Eyepopping video fx, chummy banter about Smellovision and a medicinally sprayed mask made appearances in the third installment of Melvin’s contribution to the live stream genre on the occasion of May Day. Or, as they called it, MAY DAY! MAY DAY! MAY DAY!
Just like the New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day editions, Volume 3 followed the same short hour-long format: a handful of songs performed beneath distinctly bizarre video filters and green screen effects, an oddball vignette and frank chats with the current lineup of original members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, and Redd Kross co-founder Steven McDonald, who has been on bass with them since 2015. The dry wit and deadpan chemistry of these buttoned-down conversations almost compete with the performances themselves in terms of entertainment for the sheer randomness one would expect from a prolific band halfway through their fourth decade and have cumulatively spent years together in tour vans.
Intro’d by several minutes of their hallmark stoner sludge, played beneath a mock tv broadcast test pattern, the band began with “Dark Brown Teeth,” a bouncy acoustic number from Osborne’s 2014 acoustic solo album, This Machine Kills Artists. Colorful magnetic noise distorted every visible edge on screen, and blobs of colorful oil patterns brought to mind early low-tech projection techniques that gave the psychedelic era its look. The restlessly slicing and dicing riff was an interesting counterpoint to the visual, which conjured the fuzzed-out full stacks of Iron Butterfly and Jefferson Airplane while at the same time reaffirming the Melvins ownership of the distinctly quirky way they’ve always represented themselves.
The first part of the interview, which was more a conversation between the three members and the offscreen interviewer, started with a question of what the band has been up to during the pandemic and swiftly went into Osborne’s distaste of hot tubs (“I’ve never been in a hot tub”) and public pools (“Public pool equals public toilet”). The hilarity of these wry observations and insights created a sense of hanging with the guys, which was reinforced by Osborne’s own participation in the comment thread. Later on, he swiftly corrected one fan who misquoted the lyrics to “Eye Flys,” (“Most of those lyrics are wrong”), and another who thought it was inspired by his distaste for the 2015 Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck (“I wrote it in the fall of 86…35 years ago”).
After a second acoustic tune, “Up the Dumper” from 1999’s The Bootlicker, fans were treated to an odd vignette of Osborne and McDonald picking up “something” from a green-crossed dispensary, before encountering Crover waiting by the truck, where they sprayed some green smokey stuff on a safety mask before Crover put it on and experienced some sort of druggy delirium. A perfect transition from the twinkling acoustic portion of the set. This “gateway drug” (as they referred to it later on) marked the entry into the stoner metal portion, beginning with 2012’s “A Growing Disgust.”
The video effects also entered far more altered territory as well, peaking with “The Bit,” the epic opening track from 1996’s Stag. A little more leisurely-paced than the studio version, the ostensibly lo-fi video effects created a strange experience, creating visual echoes of motion, drawing movement in space with ragged digitized and heavily curved and distorted forms that continuously drifted off the screen. Crover’s lingering frozen facial expression, as his arms carved fleshy sine waves in space, brought to mind the hallucinogenic horror of hanging with friends when that acid comes on too strong and their look of abject terror and uncertainty matches yours. The words May day! May day! capture the feeling perfectly—an instantly unforgettable moment in a career-spanning set.
At just five bucks, the tickets for these weird little episodes are a fair price as one of the more affordable entries in the live stream genre, which speaks to the Melvins’ humble approachability. The talk about hot tubs and what’s cooking in their kitchens emphasizes this integral aspect of their persona and artistic integrity. It seems almost obvious for them to do Volume 4 on the 4th of July. Here’s to hoping that they do and that they’ll throw some BBQ into the mix. They’ll probably have a lot to say about it.
Photo Credit: Marv Watson