I expected this Mudhoney show to be great from the get-go. I mean, it’s Mudhoney, right? But I didn’t expect just how great it was going to be. Right off the bat I was taken with the opening Divining Rods, but wondered how they could get away with a singer that sounded so much like the Napalm Beach guy. Then I remembered that their singer is that guy, and everything fell into place. Despite Dante’s overpriced beers, I was enjoying myself pretty well by the time the Stabbs took the stage and thought, “Hey, this might be a pretty good rock and roll show.” But as soon as Mudhoney hit their first chord, both of the fine opening bands were immediately eclipsed.
Seeing as how it was a CD release party, Mudhoney played their new LP in its entirety. I was honestly surprised by the quality of the new material, which tore the place up in true Mudhoney fashion. The band cheerfully ignored the cries of “Touch Me I’m Sick” and blazed through the new record with confidence and gusto.
What the crowd really wanted was the classic hits. They knew that, I knew that and of course Mudhoney knew that, so upon completion of Under a Billion Suns they wasted no time in launching into an incredibly raucous set of the good old stuff. And, of course, the ton of people jammed into the tiny venue went completely ape-shit.
As I tried to get closer to the band so as to better report on the goings on onstage, I was sucked into a vortex of moshing and crowd surfing from which there was no escape. At one point, someone stepped on the heel of my Converse, and as I tried to move the sole was liberated from the crappy canvas upper and I had to finally bid farewell to my favorite pair of shoes and retreat to the back of the audience to hastily bind my wounded footwear together with its own laces.
Luckily, however, I managed to eventually make my way to the front of the stage. Mark Arm and Steve Turner were playing like men possessed, but perhaps more importantly, like musicians whose chemistry has been honed by decades of playing together. Backed by Danny Peters’ thunderous drumming and Guy Maddison’s otherworldly, deft bass work, Arm and Turner goofed around, clearly enjoying the performance they were putting on and relishing the adoration shown by the crowd. There was even a little stage diving.
Mudhoney pulled no punches in terms of the hits, playing “In’n’Out of Grace,” “Sweet Young Thing,” “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and many others. Sadly, my shouted requests for “Into the Drink” went unheeded, but that was more than made up for by their over the top finale of “Hate the Police,” in which Arm abandoned his guitar to concentrate on his vocal duties.
By the end of that, I still wanted more, but might have not been physically able to handle any more jumping, shoving, screaming and jostling. So I gladly went out into the crisp night air to talk about Mudhoney’s greatness with strangers. Everyone agreed that it was the best Mudhoney show in a while, and went home satisfied that the venerable band hadn’t lost it at all. I don’t know about you, but that helps me sleep easier at night.
Before last Friday, the Dirtbombs were just a band that I knew to be pretty cool and that I had listened to a few times. I thought their soul covers record, Ultraglide in Black, was a pretty neat idea, and I was impressed by how they pulled it off without getting bogged down in some kind of garage rock revival retro rehash rut. I liked the sound of two drummers and two bassists. But nothing could have prepared me for the utter all-outness of their live show.
I decided to attend their concert on the strong urgings of my friends, all of whom lauded the Dirtbombs as “fucking great” and “awesome,” among other things. Trusting their judgment, I ventured with them to Dante’s with no idea of the kind of maxed-out rock ‘n’ roll treat I was in for.
Openers the Black Lips were wiping up the stage with the audience when I arrived, extracting furious, squalling sounds from their trashed Japanese guitars. I was pleased that they could combine such a gnarly sound and wild stage antics with pure ’60s melodies and three-part harmonies. Unfortunately, I had to spend most of their set waiting in line for beer, which was fortunately ready by the time the Dirtbombs took the stage.
From the first note to the last, the Dirtbombs completely owned the stage. There was no one there who wasn’t paying attention. I was amazed by the fact that one guitar could dominate a band’s sound over two basses and two drum kits and still manage to sound so balanced. Not only that, but every member of the band had great, natural stage presence, all looking as if they had been born to play maxed-out rock ‘n’ roll with no frills and no bullshit. Which, of course, is my favorite kind of music.
As such, I spent the entire concert either bowled over by their sheer power or engrossed by guitarist Mick Collins’ playing. Not only did his guitar sound great, with enough treble to hurt your ears in the best way possible, but he played the thing like crazy, doing wild dances and duck walks, not to mention playing behind his head, a personal favorite of mine. The dual bass assault, fuzz and clean, combined with the cannon-like effect of two drum kits, practically forced everyone in attendance to dance and get comfortable with one another, although the generally high level of alcohol consumption probably helped that too. The set was long and satisfying, unhampered by the string breakages and fuzz pedal issues about mid-show.
Although it was around 1 a.m. and I was already drunk, I could have stayed for another hour, but the Dirtbombs were sweaty and tired. They packed up and left an audience reeling in their wake. In summation, my friends were right about this band. They really were “fucking great” and “awesome.” And those aren’t words I throw around lightly, either. This band doesn’t fuck around, and that’s what the world needs. Just simple, un-convoluted rock music. Can you feel the noise? With that many drummers and bassists, you really don’t have much of a choice.