“Why can’t you do whatever you want? It’s not so much ‘can’t’ as ‘won’t’ that does everybody in. I’ve done an extremely huge amount of work, it’s uncommon for that to happen – music doesn’t usually work that way – so I’m a freak. An actual freak, I’m way out there at the end, way out in the tall weeds. There’s no doubt about that.” Buzz Osborne, interview in “The Music”
The place is packed, a community of fans. There is a youngling excited to find the tiny side bar near the stage. But I don’t care for beer, I’m here for the music.
King Buzzo brushed past me on his way into the venue – Gasp. The fab rock gown he wore on stage looked like something produced by Givonni’s in about 1972. Maybe it was. A house-coat, or dressing gown, burgundy in colour, with a contrasting floral yoke -possibly embroidered – hard to say in the dark and from metres away. Apart from a fetching turban, also circa 1972, I couldn’t see enough of Jared Warren on bass, to know what he was wearing. Last time I saw them, he wore a kilt. Brad Pitt turned 50 last week, and Buzzo must be close to that. At least mine wasn’t the only head of grey hair in the place, ha ha.
As the Melvins took the stage, I slid across behind the bar – why am I so short? Look, there’s a shelf in there, and an extra 10-12 cm if I use it as a step – both feet in there, lean on the wall, stretch up – I can see Buzz, sometimes I can see Dale. Some of the time I see nothing. My eyes are closed, I am blissfully immersed in sound. The walls, the floor, everything is vibrating, like an illustration of physics. Pulsing with a vital energy from two drummers and the bass. Buzzo’s guitar lacing and looping through. Voices that chant, croon, shout. Ahhhh. Like a warm bath, a spa, a massage for my very soul.
At some point, when the music is LOUD and the walls are quaking in a venue that is old and venerable, and built long before Marshall amps were dreamed of, I look around me, and up at the ceiling, and wonder a little about the structural integrity of the building. Then I go back to enjoying the music…
If Buzz is a freak, so are J Mascis, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Curt Kirkwood, Kristin Hirsch, PJ Harvey – all productively doing what they want for years on end, and what they want is to keep on making music. Weeds are plants that grow by themselves, “volunteers”. They don’t need to be chosen, voted for, nurtured, auto-tuned. They just keep growing, spreading, and, when the wind is right, they drop ripe seeds into the carefully tended, neat, controlled garden of The Industry, and the mainstream gets interesting , for a while…meanwhile, out there at ‘the end’, they flourish, unnoticed and magnificent.