In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re talking about shows we’ve seen where the opener eclipsed the headliner.
In fall 1993, I was convinced that Primus was one of the greatest bands in the world. My CD player was essentially a steady rotation of all four Primus albums that had been released by that point: Frizzle Fry, Suck On This, Sailing The Seas Of Cheese, and Pork Soda. I knew most of the songs by heart, and could play along on drums to more than a couple. Thus, when they came through town supporting Pork Soda, I was among the first to snap up a ticket. The opening band was called Melvins, a group I had heard of, maybe had even listened to a song or two (their major label debut, Houdini, had just come out), and immediately dismissed as being shitty, forgettable metal.
When I got to the concert, decked out in the then-requisite flannel and Converse one-stars, I bought a soda and sat in the back of the hall, ready to kill some time until Primus, the gods of rock, took the stage. Instead, Melvins started playing, and my jaw hit the floor. This wasn’t metal. I didn’t really know what to call it, exactly. It was thick, sludgy, and slower than I had ever seen a band play up until that point in time. It felt dirty—gross, in the best possible way. What mainly still stands out in my mind is watching the drummer, Dale Crover, with a form of playing that went against everything I had been taught in drum lessons. He raised his arm as high as it could go in between hi-hat hits, bringing it down with as much force as he could muster. It seemed less like he was playing drums than he was exacting revenge for some terrible wrong. I stood there, transfixed, while Melvins abused their instruments, the audience, and the very concept of rock for a young teenage kid.
When it was over, Primus took the stage. That band probably played some songs, and I probably enjoyed it, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about the show. There was no room left in my brain for anything else. My mind just kept replaying a hi-hat, getting pummeled, over and over, in slow motion. I needed Melvins albums. I needed live bootlegs. I needed whatever I could get my hands on. (Teenagers aren’t big on baby steps.) I would soon discover that their album output was uneven, and that, like any other group, there were songs and periods I adored, and those I didn’t. But that night, they were unstoppable.
When my friends and I regrouped after the show, I remember one of them turned to me. “So, how about the Melvins, huh? What was their deal? So dumb.” The others looked in my direction.
‘Yeah,” I replied scornfully. “They sucked.”