A one-off London gig that finally ends my twenty year wait to see Mudhoney live. As soon as I arrive I am happily surprised to count more Stooges T-shirts than Nirvana’s, a promising start.
I am in time to catch the end of an interesting immersion in the sonic explorations of Mugstar, a sort of post rock instrumental band in love with psychedelic media, including lasers and video projection.
Enjoying the first, I decide to have a listen to the second support. Big mistake. Country Teasers are at the same time the weirdest, the most irritating and the most inappropriate band that could have opened a Mudhoney gig. A bizarre ensemble with a leader who is a Tom Waits wanna-be with a nerdy look and the aspiration to be in The Fall. And this is without counting the keyboard player on the left who spent most of the set taking pictures with his mobile. I am usually attracted by radical and avant-garde approaches, as long as there is some substance behind it, but it’s sadly missing here.
9.30pm and Mudhoney enter the stage and Mark Arm starts screaming some kind of hardcore stuff at ear-bleeding volume. I will discover later that this was a cover of the infamous ‘The Money Will Roll Right In’ originally by the Flag. Quite an efficient wake up call.
His theatrical presence, curving in on himself, bending towards the audience, stretching to the back of the stag is in its entirety borrowed from Iggy Pop’s manual of rock performance, including those lunatic blue eyes staring at the first rows under a quite similar blonde haircut. Iggy would be proud of such an offspring. He didn’t show off his naked torso, appropriately, because his Black Flag T-shirt was pure glamour.
With the ever more impressive beat of Dan Peters thrashing his toms at the speed of light, the crowd goes crazy from the start and won’t breathe until the last chord, a homage to the T-shirt and to the legendary hardcore pioneers: Black Flag’s ‘Fix Me’.
In the middle of the 80 minutes, the set crosses their career with a particular attention to the heaviest pieces. Their Superfuzz Bigmuff songs are surprisingly well received among the many youngsters. The first riff of ‘Touch Me, I’m Sick’ is so effective as to start a riot. I bring myself and my cameras into the safer (and emptier) balcony.
A good move. Up here the distorted feedback is much better balanced. I can distinguish the guitars and the value of Steve Turner’s riff over the unstoppable progression of the drums, indisputably the framework of Mudhoney’s sound. ‘When Suck You Dry’ ends it, but didn’t manage to dry out any of the tons of sweat dripping from the wild stalls, and the wonderful ‘Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More’ is dedicated to the short sighted few that still doubt that hard(core) rock doesn’t have superb melodies.
A great night of rock’n'roll. Grunge won’t be back, but Mudhoney definitely are.