over the years, Tuesday’s show was a master class in heavy rock music, and never strayed from that successful formula.
Osborne certainly provided the evening’s star power, but the true heroes of the night were drummer Dale Crover and bassist Steven McDonald, who pulled double duty, acting as the rhythm section for both bands. The duo powered through both the Red Kross and Melvins sets with incredible gusto, neither seeming vulnerable to fatigue even in the face of such a feat of endurance .
After an hour of pummeling distortion, the show came to a close with the two remaining members of Red Kross joining the Melvins on stage to perform two songs, before ending with a group stage bow.
The show was easily one of the best and loudest nights of rock music South Florida has seen all year, and there’s little doubt that every fan in attendance, myself included, left the show satisfied and with ringing ears.