Melvins & Boris – The Twins of Evil Tour with Mr. Phylzzz
Musikfest Cafe – Bethlehem, PA – September 20, 2023
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
One of my favorite things as a concert photographer is having the opportunity to experience a wide range of musicians and musical genres, some of which I’ve never known existed. Not only does this broadened my musical perspective but it gives me the opportunity to observe and interact with an array of audiences, some of whom are quite divergent from one another. While music is a vessel for expression and inherently provides entertainment, it can be a teaching tool as well. September 20th at Musikfest Cafe was one of those opportunities for learning, as I encountered three bands unfamiliar to me, in a genre I’d never listened to before. The Twins of Evil Tour, included Boris and Melvins (the latter celebrating their 40th anniversary) with opening band Mr. Phylzzz.
Melvins, the band with the longest musical history (of the three), was founded in 1983, and has been described as exemplifying hard rock, experimental rock, heavy metal, sludge metal and grunge (amongst others.) Melvin has released almost 30 albums, including dozens of alternative, ear-catching numbers, that have kept their fans passionately engaged for the past four decades. While the band’s line-up has changed multiple times, Melvins has typically functioned as a trio, with Buzz Osborne, guitarist/vocalist and founding member, consistently at the core, along with drummer Dale Crover. With Crover off the road recovering from surgery, Coady Willis is currently the band’s touring drummer. Over the years Melvins have worked with multiple bass players, with Steven Shane McDonald on bass since 2015.
Boris, a legendary experimental, heavy rock, noise rock, metal band from Japan, is currently in their 30th year. The band is named after Melvins’ song “Boris,” from their 1991 album Bullhead, the band’s breakout album, and the album Melvins performed that evening at Musikfest Cafe. Boris’ lineup, has remained consistent since 1996, including Takeshi, guitar/bass, Wata, guitar/keyboard and Atsuo, drums. The band has released more than twenty studio albums, their fourth, 2002’s Heavy Rocks (the first of three Heavy Rocks albums), was performed on Sept. 20th at the cafe. Opening for these two metal, heavy rock bands was Mr. Phlyzzz, an experimental, heavy rock, noise rock duo formed in 2015 by founder Clinton Jacobs on guitar and vocals and Danny Sein on drums. The duo recently released Fat Chance and 2022’s Cancel Culture Club, both under Amphetamine Reptile Records.
I had no idea what to expect when Jacobs, with a scowl on his face, shaggy hair, an oddly-fitting brown suit, and a short red tie with XXX written in marker, made long, fierce strides onto the stage. I definitely should’ve had some idea that this was not going to be a “basic” rock band based on the eclectic styles of those in attendance. But, as I don’t like to judge I tried not to have any preconceived notions. Awaiting the performance, an eager fan asked me, “Have you ever seen these bands before?” I replied that I hadn’t and had no idea anything about them. With a broad smile across his face he said, “Tell me what you think afterwards,” seemingly knowing I had no idea what I’d be hearing.
This gentleman was correct. As I stood in the pit, very close to the stage and speakers, I was almost blown away, if not physically, surely mentally and musically, by Mr. Phylzzz’s exploding, frenzied, penetrating instrumentals and vocals. While I might’ve looked like a deer-in-the-headlights, this room-shaking sound was nothing unfamiliar to the enthralled audience members who crowded the general admission floor space. Their enthusiastic energy equaled the duo’s relentless hair-raising electricity, as Jacobs’ flung his head and fiercely widened his eyes and Sein flailed his drumsticks in the air.
The crowd was revved up and abuzz with excitement after Mr. Phylzzz’s performance. Awaiting Melvins’ onstage arrival, fans crowded along the barricade, eager to be as near as possible to the piercing sound of this legendary band, most notably Buzz Osborne. Osborne, McDonald and Willis exploded onto the stage, Osborne wearing his trademark long black tunic, adorned with colorful jewels and a golden crown, as well as his wild mane of hair, now shades of silver. McDonald looked vibrant in a red tunic with gold detailing, along with matching pants and shoes. The extravagant attire of Osborne and McDonald was equally matched with the sound and energy of Melvins’ music…bold, powerful, dark, and heavy, yet electrifying. Throughout the set, which began with a complete performance of Bullhead, there was never a lull in the intensity of the musicians or the music. This intensity was splashed across Osborne’s face and could be seen in the squint of his eyes as he trudged about the stage, jamming on his guitar and flipping his silver mane. McDonald displaying exaggerated facial expressions and body movements, as he danced, leapt and crouched on the ground, all while continuing to ferociously play his bass. And, behind the drum kit, Willis beat the drums with unrelenting fury, his arms and sticks leaping, as his hair flew in the air. Audience members, with hands raised and voices at high volume, cheered, shouted and reveled in the heavy metal, doomsday passion.
With one twin on this Twins of Evil Tour having shared their evil with the eager metal-loving crowd, it was time for the second twin to bring their dark, ominous energy and sound to this energized audience. This evil arrived in the form of Boris. Atsuo emerged at the rear of the stage, with his arm raised high in the air and beat the towering gong, as Takeshi and Wata entered in an ominous cloud of smoke. Throughout the set Atsuo commanded attention as he mercilessly beat the drums with eyes opened wide and expressions of ferocity, while Wata and Takeshi, displayed stone cold faces, as they shred their guitars. Long, pounding instrumentals were interspersed with Atsuo’s screaming vocals, as Takeshi intermittently joined in, while explosively playing his double-necked bass/rhythm guitar. Thick smoke continued to fill the stage, adding an aura of mysterious doom, as Wata and Takeshi met at center-stage to perform blistering guitar jams, that along with Atsuo’s vicious drumming created a sound so loud it was a wonder the wall of windows overlooking SteelStacks didn’t crack. By the end of the evening I surely understood why there was a jar of earplug packets at the merch table.
That night at Musikfest I experienced three bands purportedly falling into the genres of hard rock, heavy metal, sludge metal, alternative metal, doom metal, noise metal, the list goes on. Whatever genre they might be called they were extraordinarily high volume, electrifying and energy-inducing. These skilled musicians were dynamic, intensely passionate and dedicated to their performance and their fans were equally impassioned and devoted to the musicians and the music that empowered them. While I’d never experienced this music type of music before, that evening I was fortunate to gain insight into other musical perspectives. I think I will hold onto those ear plugs for the next time!