A rare treat for Melbourne lovers of authentic grunge, Seattle’s Mudhoney played one of their few 2011 shows at The Corner Hotel in Richmond. For those of us whose back-pocket wasn’t lenient enough to allow for a ticket to Meredith Music Festival, the opportunity to see the legendary genre pioneers in Melbourne’s loudest venue was one too delicious to ignore.
Mudhoney’s Mark Arm eloquently describes The Paul Kidney Experience as “the rock’n’roll equivalent of ascension”. Armed with a saxophone, violin, crazy hair and a lot of noise, the band takes full advantage of the venue’s notoriously excessive volume in the attempt to render the eager fans deaf. It’s an unfortunate deterrent as each instrument becomes lost in a massive wall of distortion. We can see the violin, but we certainly cannot hear it. They are an entertaining visual spectacle, nonetheless.
The danceable garage-punk of Precious Jules is somewhat disappointing. It lacks the vociferous ferocity of Kim Salmon’s previous bands, safely resting on catchy riffs and contagious choruses. However, Salmon’s surprisingly youthful energy and veteran proficiency at enlivening the crowd restores our faith in one of Australia’s most devoted musicians.
Resembling a Seattle scene from the early 90s, the crowd flaunts a variety of stained, faded t-shirts featuring the distinctive logos of Sub Pop Records, Sonic Youth, Green River, and various other commodities of the era.
The fervent cheers of the crowd belie the small capacity of the venue, as Mudhoney greets us with the anthemic “Poisoned Water”. Mark Arm (vocals/guitar), Steve Turner (lead guitar), Dan Peters (drums) and Guy Maddison (bass) prove time hasn’t ravaged their stage vigour quite as aggressively as it has their appearances. The band oozes an irrefutable, yet surprising youthfulness, with Arm’s boyish blonde bowl-cut hairstyle sweeping across his sharp features.
The band blasts through “The Gift, F.D.K. (Fearless Doctor Killers)” and “Hard-On For War” with such a volatile energy that it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were to explode suddenly into flames, or send bolts of lightning out into the crowd. With a penetrating power, it’s no question why this band has maintained such a loyal following for so many years. They continue to entice new fans with their menacingly brutal, yet melodically endearing, garage rock.
Masked behind his guitar, Arm seems frustratingly reserved. When he finally relinquishes his grip upon his weapon of deceit mid-set, the audience is introduced to his true, unabashed, turbulent nature. Leaning towards the crowd and glaring intently, Arm engages in a frightful stand-off with the audience’s souls. His glare is entrancing and apparently magnetic, as it attracts the crowd ever closer. His eyes pierce like a siren-song, and are equally as dangerous. His expressive contortions, though notably tamer than the Arm of the ‘90s, pulse his body in a way that suggests the music is erupting physically from within him.
It’s refreshing to note that very few smartphones are seen contaminating the air. It’s a disappointing realisation to note that this is a significant and rare occurrence in contemporary live music. It’s comforting to know that tonight, we’re all in the company of people who are willing to experience this moment with us, here and now, rather than warp their present view for the purpose of reliving it through indecipherable distortion and a blur of lights in the future. Older crowds are rad.
It’s no surprise that the highlight of the evening is “Touch Me I’m Sick”, which featured not only many a punch in the air, but also a vast array of mid-air kicks towards the ceiling numerous individuals attempt to disorderedly surf the crowd wave. Other favourites of the night included “In’n’Out of Grace”, “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More” and “No One Has”, all of which produced riotous crowd backing vocals. The band finally closes with “Tales of Terror”, and are followed from the stage by the simultaneously rapturous applause (in celebration of the band’s performance) and a disenchanted groan (in disappointment at their departure).
After returning for an encore featuring “If I Breath, Suck You Dry” and “Into the Drink”, Mudhoney finally extinguishes the blazing fire of their set with the vigorous punch-in-the-face of Black Flag’s “Fix Me”. It’s become a regular feature of Mudhoney sets to close with a cover.
Dulled, perhaps, by overuse as musical descriptor, there’s no band in existence that could typify “raw” music as genuinely as this band. A Mudhoney gig from the late 80s would closely resemble this night. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Mudhoney continue to be as fierce and rough as they ever were, with tonight proving to be no exception.
– Lara Moates