Live Review: Melvins + Helmet + Nunchukka Superfly @ Hi-Fi Bar, Sydney – December 15, 2013

Words and Pics: Ben Hosking –
We were shocked to see no line up for tonight’s show, just moments before opening time. There were literally 15 people waiting patiently in front of Sydney’s HiFi, with crowds of soccer fans streaming past at from Allianz Stadium wondering what these scruffy metal heads were doing out in public on a Sunday evening. Thankfully though, all this lack of early enthusiasm proved to be was a more mature, clever kind of music fan that clearly hates waiting in lines.

By the time Sydney’s own Nunchukka Superfly were around half way through their crunching set of jam-room super grooves the HiFi was more than half full – as if a couple of busloads of punters had miraculously all arrived at once. Their insistent, explosive riffing got the early crowd moving, with spasmodic, jagged physical contortions on stage reinforcing the powerful movements of the music. Be sure to look for the band’s forthcoming album “Open Your Eyes to Smoke” being launched at Valve on December 21 – their first since 2008.

We were lucky enough to be in attendance for Helmet’s last Sydney show at the Manning Bar in 2011. Tonight’s show sees the band improve upon its last showing – despite a few niggling technical issues for guitarist Dan Beeman – if improving upon the Helmet formula was even possible.

Frontman and sole remaining original member from the band’s classic line-up Page Hamilton took to the stage without much fanfare before launching into ‘Bored’. Their set went on to include tracks from their entire catalogue, delighting fans of every stage of Helmet’s career. They’re characteristically tight tonight, but the live Helmet experience is always a little more raw than their recorded output – which is in keeping with what Hamilton has previously talked about in interviews, particularly in the 1990s when he considered Helmet an antithesis of bands like Def Lepard et al. As a result, despite the fish-arse tight drop-D riffing, there’s all the noise and rawness you’d expect from a live band that’s into what they’re doing.

As the band works its way through their set, they segue into Betty tracks ‘Wilma’s Rainbow’ and ‘Milquetoast’ at the audience’s request and their knowing smiles to one another show their awareness that classic material like ‘Rollo’ still gets the audience pumping. To be frank, we haven’t seen a band with as much on-stage communication in years. Page and the rest of the group are constantly watching for signals as bridge and solo sections get extended or tricky Helmet-isms scream toward them rapid fire.

With vintage songs like ‘Rude’ and more obscure Helmet songs like ‘Just Another Victim’ washing over the eager crowd, they bring their hour-long set to a close and literally give the crowd the shirts of their backs. Truly awesome.

Despite Helmet’s history and loyal fan base, as the Melvins take to the stage, it’s clear that the majority of people in attendance are here to see them tonight. Boasting a line-up as close to their 1983 vintage as possible, tonight’s a special night with a set list including material from new release ‘Tres Carbones’ – and two drummers.

It’s a mystery how frontman Buzz Osborne can withstand the heat that’s sure to build up under that muumuu, complete with long socks and his brilliant shock of grey hair – but he powers through the headlining set, rarely in the one place long enough to catch a breath. Even with his turban, bassist Jared Warren doesn’t stand a chance in the attention-grabbing stakes. It’s all about Buzz, as he stalks from one side of the stage to the other, erratically jerking his large frame as the band jolts out extended slabs of seismic riffage.

By this stage, the crowd almost fills the HiFi and the majority sing along to almost every word Buzz has to sing for the duration of the set. The Melvins have a singular presence and it’s easy to affirm that no other band around looks or sounds quite like them. Tonight’s crushing performance does nothing to hurt their reputation as a live band, with more smiling faces in the crowd than we’ve seen in a while – unashamed man-hugs and uninhibited dancing included.

Sunday nights don’t come much better than this!

** More articles and photo galleries by Ben Hosking…

Words and Pics: Ben Hosking –

View Full Gallery Here