SAN FRANCISCO -- His wild, white-man's afro flailing, his body twisting and thrashing, Melvins guitarist/frontman King Buzzo lurched toward the mic onstage at Slim's. His monstrous voice roared through the packed, darkened club.
That cathartic moment Thursday night marked the launch of the sludge-rock pioneers' most extensive U.S. tour in the 15-year history of the band. For the near-capacity audience -- roughly 350 predominantly leather-clad male rockers -- it was primal-scream therapy at its most informal.
The catharsis will be coming to a club near you this summer. The Melvins are embarking on a 70-date, two-and-a-half month U.S. tour to support their latest album, Maggot, as well as to preview songs from Bootlicker, the second installment in the release of three new CDs this summer.
The distorted sounds of Buzzo's power chords could be felt as well as heard during the band's 70-minute set at Slim's, and the crowd pulsated with the energy given off by the veteran Aberdeen, Wash.-spawned rockers. Almost every head in the place was banging in time with the powerful beats.
But to hear him tell it, Buzzo couldn't care less.
"I care even less about what people think these days," Buzzo (born Buzz Osborne) said, reclining on a ratty brown sofa backstage before the show. "If you're too stupid to see the talent in this band, it's not my job to help you; go ahead and listen to Bush."
Most of today's heavy rock bands owe as much to the Melvins as they do to '70s power-chord rockers Black Sabbath. King Buzzo introduced grunge rock to Seattle; Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was once their roadie. With more than 15 CDs under its belt, the prolific band, which includes drummer Dale Crover and current bassist Kevin Rutmanis, has toured with everybody from '70s glam-superstars Kiss to the ultra-metal Ozzfest.
After 15 years of playing with the Melvins, you'd think dishing out their signature brand of heavy sludge rock would become almost routine for the frontman/guitarist. But it's not.
"There's nothing routine about being in a band. At least not this one," Buzzo said. That's because the Melvins don't go out and play the same songs over and over again. Since the 1992 release of the bandmembers' four solo CDs -- which paid homage to Kiss' 1978 quadruple solo releases -- their albums have become increasingly iconoclastic. They've also branched out beyond sludge rock, with forays into feedback-drenched noise and lighter, more melodic tunes.
For Buzzo, the band's prolific output is its antidote to boredom. "What else would I do? I'm not going to live in some house somewhere selling canoes," he said. "We take ourselves very seriously -- we even take making fun of ourselves very seriously."
At Slim's the band played two songs from the yet-to-be-released Bootlicker, which Buzzo called a "shift in gears" for the band. The album is said to feature some of the Melvins' lighter material. "Let It All Be," one of the new songs the band played Thursday night, featured brooding but undistorted guitar, Buzzo's characteristically spastic vocal ramblings and Crover's Mack truck-sized drum riffs. The song was only slightly mellower than the pummeling rock turned out at almost every other turn by the band.
The Melvins also sprinkled their set with older material, including songs from 1991's Eggnog and 1993's Houdini, as well as songs from their latest Ipecac release, Maggot, including "Amazon."
After rocking hard for about an hour, the Melvins unstrapped their guitars and began to head offstage. But the roar of the crowd convinced them to play one more song. "This is a song from our first album," Buzzo told the crowd. "I wrote it in 1986 and it's still one of my favorites."
There was a momentary pause while Crover showed the relatively new
bassist which notes to play. Soon enough, Rutmanis began to churn out
the achingly slow and dirge-like bassline to the song "Eye Flys," from the band's first album, 1986's Gluey Porch Treatments. The Melvins left the stage after delivering the final blow, leaving only drummer Crover pounding out a slow series of tremendous thumps on his bass drum before getting up and exiting.
The Melvins Tour Dates
June 19; San Jose, Calif; Cactus Club
June 20; Reno, Nev.; Delmar
June 22; Eugene, Ore.; Wow Hall
June 24; Portland, Ore.; Berbatis Pan
June 25-26; Seattle, Wash.; Velvet Elvis, Breakroom
June 27; Olympia, Wash.; Liquid
June 29; Bellingham, Wash.; 38 Tavern
June 30; Spokane, Wash.; Ichabod's
July 1; Missoula, Mont.; Cowboy Bar
July 2; Boise, Idaho; Neurolux
July 3; Pocatello, Idaho; The Roache Motel
July 5; Salt Lake City, Utah; Holy Cow
July 7; Boulder, Colo.; Fox Theatre
July 8; Vail, Colo.; Garions
July 9; Ft. Collins, Colo.; Starlight
July 10; Denver, Colo.; Bluebird
July 12; Lawrence, Kan.; The Bottleneck
July 13; Omaha, Neb.; Ranch Bowl
July 14; Minneapolis, Minn.; 7th St. Entry
July 15; Milwaukee, Wis.; The Rave
July 16; Chicago, Ill.; Double Door
July 17; Chicago, Ill.; Fireside Bowl
July 19; Detroit, Mich.; Shelter
July 20; Cincinnati, Ohio; Sudsy Malones
July 21; Cleveland, Ohio; Euclid Tavern
July 22; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Club Laga
July 24; Cambridge, Mass.; Middle East
July 26; Providence, R.I.; Living Room
July 27; Portland, Maine; Asylum
July 28; New London, Conn.; El N' Gee Club
July 29; New York, N.Y.; Knitting Factory
July 30; New York, N.Y.; Knitting Factory
July 31; Philadelphia, Pa.; TLA
Aug. 1; Washington, D.C.; Black Cat
Aug. 3; Carrboro, N.C.; Cat's Cradle
Aug. 4; Spartanburg, N.C.; Ground Zero
Aug. 5; Birmingham, Ala.; The Nick
Aug. 6; Nashville, Tenn.; Exit Inn
Aug. 7; Athens, Ga.; 40 Watt
Aug. 9; Atlanta, Ga.; Cotton Club
Aug. 10; Jacksonville, Fla.; Jack Rabbit's
Aug. 11; Orlando, Fla.; Sapphire Supper Club
Aug. 12; St. Petersburg, Fla.; State Theatre
Aug. 13; Tallahassee, Fla.; Cow Haus
Aug. 14; Pensacola, Fla.; Sluggo's
Aug. 16; New Orleans, La.; House of Blues
Aug. 17; Houston, Texas; Numbers
Aug. 18; San Antonio, Texas; White Rabbit
Aug. 19; Austin, Texas; Emo's
Aug. 20; Dallas, Texas; Tree's
Aug. 21; Tulsa, Okla.; Hercules Motor Co.
Aug. 22; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Will Rogers Theatre
Aug. 23; Albuquerque, N.M.; Launch Pad
Aug. 25; Tucson, Ariz.; The Rock
Aug. 26; Phoenix, Ariz.; Mason Jar
Aug. 27; San Diego, Calif.; The Casbah
Aug. 28; Los Angeles, Calif.; Troubadour
Aug. 29; Santa Ana, Calif.; Galaxy