October 14th, 2007

The Melvins Are Coming! The Melvins Are Coming!

There are a lot of good shows coming to Arizona this fall. After the famine of the summer, this surfeit is especially welcome. I wish the shows were spaced out a bit better -- it's hard to go out several times in the same week -- but the clustering does make for an almost festival-like atmosphere, as if the Hotel Congress event on Labor Day had lingered on indefinitely.

Among the concerts still to come that I have my eye on are Richard Buckner at Club Congress -- early show, BTW -- on 10/24, Gogol Bordello at the Rialto on 10/26, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at Club Congress on 11/1, Do Make Say Think at Plush on 11/6, Of Montreal at the Rialto on 11/7, Stars at the Rialto on 11/8, and Architecture in Helsinki at the Rialto on 11/9. See what I mean about clustering? I'll probably go to DMST and then whichever of the Rialto shows that tommix goes too, though I would hate to miss Buckner. But if you live around here and are interested in making me an offer of companionship, I'll listen intently.

There's also Neko Case at the Rialto on 11/15, Helmet -- bound to be brutally loud and therefore meaningful -- at Club Congress on 11/21, a tenth-anniversary gathering to commemorate the Inner Flame compilation and its subject and beneficiary Rainer Ptacek at Club Congress on 11/24, hosted by Howe Gelb and sure to feature many Tucson scene luminaries, and Japan's Melt Banana at Club Congress on 12/4. Finally, Modest Mouse will be at the Rialto on 12/11. Although that concert is expensive, I may go for reasons of nostalgia, since my first show in Tucson was Modest Mouse at the Rialto in June of 2000, when I was overwhelmed by the heat and even more overwhelmed by the fact that my ticket, purchased at a no-longer-extant bodega up Congress, cost all of $8.

But all this listing is prelude to my declaration that the show I'm looking forward to the most is the Melvins, who will play at Plush next Sunday, 10/21, and in Tempe at the Clubhouse next Monday, 10/22. I'll be seeing them up in Maricopa County, since I can't make the Tucson show, and would definitely be up for a carpooling arrangement if any of you are interested. Mind you, I'm sure they'll be better at Plush, because Plush is simply a better -- and much smaller -- venue.

If you don't know the Melvins already, I'm not sure I'd recommend going unless you're a fan of both punk and metal. That said, nobody does that fusion better than Dale, Buzz and their collaborators of the moment. Come to think of it, I think Kurt Cobain once made the same claim. Anyway, their current collaborators may well be the best of the many they've had over the years. Opening act Big Business, which is also a must-see -- get there by 9:30pm if you're going to Plush -- do double duty doubling Dale and Buzz in the Melvins set each night. And Dale usually sits in on guitar with Big Business.

Bring spending money, if you have it, because the Melvins have mastered the art of tasteful micro-merchandising, selling everything from the standard T-shirts to custom-ordered dolls to artifacts from the band members' personal collection. I wrote in greater depth about their brand of making ends meet, as well as their current line-up, in one of my last pieces for Tikkun:
The entrepreneurial spectacle of the merch table may turn off people who wish to insist on the purity of the music. But it is hard to argue with financial necessity. As the culture industry continues to consolidate its resources in the wake of declining sales and the concomitant difficulty of preventing illegal song copying, fewer and fewer artists will be able to make a career the old-fashioned way. While the dream of becoming the voice of a generation persists, the reality is that the more reasonable goal is to become a voice for several generations at once, appealing to a niche market not limited by age or experience. The success of Bob Dylan’s Modern Times testifies not to the renewed vitality of the traditional music industry, but to the fact that there will never be another Bob Dylan. If artists wish to earn a living making music these days, they would be wise to model themselves, not after Dylan or the Rolling Stones, but the Melvins, who have grasped better than almost anyone the importance of renewing one’s base, rather than wasting energy in pursuit of new customers. Musicians may not be able to escape the reach of global capitalism, but at least they can have some measure of control over the means of production and, just as significantly, reproduction. It sure beats spending one’s days in a cubicle earning money for a multinational corporation.
While I shudder a little at the slant I take in this piece -- what happened to the self-styled Marxist who would sniff out the ideology of entrepreneurialism wherever the acronym "DIY" appears? -- it's true that the Melvins provide inspiration for anyone who ever wondered whether it's possible to achieve the sort of music-world success that tastes just like Goldilocks's preferred bowl of porridge.

The Melvins also provide a different sort of inspiration to me, because they have intersected with my life in meaningful ways. tpratt introduced them to me back in 1989, when I was still struggling to free myself from the bondage of a high school experience that retarded my cultural growth. I soon began to go see the band regularly with friends -- they were living in the Bay Area at the time and played pretty often -- for whom it had become the cool thing to do. I saw them at the Kennel Club with cpratt and his aforementioned brother. Then Kim ended up acquiring two Frank Kozik posters that have been displayed on our walls with pride ever since, one of which -- featuring a nun with blood dripping from her mouth, which you may have seen if you have been over -- was for that very same Kennel Club show.

And then there was my first musical interview, which I conducted, nervously, at the San Francisco studio run by the Fucking Champs's Tim Green while the band sat around eating Thai food during a power outage. I listened to my tape recording of our conversation recently and, boy, is it ever embarrassing. The hesitations and qualifications that even stud my speech on a good day are so prevalent that it sounds like something that might be in the case file of an inmate at a mental institution. But I did end up getting enough material for something that looked alright in print and would have looked even better had not the overworked, underpaid people working at Punk Planet not butchered the edit. I might as well link to that version, since someone made it available online years ago, even though I can't stand to read the portion that came out wrong. Oh, and I also got to take some photos of the band in the rapidly fading light -- that's where the one above came from -- and, best of all, drive them to Amoeba Records in the Haight after the interview -- in Old Red, for those of you familiar with our cars -- where they headed immediately to the cult and foreign DVDs while I bided my time so I could buy Pavement's Terror Twilight, which had been released that day, June 24, 1999, without the Melvins seeing me, suffering under the absurd delusion that they would think less of me for buying something in a different genre. I mean, they hung with Kurt, for goodness sakes. It's not like I was hanging out with Norwegian death metalers. But I digress: the Melvins are coming!