I’m gonna level with y’all. I don’t want to write this article. I love the Melvins and seeing them live and in person last Tuesday at the White Oak Music Hall was unfuckingbelievable. But there’s a reason why I’m barely getting to this piece now and not last Wednesday.
Isn’t it weird how you think awesome life-changing experiences are gonna motivate you to do something productive and kick ass, but then you just veg for hours watching old Beavis and Butthead? Is it the pressure to write something good? Maybe. Or is it the fact that writing a concert recap seems redundant and not that fun? Bingo. Fuck it, let’s go.
1. The Melvins rocked my world for several reasons: Brutal. Sludgey. Metal.
The band is touring in support of their new album, Pinkus Abortion Technician (2018), an obvious reference to the Butthole Surfer’s Locust Abortion Technician. It’s their 26th studio album to date, cause these guys are insane. Even more astonishing is the clip these guys tour at. I swear the Melvins just love performing and bringing their perverse version of joy to fans all over the country/ world.
After thirty years, these dudes still know how to play heavier and louder than anyone. Now I come from earthquake country so I know what it’s like to get the shakes all over me. So believe me when I tell you that ceiling was this close to coming down that night. Two bass players flaking the sides, including legend in the flesh, Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers, and Steve McDonald, also of Redd Kross. I’ve never seen a band opt for two bass players and it worked surprisingly well. Not to mention, you had Dale Crover trying to beat the demons out of his drum set. Fucking god-mode and he proved that a hundred times over especially on songs like “At a Crawl” and “Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad.”
My favorite songs played were “Honey Bucket,” “The Talking Horse,” and “Eye Flys.” Those tunes got everything firing on all cylinders. Something so heavy about them. Not surprisingly, the crowd shared loved them too.
2. King Buzzo doing King Buzzo things
Buzz Osborne is such a Melvins guy. You know when you see pictures of owners with their pets and you’re like yeah it totally makes sense? That’s what Osborne is to the Melvins when it comes to style, looks, sound, and general way of living. He would look weird with any other band he didn’t form (reference pic above). After 30 years, he really doesn’t give a fig about much else besides melting brains with shit like this:
What a guitar tone. This is what does it for me when it comes to stoner metal. Think of the genre’s biggest bands, they all got insanely idiosyncratic and distinct guitar tone. Buzzo, Josh Homme when he axed for Kyuss, or Matt Pike from Sleep. Can’t beat it and King Buzzo slayed on the guitar all night. He also sported the kind of drag that only he can make look normal. Loved it.
3. The crowd
Stoner metal fans are by far the most dedicated this side of Dead Heads. They won’t let age or attrition or no money get them down when it comes to seeing their band ––on a Tuesday night no less! I’m not even joking. One dude dragged his six year old to the show and stayed the whole time even when it became evident the kid was actually trying to knock himself out at a freakin Melvins show. Not to worry though, Dad put a pair of industrial grade ear muff over Junior’s head. You know the yellow kind that dudes with a leaf blower wear? Those ones. Didn’t know who I felt worse for, the dad for not being able to dump the kid with a much more responsible adult, i.e. literally any other person above the age of 18, or the kid, who will inevitably get dragged to more shows where the average age of audience and band alike are medicare eligible.
To be fair, there were quite a few young people out there too, me among them. Together everyone brought the kind of energy the Melvins deserve from their fans. Plenty of yelling and drinking. Not so much moshing but it was a weeknight.
4. Tune Yards
Same night, same venue we had Tune Yards playing downstairs in the main room of the White Oak. For those of you who don’t know, Tune Yards is a phenomenal duo. Masterminded by Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner, few acts know how to make composing seem like a feat of alchemy more than making music. Luckily for me, I had the press pass so I was able to sneak a few visits into their set and boy was I surprised. That room was fucking empty. I’ve been in libraries on a Friday afternoon with more heads. This was easily the lowest point of my night.
When it comes to music reputation Houston still falls waaaaay behind Austin and even Dallas (smh). It’s not completely deserved cause Houston has one of the richest and most underrated musical cultures in the country. It’s also the third largest city in America and the largest city in the South. But there’s no use in riding on the coattails of old timey bluesmen, Zydeco, ZZ Top, and DJ Screw (Beyonce is from Missouri City and dumped Houston for NYC). It’s not the artists though. It’s us, the fans.
