On the face of it, the double-header line up of snotty-punk-turned-power-pop cult favourites Redd Kross and sludge-rock overlords Melvins might not sound like the most obvious of pairings. But when you learn that the two bands share not just one but two members, and have legacy links with each other that run back to the 80s, the choice for them to head out on tour together starts to make much more sense.
So, when their double-pronged show made its way to London, we headed down to the Electric Brixton to see what we could learn.
No one is happy to show up quite like Redd Kross
Redd Kross have made a name for themselve over the years for their brand of relentlessly upbeat power pop, so it makes sense that this jubilant abandon follows them to the stage. In essence, they’re just really, really, happy to be here. They dance with glittery fabric over their heads, they throw tambourines into the air, they scissorkick and sway in unison, they make numerous mentions of how special it is to be in Brixton and bassist Steve McDonald in particular is effusive in how lucky he feels to be performing here tonight. They’re also the snappiest dressers in the game. During this set, it’s impossible not to feel just a little bit warmer inside.
People don’t dress up for gigs on Halloween anymore
Special mention to the 20-odd people who did make an effort: the weird Cowardly Lion/Cousin It hybrid, the corpse bride and the smattering of devil and unicorn horns. Alas, the majority of the crowd – perhaps due to the high proportion of middle aged men, AKA officially the least likely demographic to willingly leave their houses in fancy dress – opt out of costumes. Come on, London. Make more effort.
Dale Crover is a machine
Recently joining Redd Kross for their live shows, Dale Crover is pulling a double shift tonight. Of course, he’s not the only one – Melvins and Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald is also putting in a back-to-back stint – but Crover doesn’t let up for a second. Still slicked with sweat when he takes his seat for the Melvins half of the show, he remains an impressively tight force right until the end.
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They don’t call it stoner rock for nothing
Puffs of suspiciously scented smoke billow into the air with relative frequency, causing security to barrel their way through the crowds at various points throughout the night in vain attempts to search out their origin. Meanwhile, we pour one out for the unfortunate soul who whiteyed before the end of the fourth song, causing him to be carried out on the shoulders of an irate member of security staff.
This new Melvins configuration is one of their tightest units yet
New bassist Steve McDonald adds an entirely new energy to Melvins’ live show. A natural showman, his gleeful energy is the perfect foil to Buzz Osborne’s surly charm, and it’s quite often he who will be holding court with the crowds during the show. But they’re also the tightest they’ve been for a long time, with this stripped down three-piece allowing for a fine-tuned performance: take, for example, the moment they huddle together during the start of Oven, before bursting apart in perfect unison.
You never know what you’re going to get from a Melvins show
It’s impossible for a setlist to please all the people all the time, and with a back catalogue as varied and vast as Melvins’ is, there’s just no telling what’s going to make the cut. However, there seems to be a growing trend for bands to actively eschew their greatest hits when playing live. This is a Walk With Love & Death tour, so it makes sense that the majority of the setlist will be made up from the latest album. But there’s no Hooch, no Honey Bucket – in fact, Houdini is ignored completely – and only the odd fan favourite thrown in for good measure. It’s telling that when those moments do come round – such as Stag’s The Bit – the crowd erupt into rapturous movement.
Melvins’ newest album, A Walk With Love & Death, is available now via Ipecac Recordings.