Melvins + Redd Kross
Words by Jason Leigh
Red Kross were dressed pretty much the way they sound. Lead Jeff McDonald is wearing a metallic blue t shirt over a black and white striped long sleeves, with Steve McDonald in a similar silver metallic shirt while drummer Dale Crover’s orange (the fruit) shirt reflects the seventies bubblegum rock of their performance. Jeff announced, “Good evening Adelaide. We’re Redd Kross” and they start their set with “Lady In The Front Row” still living their rock ’n’ roll fantasies with kicks, jumps and stomps. Early audience interaction is limited to quips like, “And that goes for you too Adelaide. Stay away from Downtown” following the song of the same name. Although the audience except for the fans had been generally reserved early on, “Jimmy’s Fantasy” brings a more appreciative mood. Jeff puts his guitar down for “Annie’s Gone” and dances around with a glittering silver rectangle of fabric previously draped over a guitar amp before placing it over his head and physically channelling Prince. Later, Jeff vigorously shakes a well-worn tambourine facing Dale, losing a pair of metal jingles as they fly into the drum kit in the process.
Their initial seventies bubblegum rock style naturally leads into a harder edged style as the sweat content increased. Following band introductions, with Jason Shapiro on guitar described as being “a wizard, a true star”, as thanks to Buzz Osborne there was a performance of the Teen Babes from Monsanto suite including covers by Kiss (‘Deuce”) and David Bowie (“Saviour Machine”). The slower pace of the Stooges’ “Ann” was an appropriate harbinger for the upcoming Melvins. The last song “Linda Blair” devolved into a freeform jam, incorporating snippets of classic rock ’n’ roll songs that were not always easily identifiable before closing with the all too familiar drawn out jam ending during which a passionate audience member attempted to join in on harmonica from the front row but was drowned out by the cacophony of the band.
A quarter hour later, Buzz Osborne steps out on stage dressed in a robe like a Harkonnen henchman from David Lynch’s Dune with hair like Miriam Margolyes and half of Redd Kross returned to back him with Steve McDonald now dressed in a back furry vest and Dale Crover’s “orange” shirt had been discarded in exchange for the uniform of black.
From the moment they begin with a cover of Flipper’s “Sacrifice”, their sound was such that it had a physical volume. Buzz held a resolute stern look of seriousness as he growled out vocals backed by Dale on headset microphone. Their set consisted a fair selection of songs from throughout their career and included a second Beatles cover for the night after Red Kross’ earlier version of “It Won’t Be Long” with a slow hardcore version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. Between songs Dale did intermittent drum solos while Buzz retuned with Steve playfully dancing in time. Later, a joking discussion of Adelaide as a scat town has Steve and Dale leading an impromptu brief audience scat sing along. In spite of his stoic facial expression, Buzz was clearly having as much fun as Steve and Dale and I did catch a sly smile below his grey mane. At one point, together with Steve he was infectiously stomping around the stage in unison to Dale’s rhythmic tom-tom beat.
Occasionally, my attention was diverted from the band to an audience member on Steve’s side of the stage punching his right hand into the air repeatedly like it was a symptom of Tourette’s syndrome. Seemingly uncontrollable, his attention is taken away from the band to stare at it. He is like an impromptu second drummer, alternating between air drums and air guitar. I was captivated by him, at times more so than the band as he appeared transfixed by his own hands not quite able to form a heavy metal salute. Otherwise, apart from the same audience member who attempted to jam on harmonica with Redd Kross earlier jumping on stage briefly and a small circle crowd mosh with a sole failed attempt at crowd surfing, the audience was generally well behaved and respectful of each other.
Later, Steve is kneeling down frozen in a pose not too dissimilar from Rodin’s the Thinker while Buzz gently teases the audience with simple drawn out string plucks on an extended solo as sweat drips down his face and streaks his pristine golden guitar. The musical breakdown leads into an extended jam before finally Buzz returns to the microphone and they finish, Dale announcing, “That’s it. We’ve blown our load”. They leave the stage, their three song encore having been indistinguishable from the main body of the set.