Melvins Lite and Tweak Bird at Dover Brick House, Dover NH on Saturday, September 29, 2012.
Titles don’t often tell the whole story. Anyone unfamiliar with the band who sees the marquee with “Melvins Lite” written may initially conjure visions of acoustic-led ballads, with some wryly cloying anecdotes peppered between the songs like some sort of hellish VH1 Storytellers episode. No, the Melvins still brought their might and endless bag of riffs on the road, with the key qualifier of “Lite” being Mr. Trevor Dunn instead of Coady Willis and Jared Warren of Big Business, who also pull double duty with Buzzo and Dale Crover. Ironically the Big Business guys were just one state away when this gig happened, stop #25 in a grueling quest to land in the hallowed pages of the Guinness Book by playing all 5o states in 50 days, throwing in DC for good measure. Hey, it’s in the way!
This stunt has gotten the attention of George Thorogood, and you can read some amusing bits on this and many other topics via their tour diary (be on the lookout with an interview on Prefixmag as well). Regardless of this continuous stretch, the band is no stranger to the road and has already done more touring in this calendar year than most bands achieve in the span of years, not weeks. The last time Dunn joined the touring lineup, it was during the 25th anniversary tour which featured a full reading of 1993’s classic Houdini, but to augment those songs (they did play a couple of choice cuts such as “Set Me Straight” and “Sky Pup”) they leaned heavily (playing all but “Tommy Goes Berserk”) on Freak Puke, the latest addition to their burgeoning discography and a record that Dunn helped create.
Buzzo had his traditional mumu on, and Crover was recycling some roman gladiator/bandleader outfit, but Dunn went the extra sartorial mile and pinned the geek meter with shorts, socks with garters, thick black glasses (without lenses, a LeBron move if I’ve ever seen one) and a short-sleeved button-down shirt and tie. And he brought his massive acoustic double bass, alternatively sawing it, plucking it, and laying on the ground with it over his body, still playing it. “Inner Ear Rupture” is just the sort of avant-garde treat that Melvins Lite affords; a lot of people know Dunn from his work with Mr. Bungle and Fantômas, but he’s also spent considerable time with John Zorn and it’s obvious that he’s been paying attention.
Starting with the amorphous cloud of “Eye Flys,” the first song on their debut LP released in 1986, the song served to underscore the fact that Freak Puke isn’t some sort of new experiment on the band’s part. Pushing boundaries and buttons has been standard operating procedure for decades, and it’s a good thing that the Melvins are still the standard bearers for such behavior.
Openers Tweak Bird are covering the 45 shows during the continental portion of the tour, doing most of the heavy lifting alongside the Melvins. Consisting of two brothers, surname Bird, Ashton and Caleb avoid any comparisons to guitar/drum duos such as Big Business, godheadSilo, Lightning Bolt, etc by creating their own unique sound. Instead of a super heavy bashing that would be delivered far better once the Melvins started, they played their own brand of super sunny pop hits with a sturdy backbone. Both brothers sang in a higher than expected register, Ashton was a tornado on drums, and Caleb seemed more than satisfied to crank out feel-good riffs using just the top one or two strings of his guitar.