Much in the tradition of the annual explosion of free and sponsored events thrown at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival, Scion AV has put on numerous free events aimed at good will with the fans. As of recent, many of their events have been centered on hard rock or metal bands. Curious though the association may be, the fans ultimately win. This time, the auto manufacturer put together a supremely impressive bill featuring the first ever solo acoustic performance from The Melvins’ King Buzzo and Los Angeles hard rock duo Tweak Bird.
Brothers Ashton (drums/vocals) and Caleb (guitar/vocals) Bird were up first. The two are a scrappy combo, playing a super loose variety of sludge rock that somehow is also impossibly poppy and cheerful. Ashton has an attack on his kit that is like Animal from The Muppets on the first day he found his kit: loud, loose and powerful. Caleb plays almost all open chords or chords with added open strings, providing a doom-y backdrop that fans of High on Fire or Sleep would appreciate. Each song is an elastic and enveloping creation, bringing as much snarling fury as it does mirthful release.
Headliner King Buzzo did a mix of classic material from The Melvins’ back catalog and newer material from his upcoming, as-yet-untitled, all-acoustic album coming out this summer. True to form and reputation—see some of his appearances on Fox News’ Red Eye—Buzzo is a total card, cracking jokes at every possible turn. “Suicide in Progress” and Stag’s “Captain Pungent” both show the musical finesse The Melvins material is famous for, and because the songs are being rendered for the first time without drums or bass, how crucial Dale Crover’s drumming is to each track’s arrangement. On “Captain Pungent” numerous crowd members take to singing the drum fills while Buzzo is silently counting the absent spaces to keep in time.
“Evil New War God” and new single “Dark Brown Teeth” are all nimble fretwork, dancing on the guitar’s lower notes. Buzzo then tells a funny story about he always “blows it,” detailing how he finally reconnected with Dave Grohl at a Scream reunion concert after 10 years being out of touch. He explained how they got back in touch and Grohl offered to have him out to one of Them Crooked Vultures’ concerts (presumably on the group’s one and only tour). Buzzo recounted how he said to Grohl, “’Ah man. Dude, I got Dodger tickets that night.’ And I haven’t heard from him again. See! I blew it. That’s what you call blowing it.”
“We Are Doomed” continues on in menacing fashion and Houdini-era classic “Hooch” without the shouting comes off almost tender. He then follows with “Let God Be Your Gardener” which he describes as “a pain in the ass.” It’s no surprise, as the song requires his fingers to scale up and down the guitar neck with manic fury. Upon a perfect completion of the fretwork and song Buzzo throws his arms up in victory pose and proudly proclaims, “I did it!” to a massive cheer from the crowd. “I can’t tell you how happy I am I don’t have to play that again,” he quips.
The set ends appropriately on the 70’s rock mega outro of “Revolve” and the monster crescendo freak-out of “Boris.” This was unique and rare in a very Melvins fashion. What’s most interesting here is to imaging some of the bands most acoustic favoring songs and how good they would’ve been to hear too. Not included here were “Let it All Be,” “Prig” or better yet, “Black Bock.” Instead, Buzzo opted to take material clearly arranged for full band and transpose it into fish out of water territory. Still quite impressive, but this might only be scratching the surface of what he’s capable of in this variation.