I think it is clear at this point who is most dedicated to posting on this blog: Static and Distance Washington, DC correspondent Bob! Here's another of his zany dispatches from the seedy musical underground of our nation's capital.
Despite what all of my entries on this blog seem to imply, I do go to shows that aren't just exercises in the bizarre. Bands with people who play a normally tuned guitar and four-on-the-floor beats and shit. However, I can't really write about those shows in an interesting manner, so here we are.
On 4/12/16 I went and saw Melt-Banana, Melvins, and Napalm Death at the 9:30 Club. They called the tour the "Savage Imperial Death March Tour," which I'm gonna be honest, even if I didn't know any of the bands would have been worth the ticket price on name alone. I was most excited to see Melt-Banana, especially since I missed a show of theirs in San Diego last year. Melvins are a group I've always known and liked but never really dove into. For Napalm Death, I was completely blind—only having done a quick tour of their discography on Spotify at work the day of the show.
The crowd for this show was interesting, mostly in that I had not felt like more of a square in a very, very long time. Like, I was actively getting side-eye from hardcore kids in the flipped bill hats with gauges in their ears and homemade tattoos and shit. It was fascinating, mostly because I don't have anybody like that in my social scene so it felt good to break out a bit, y'know? But mostly it left me very jealous of these people with battle jackets. I could easily buy a denim jacket, some patches, and sew that shit up, but I just don't feel like I could pull off the look. It'd be like if I wore an old Ramones-style leather jacket on the way to my job in software development. It'd be completely phony. Maybe someday if I go off the grid or something.
Melt-Banana went on first. Excuse the obnoxiously pretentious genre name, but I think I'd describe these guys as hardcore noise pop. The band is composed of two people: a guitarist, and a singer/electronics manipulator, and they play this frantically hooky punk music. The singer controlled the bass/drum machine tracks via this super cool Nintendo Powerglove type situation, which was really impressive. They banged through their set, basically refusing to waste any time. They even did this bit about halfway through the set where the singer said "Okay! We're gonna play six short songs!", and they banged out six songs that were each about fifteen seconds long (see below for an example from a different stop on the tour). I was really looking forward to seeing these guys, and they more than met my expectations. Was worth the entire show, to be honest.
Melt-Banana doing their part to get you home at a reasonable hour
With Melvins what struck me was how impressively professional they were. Kind of what I'd imagine a Neil Diamond concert is like in terms of the musicians' complete confidence in their material and playing ability. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the outfits these guys had on for the show. I never would have pegged Melvins as "best dressed" kind of guys, but that's what I get for assuming. The guitarist (Buzzo, well King Buzzo officially but that's too formal) wore this pre-match boxing robe with this big ol' eyeball on the front of it—like what a different galaxy's Mike Tyson would be wearing if the TNG crew ever came knocking. Not only that, but the drummer wore a shirt that was bedazzled with the word "Drummer", and guitarist "Guitarist." That really tickled me. The tunes they played were solid, and they were definitely an enjoyable band to see. Well, all their songs literally sound like depression, but they do it very well. That kind of enjoyable.
Melvins being all professional and skilled at their instruments and stuff
Then on came Napalm Death. They are one of those bands where the band name is in a font that looks like the words were painted in blood on a wall. So I kind of knew what I was getting into, but since they were the headliner and I was marginally interested at best, I stepped back a bit and let all the folks who were stoked up closer and holy shit these people were fucking STOKED. They came out and the singer started talking and I was surprised to learn they were British! I had no idea. He bantered bantered and then on a drop of a hat switched to that growly hardcore like "BURN THE INNOCENT FUCK YOUR FRIENDS KILL YR IDOLS" type thing, which was jarringly entertaining. I also enjoyed that the guitarist had his mic set up like Lemmy's, where the microphone is positioned 6-8" above his mouth and angled down sharply.
However, I have a completely uninformed and scandalous accusation to make at this time. I'm halfway convinced the drummer had...electronic assistance. To paint the picture: the drummer had a kit with two bass drums a la Keith Moon. Further, he looked like the stereotype of a smooth jazz drummer: fat white dude that's balding just a bit and has a pony tail. No judgment here, dude can look how he wants. What I was shocked by, though, was how nonplussed the guy looked when playing these crazy fast tunes. Like, picture the beginning part of that "Wipeout" song. Except instead of playing that on a tom with his hands, he played with his feet that quickly and for 3-5 minutes at a time. So, imagine the dude I described basically running in place for 20 minutes. I figured he'd be showing outwardly that he was making physical effort. To my surprise the guy looked as if he was just calmly playing, like he was idly tapping while waiting for a pizza or something. Now to be fair, he could easily just be incredibly talented and what seems hard to me is ho-hum bullshit to him. But if not, I find the idea of PEDs for drummers incredibly funny.
Napalm Death: Soon to be tied up in the Biogenesis scandal
I left the show after four or five Napalm Death songs. I felt like a quitter, but the buzz I had going earlier was wearing off, I was out of money, I didn't really care about Napalm Death, and I had shit to do at home. Even still, the concert was a really, really great time. Well worth the $30 and long bus ride home for sure.