Anchored by the re-emergence of Mr. Bungle for another string of shows, Ipecac records luminaries resurrected the "Geek Show" format and took over the Hollywood Palladium for night of barn-storming, hooch swilling, savage riffing mayhem, and the Heaviest of Art crew were on hand to capture it all.
Words by Rohan (@manvsplaylist) from the Hollywood Palladium,
Photographs by Joshua Alvarez (@joshua.jam3s) at The Glasshouse in Pomona:
A sizeable crowd was already on the floor by the time opener Spotlights kicked the evening off. The reception was warm and the band looked right at home on such a large stage. My first exposure to this band occurred on a previous tour they did with the Melvins back in 2017, where I caught them at the tiny Troubadour. I was impressed with their murky blend of trudging doom flavored riffs mixed with floating shoe-gaze tinged vocals. It’s a unique blend, and is a style I’ve enjoyed both live and on their recorded material since. The band have just released their latest album, Alchemy for the Dead, (on Ipecac), and while I haven’t yet had the chance to fully absorb this material, getting the chance to experience in a live setting was ideal. Spotlights music can be extremely subtle, with even just the slightest swell in backing synths altering the feeling entirely, so over the course of the opening two cuts, it was a little disappointing that the sound in the room wasn’t yet dialed in to the point where these subtleties were given the requisite presence to be fully appreciated. But once the sound filled out midway through new number, The Alchemist, the band didn’t look back. For a three piece act, they have tremendous heft to their sound, and contrast this with quieter moments and whispery vocals (see Sunset Burial as a prime example). The 30-minute set featured predominantly cuts off the new album, and judging from the reception they clearly won over another large swath of new fans. Definitely a band to pay attention to and check out as they hopefully tour more on the new record.
The anticipation in the room grew equally with the swelling of the crowd as the Melvins prepared to grace the stage. They’ve been a band for 40 years. Houdini celebrates its 30th anniversary of release this year. They’ve played over 4,000 shows in Los Angeles over that time (*not fact checked), and yet somehow they still don’t have a star on the sidewalk just a few blocks away from the evening’s venue. Not even the afterthought section outside of the bankrupt & closing Bed Bath & Beyond on Vine. The injustice! The disrespect! It’s not like the bar is that high right now, judging from the latest Walk of Fame musical recipient. But I digress….thankfully, no such disrespect was evident as the band sauntered on stage, electing to go with A-Ha’s Take On Me blaring as their walk-up music.
Post backing track chorus falsetto moment, Dale shatters the group-climax and pounds his way through a quick solo before the band lurch all the way back to some of their earliest material with opener Snake Appeal. Buzzo, replete in standard custom space robe/kimono fare, and Steve with his best George Harrison influenced royal red bodysuit, effortlessly plow through sludgey riffs both new and old, pulling from a diverse range of their entire catalog.
After all these years Buzzo still spits total venom in all his vocal delivery, and sways and hunches in rhythm as he assaults his EGC as if summoning some higher power. Maybe he actually is tuned in to a different frequency than the rest of us mortals, as his years of touring and constant creative output would indicate the need for some supernatural source of energy.
This was yet another vintage Melvins performance, and they sounded enormous. Do not mess with the Melvins!! Blood Witch is nonsense. It’s a totally fucked track, a rhythmic mind bender, and they absolutely nail it – jam section and all. Bullet proof. The crowd eats it up. The I Wanna Hold Your Hand cover destroys, the jarring off-kilter rendition is peak Melvins-perfection. We’re dished up a couple off Bullhead (Zodiac and Your Blessened) before the set closes out with one of their most recognizable cuts in Honey Bucket, with everybody in the room floored with Dale’s precision before settling into that classic driving groove. Like the set itself, the track is over before you know it and the Melvins exit with minimal fanfare. With any luck there will be more headline touring from them over the course of the year in celebration of their incredible 40-years of existence.
The Melvins Photo Gallery
To finish the night off was the incomparable Mr. Bungle. Their set, and the whole Geek Show tour, falls under a much different backdrop to the last time this current 5-member incarnation of the Bungle circus got together. Previously, in the earliest months of 2020 (before everything went to shit) at a smaller venue around the corner from tonight’s setting, there was an overriding sense of stunned amazement, curiosity and bewilderment. Like “Is this ACTUALLY happening??!!” Their reactivation announcement came entirely out of the blue, and despite hints being dropped that the focus of those shows would be on the Raging Wrath demo, still audiences flocked in the hope of maybe catching a glimpse of that old school Bungle absurdity. What the band delivered instead was nothing but all-out shred fest. That early demo material was barely recognizable with the clarity of sound it now had, and the fact that two all-time thrash metal titans were now part of its delivery, in Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies) and Scott Ian (Anthrax, S.O.D.). Fast forward a few months after those shows, and the band release a brand new re-recording of that same material, providing the exact same result as the first time our ears heard this stuff live: utter amazement. Blistering riffs, pummeling rhythms, and Patton entirely unleashed to rage, belt and scream his lungs out. It was a fitting twist for a band whose recorded output bears only the slightest of logical throughlines in style and approach.
