Knowing just how prone elder statesmen of indie rock are to playing early shows in their middle age, The Spin hauled ass to Exit/In’s sold-out affair Friday night, walking past a desperately hopeful line of Johnny-come-latelys begging for tickets and into the opening burst of NYC post-hardcore pioneers Unsane. Backed by Melvins’ Dale Crover on drums, die-hards of these cult noise-metal trailblazers were easily visible, as they identified themselves by throwing both fists in the air whilst screaming along. Angular, frenetic and faintly melodic, Unsane occasionally broke out a harmonica or slide guitar to remind us why they’ve never been your average hardcore act.
Shoulder to shoulder, nuts to butts, we found ourselves encased mid-show within a wall of pure man muscle and black cotton tees. In fact, when we closed our eyes for about 10 seconds, the sheer amount of testosterone in the air made us feel almost as if we were at a hockey game. No surprise, mind you, given these bands have carved their niche into the more aggro end of the punk spectrum.
To the theme of Blazing Saddles, sludgy godfathers The Melvins took the stage, Dale Crover still covered in Unsane’s sweat, and singer-guitarist Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne’s white, frizzy mane of corkscrew curls being just the first sign that we were in for a magnificent beating. Dressed in a long, black robe with a technicolor collar, Osborne looked every bit the menacing, elder wizard of doom metal.
Kicking off with “Dog Island” from 2008’s Nude With Boots, the set twisted, shouted, ebbed and flowed through roughly a baker’s dozen of standouts culled mostly from their career’s latter half, the oldest cut by far being the title track to 1992’s Lysol. Swooping up and down through maniacally motorized burners like the theatrically Queen-esque call-and-responder “Water Glass” — and lending their more traditional, lumbering low frequencies to a cover of the Wipers’ “Youth of America” — The Melvins razzle and dazzle more along the lines of a Vegas spectacular than a metal show — yet another page no doubt taken from their often-cited idols KISS.
Where there would normally come a few seconds of downtime for tuning and banter, there was instead a unique, kinetic, polyrhythmic dual drum solo routine between every song, creating segues, merges and complex intros and outros to each tune. Additional backup vocals from Dale Crover, co-drummer Cody Willis and bassist Jared Warren brought a warm and guttural accompaniment to Buzzo’s epic groan.
Admittedly, it’d have been nice to hear “Night Goat,” “Hooch” or anything from Bullhead, but if we learned anything, it's that these guys have plenty of stuff hot off the grill — we're just not quite as endeared to it yet. But that doesn't make it not awesome.