Friday night's Mudhoney show was sick.
A note on all those folks who wore earplugs at the show: they were not wrong. My ears still are ringing slightly the morning after.
The dark space is sufficiently packed at the sold-out show; the linebacker-shaped guy in front of me is sweating buckets. We’ve waited all night for Seattle punk legends Mudhoney
to grace the Bartlett stage, and finally they seem to appear out of the ether. It’s straight into the rocking “In 'N' Out of Grace” followed up by the amazing “I Like It Small” and people just lose it — brains rattling from all of the head banging.
For a while, all we get out of frontman Mark Arm is a “thank you” while tuning between songs. The songs ebb and flow between balls-to-the-wall punk and slower, sluggish songs. Every time a high-energy song comes up, the audience gets crazier; some of the younger people up front try to mosh. When the grungy and distorted “Touch Me I’m Sick” finally comes in half-way through the set, it is madness — as is to be expected of their well-known song.
It’s better when Arm isn't playing guitar. Not because he’s not a master guitar player, because he is, his effects are extraordinary, but when the instrument is no longer there as a security blanket of sorts and it’s just him and the microphone, he absolutely can't be contained. Part way through the set he ditches the guitar and starts singing “What to Do With the Neutral” off the 2013 album Vanishing Point
and he’s intoxicating to watch. At points he’s doing his best Iggy Pop impression strutting around stage, other times he’s able to stand still and move in slow motion. His transfer between screaming and singing actually well is made more impressive when you realize he’s 52. All of the band members still have it; this isn't three-chord punk.
The sweet Mudhoney concert poster.
“Chardonnay” also off Vanishing Point
, was a high note. “This song comes from the heart,” Arm explains before getting into the song that expresses his disdain for the white wine. When they finish up the pummeling “The Only Son of the Widow From Nain” they abruptly leave the stage. After only playing an hour, that was a shock to the system. The crowd wants more, we would not be denied.
I half expected this show to be full of dudes who still had their long hair from the ’90s. Instead, there were a lot of bald heads. But in true Northwest fashion, the flannel was everywhere, even though Mudhoney never really wore it back in the day – according to Arm, they preferred velour.
Eventually, they pile back on stage, rolling into the sludgy “Mudride.” Thirty seconds in, drummer Dan Peters stops it. “We haven't played that one in a while,” Arm says. But the encore is by no means ruined. They quickly regroup ending with the all-important “The Money Will Roll Right In” and riotous “Hate the Police” (the best song to put on in your car after you've had a bad day).
Last night, these guys played the hell out of their songs, proving after 26 years together, they're not going anywhere.
On the opener Barton Carroll:
Mudhoney brought along a folk singer to open their punked-out show, and it worked surprisingly well. I’d never heard of Barton Carroll, a singer-songwriter who lives in Seattle, but his intricate guitar work and insightful lyrics had me entranced from the get-go. You often don’t know what you’re going to get with openers, but in this case, what a breath of fresh air. You’ll want to listen to this