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A Hi-Fi Bar gig by two of the most highly regarded acts of ’90s alternative music was a sonic treat for music freaks and geeks, with both Melvins and Helmet delivering in spades. Sydney’s Nunchukka Superfly were an appropriate support act, their chaotic brand of hard rock providing a perfect appetiser for the evening. Featuring Peter and Ray from The Hard-Ons, they belted out a barrage of wild, noisy rock, breaking the odd guitar string in the process. It was great to see them pull a large crowd–Melvins and Helmet fans know their stuff.
Helmets‘ lineup has been revolving since the departure of drummer extraordinaire John Stanier in 1998, though the current lineup has been stable for a few years. A consummate professional, frontman Page Hamilton led the charge as Helmet tore through It’s Easy To Get Bored, Better, Driving Nowhere, Milquetoast, Blacktop, and a raft of more Helmet goodness.
Wrapping up the hour-set with the ballistic double-header of In The Meantime and Just Another Victim, Helmet proved there is life in the beast yet. Whether you call it alternative metal or math rock, Helmet’s sound is as unique as it was in their ’90s heyday, when alternative music was at its zenith.
Just like Helmet, Melvins wandered onto the stage with close to no fanfare and simply got to work. Their standard guitar-bass-drums trifecta recently became a four-piece with the addition of a second drummer. This has only added to the sheer force and power that is a Melvins performance, bolstering their acrid and experimental mesh of sludge, doom, punk, and grunge, which manifests itself in exquisite songs and raucous performances.
There was no interaction with the crowd, just a carefully calculated recital of Melvins’ megaton-measured arsenal of tunes. Nothing needed to be said at all. Most of the songs flowed into one another, offering the audience no respite from this single, continuous onslaught, performed with equal parts brutality, controlled aggression, and exceptional skill.
From the pounding Hag Me to the epic We Are Doomed, Melvins were faultless. A highlight was their cover of Youth Of America, which had the mosh pit in a royal frenzy. Original members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover ran the show and shared the limelight, the fans hanging on every riff.
These elder statesmen of rock gave the crowd an uncompromising gig bereft of ego or self-indulgent wankery. Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, it was very much appreciated.