Live @ Ground Zero: 8/4/99
By: Eric G.
Spartanburg, South Carolina is a pretty unlikely place to attract shows of this caliber, but I won’t question it because I don’t want to jinx it. Ground Zero looks like a converted roller skating rink with a dancefloor still intact, so it was a bit weird seeing the overweight metal-heads milling around waiting for The Melvins. It seems like it would be a better rave club than a place to host metal or punk shows, but I’m not complaining.
Vaz is a guitar/drums duo consisting of the rhythm section of Amphetamine Reptile’s Hammerhead and opened to a relatively sparse crowd, as it was pretty early in the evening. Hammerhead was always known for its acrobatic drumming and brutal guitar assault, and Vaz takes the best bits of Hammerhead and adds a new vocal dynamic, making the new stuff surprisingly tuneful. The guitar was run through an enormous bass rig, leaving absolutely no room sonically for a bass player. It was so loud that you could feel the low end crushing your chest. The songs displayed a greater range than Hammerhead’s one-dimensional attack with carefully controlled feedback, abrupt and tricky changes, as well as the patented athletic drumming.
Melt Banana hails from Tokyo, Japan and plays a chaotic mix of calculated noise, high end punk, and experimental pop that makes a beautiful and strangely addictive racket. The guitar sounds like a raygun zipping random shots by your head while the bass holds down the structure with tight, extremely fast riffs. The vocals yip and shriek their way through the mix in a staccato wail that is as endearing as it is unintelligible. The lyrics are all in English but you’d never know it from the unorthodox accents and deconstructed syllables. This band slays live. Unbelievably tight rhythms and perfectly executed riffage assail your sensory nerves while somehow maintaining a semblance of composition. I can’t recommend seeing this band live enough.
The Melvins on the other hand came out and delivered exactly what was expected: slow, trudging metal with some early nineties grunge thrown in. The idea of this band looks much better on paper than it does live. It’s funny to talk about a band that can play this slow and be this brutal, but it’s another thing to have to sit through it. I saw The Melvins about eight years ago, and they haven’t changed one bit. King Buzzo’s cheesy, dark vocals groan painfully over top the booming riffs. Drummer Dale Crover is almost as much of a spectacle as King Buzzo with his ridiculously large drum kit complete with a NAMBLA sticker strategically placed above a modified Confederate flag sticker. The band plodded through a diverse mix of its dense catalogue, ending with a torturous, extended version of “Lexicon Devil”, and the metal crowd appeared to be satiated. The rest of us were either pummeled comatose or bored beyond recognition.