***Following diatribe aimed at those living in the loop with some discretionary income***
Houstonians suck when it comes to going to concerts not held at the Toyota Center. I’m serious. I’ve been to too many shows that would have definitely drawn major crowds in other cities only to find a severely underwhelming turnout. I get it, everything is spread out, traffic sucks, and being lazy is usually the safest bet in any situation. Still, it’s ballz when such an amazing artist like Tune Yards, who played to a full house several years ago at Fitzgerald’s (I was there) and put every other musician on planet Earth to shame that night, has to perform to the same amount of people gathering for an intern’s goodbye party. The group played their asses off too as if they didn’t even notice all the nothing occupying the venue. Class acts for sure.
(By the way, I reviewed the schedules. Rockets weren’t playing that night. As for the Astros, they played here and lost to the Yankees (4-0). However, no one is watching a baseball game in May, not even baseball fans. Can’t make sports the scapegoat here.)
I’ve thought about this problem for about 20 minutes and think I have a foolproof solution. As an educator, my philosophy entails teaching to the student/class instead of trying to force them into your system. Observe them a while and provide them with a flexible structure so that both parties feel validated and empowered. We should do that with Houstonians who live in the loop. Maybe we gotta put on concerts during sunny weekend mornings. Not too early, cause all of Midtown has a hangover and brunch doesn’t start till around 11 anyway. Bands should play at one of those places that serve breakfast late and keep the mimosas coming rather than an actual venue. Oh and anywhere they got corn hole. You’re bound to find a lot of people around cornhole. If we can get bands to do that, then we’ll have sellout shows nonstop every Sunday from 11am—3pm! (Provided their located in the Heights, Midtown, Montrose, or the Galleria area.) Then we won’t have to ask ourselves why the third fucking largest city in AMERICA is getting major acts on a bullshit Tuesday night. Thoughts?
5. My Tramp Stamp
After the Melvins left their set, I stayed behind to look for any guitar picks on the floor (got one from the Stone Temple Pilots that way!) and instead settled for an empty Shiner can from Steve McDonald. Satisfied with this acquisition I began walking away when I noticed a closed door. Doing what anybody would do I tried opening said door and by golly it worked! Next thing you know I’m facing the Melvins themselves, chilling and watching the Astros lose, after a badass set.
I was dumfounded cause the Melvins are personally the most important musicians I’ve met so far (honorable mention to Chris Cornell RIP), but had to operate fast. I tried acting cool for about five seconds before I just blurted out my undying affinity for the band and blew my cover as someone important. After some very very very brief internal debate I asked them all to sign my shirt which every single one of those awesome motherfuckers did without protest. I felt like a kid in a candy store where everything is free and no other kids are allowed. What I didn’t know is that one member in particular wasn’t just gonna make my night, he was gonna change my life.
Coming in clutch for your boy was Jeff Pinkus, who signed the back of the shirt I was wearing and added “Super Tramp Stamp” as far down as he could without creating another story. Now I’ve never been baptized before but I think having Jeff fucking Pinkus label you a tramp near the ass comes pretty close. Now I gotta admit, I did feel a bit apprehensive with him doing something behind me. After all, we’re talking about a dude who has played with two bands who one can legitimately argue all associated members should have been institutionalized rather than allowed to record music. This is not the kind of person you want operating in such a vulnerable position with a permanent marker. At the same time I could tell whatever was going on back there, it would become the proverbial cherry to top off my life and highlight of a story I will force loved ones to hear for many years to come.
As for my shirt, I can’t wash it now. It’s actually my favorite shirt, but I can’t do anything with it after this. I’m okay with that, but now the question arises: Do I get buried in this shirt or pass it down to my future generations? If I get buried in the shirt then I run the risk of getting dirt on it which is no-no. However, if I give it to my kids, they’ll probably use it to clean dog piss and use it as source material to tell all of their friends about how weird I am for liking something called a “band.” Fortunately, I won’t have to make a decision for like at least another six months. Till then, I’ll continue to wear it and never wash it.
Check out the Melvins new album, pull into the intersection on a green yield signal, and support music in Houston.
Daniel "Rico" Vidales is a musician and educator who has done time in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Houston. He also has a master's degree in musicology that he plans to use at some point. In addition to writing about music, Rico enjoys doing other things with music, podcasting, and arguing about sports.