And so here we stand, the imminent arrival of another Bungle show, as if the past 3 years was some kind of nightmarish blur that never happened, and the touring cycle on the Raging Wrath re-release proceeded at its original cadence. For tonight’s set, the expectation was a little more centered, a little less whimsical, but still so entirely full of amazement and gratitude that YES – Mr. Bungle shows are happening again!! With limited theatrics, the band sauntered out on stage and eased into the evening with their now-trademark opener Welcome Back, Patton smirking and crooning with mischievous glee. The set got started in earnest with charging and grooving Bungle Grind, then moving straight into the anthemic Eracist, an opening duo that proved to be a relatively mid-paced opening to the evenings proceedings, before smashing through the speed barrier with Spreading the Thighs of Death.
Right from the get-go, Trey Spruance and Scott Ian exude an uncanny ease in delivering these frenetic riffs with precision and punch, despite their remarkably different approaches of attack to their weapons. Scott Ian has gotta be one of the happiest looking, evil shredders ever to grace a stage!
Dude looks like he has non-stop fun, and bangs his bald head with such force that he somehow almost manages to turn windmills with his goatee. He’s such a perfect fit for this incarnation of the band.
The first cover of the evening appears next, an early set slot for the Sepultura classic Territory. Lombardo flawlessly belts out the iconic intro, the riffs slide and the chugs gallop in. Never having got a chance to see the original Sepultura lineup in action, this was as close to a spot on rendition as one could hope for – Patton’s delivery of “dictator speech…” carrying as much animosity as any line Max ever barked during that era.
At this point, it’s glaringly obvious that Mike Patton’s energy, stage presence and enthusiasm hasn’t dipped a single bit. He’s just as much of a showman as ever, and the room is filled with good vibes at the sheer act of him being back on stage. With waist bent, squatted, elbow-snapping and wailing with fury, he commands the stage with every beat and somehow delivers all this material with more conviction and passion than other vocalists half his age. The man is an icon in this space – there’s no other way to frame it.
In between more break-neck assaults like Glutton for Punishment and the always delightful Anarchy Up Your Anus, the band tone things down with a sinister mash-up featuring the classic Hell Awaits intro, spliced together with new-wave ballad True, which then melded into a scorching Raping Your Mind. Clearly having a blast with these polar opposite forces of intensity, the band shows complete poise in maintaining a set that is dynamic and varied, delivering a master act of controlled chaos, build, and release. The night’s festivities seemingly came to an end with Sudden Death, a true psychotic patchwork of a track if ever there was one, with Mike even quipping “this one will be long and painful”. How they manage to keep it together over this 7-minute marathon is genuinely mystifying! Following the mandatory rock-show encore move, Bungle returned back to the stage with the Van Halen whacko anthem Loss of Control where Patton goes high-pitched note perfect. The hyper speed skitzoid energy of this is the perfect segue into the highlight of night; the point the entire room has been hoping for but not expecting - a deep cut off the first record!! And as soon as Trey starts smashing out those bizarre angular opening riff chords to My Ass is on Fire, the crowd loses it. Even without horns, the rendition is manic, jolting and heavy as anything before it over the course of the evening. For those who’d managed to keep away from setlist spoilers, this cut was a real treat!! The inner high-school Bungle nerd in me could not contain the smile being carved into my face as this all played out. It was a wild way to end. It’s impossible to get to this stage in the evening without reflecting on the magnitude of both this band and Mike Patton’s career. The sheer absurdity and guts and perseverance and creativity and relentless individuality that has taken place for over 30 years is just remarkable. As the band says its final goodbyes for the evening and meanders off stage, one can’t miss the glazed eyed adoration spread across the faces of the entire room, as they shake their heads in awe at what they just witnessed, and at what has been a part of their musical lives for so long. Bungle Grind forever.
Mr. Bungle Photo Gallery
Remaining Tour Dates Below (Tickets)