Concert Reviews

The Many Denver Connections to the Melvins

There were serious Denver connections at this weekend's Melvins show. For starters, Andrew Novick did one of his GetYourGoing slide shows to start off the night. The affable and intelligent Novick can be found at all sorts of events, including his own pop-up ramen shop, a Beyond Thunderdome-themed party and — as GetYourGoing — a live karaoke show involving Waffle House songs while Novick served waffles in legendary DIY venue Monkey Mania. But in the late '80s and early '90s, Novick was a member of the notorious punk-rap band Warlock Pinchers. Turns out the Pinchers and the Melvins were on the same record label, Boner, early on, and they played multiple shows together over the years. They developed a friendship, and the Melvins contributed a song to the Warlock Pinchers tribute album, Imposters!, and performed at one of the two Warlock Pinchers reunion shows in 2010. It's a testament to the Melvins' wonderful sense of humor and the absurd that they'd ask GetYourGoing to open during their current run of shows. 

Le Butcherettes, originally based in Guadalajara, Mexico, are a punk-garage three-piece fronted by the animated and charismatic Teri Gender Bender (née Teresa Suárez), who was born in Denver. She moved with her family to Mexico in 2002, when she was thirteen, following the tragic heart-attack death of her father. While Le Butcherettes formed in 2007, Gender Bender became friends with former Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and joined him in the noteworthy experimental rock band Bosnian Rainbows. So while this wasn't Gender Bender's first show as a musician in Denver, she and the rest of the band played like they had something to prove. Really, though, this group probably puts the same kind of energy into every show. Gender Bender's diaphanous outfit seemed to float and swirl about her throughout the performance, as though she were some kind of impassioned fairy creature.

This Melvins tour is purported to be the last with former Butthole Surfers member Jeff Pinkus. And this show wasn't just Melvins songs; it included some Butthole Surfers material as well, including the cuttingly noisy “Graveyard” and the humorously ominous and absurd “Moving to Florida,” with Buzz Osborne mimicking the original vocals by slowing down his voice and contorting the pronunciation like a cassette tape warping and on the verge of being eaten by the playback machine. But the covers didn't end there: The Wipers' classic “Youth of America” got a proper, fiery treatment. What came as perhaps the biggest surprise was the Melvins closing the show with the great Bikini Kill song and riot grrrl anthem, “Rebel Girl,” with Gender Bender guesting on lead vocals and taking things up a notch in her intense stage persona.

Overall, this show was a reminder of how the Melvins were never just a sludge band — not a proto-grunge outfit, but simply one of the tightest, most powerful and inventive rock bands still going. These guys can lay down the heaviest, darkest music with a paradoxic grace and elegance. None of the weirdest original material came into the set list, but a band that can pull off something as unusual as “Moving to Florida” amid songs that casual fans can enjoy displays more chutzpah than one often gets to witness at any show.

Critic’s Notebook

Bias: For years I largely ignored the Melvins and then decided to check out a show in 2008. I was so impressed with every aspect of the performance and the power and tastefulness of the music that I have since become a big fan.

Random Detail: Le Butcherettes have an album due out September 18 called A Raw Youth.

By the Way: I thought the show started at 9 p.m. based on the door time and didn't get pictures of GetYourGoing.

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.