Live at the Gothic Theater.
TEXT BY BEN CURNETT/ PHOTOS BY SLIM HINEY
Jeff McDonald plays a 1964 Guild Thunderbird guitar.
That is not important to most of the people who showed up to a nearly sold-out Gothic Theater in Denver to see Redd Kross play with the Melvins last Thursday night for easily one of the best shows to hit Denver in 2019, but it matters. The Guild Thunderbird would fool most people into thinking it was a much more widely available Fender Jazzmaster. The Jazzmaster is the one you see all the indie bands playing nowadays, and the Thunderbird is roughly the same shape. And the Jazzmaster, in the right hands, is a great instrument. But when it comes to production, and popularity, and tone, the Thunderbird is the true stand alone individual, overshadowed by everything around it while being the actual, real authentic standout. It’s its own complete thing.
And that’s pretty much Redd Kross in a nutshell.
Redd Kross brought pure, unadulterated rock fun to the stage and swept up the crowd in their hummable hooks for nearly an hour. And that’s the main takeaway from the Redd Kross portion of the show: it’s fun. Opening with the eponymous single from the band’s newest album Behind The Door (out now on Merge Records), Redd Kross proved that their music is somewhere beyond solid songwriting and ever-better in studio production: The band is about fun. On stage, it was obvious the band was having fun. The crowd is having fun. Everyone seemingly wore the same knowing half grin, just drinking in Redd Kross’s brand of harmony heavy, completely honest power pop/rock/punk/what have you. You stand and you listen and you dance a little and you just have this overwhelming sense that this is exactly … exactly … what rock and roll is all about. Jeff was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and Steve was wearing a white leisure suit with a rhinestone shirt. Fun. Lead guitarist Jason Shapiro threw picks out to the crowd throughout the set. Fun. Everyone in the band ads these signature hand flourishes here and there when they play a note. Fun. And the best part was that there was not a single moment where what Redd Kross did was ironic. Their set, like all their music, was the complete opposite of ironic. It was completely and totally genuine and honest, and that might have been the best thing about the whole night.
It’s here where we pause to explain the cross pollination between Redd Kross and Melvins. Jeff and Steve are the original Redd Kross Brothers. Jason Shapiro was a former RK guitarist who left and reemerged later as the official touring lead guitarist. Dale Crover and Buzz Ozbourne are the original Melvins guys. In 2014-ish Steve started playing bass for Melvins, and in 2016 Dale started playing Drums for Redd Kross. So when they play together, Dale and Steve are playing both sets for both bands. Cool, huh?
Jumping on stage with an entirely different stripe of fun, the Melvins were, as always, loud as absolute fuck. Drummer Dale Crover and bassist Steve McDonald, pulling double duty as full time Redd Kross members, stepped into the dark, heavy Melvins set without missing a beat. Buzz Osbourne, who seemingly draws power from the wizard/spaceman robes he wears on stage(?), led the band through an hour and a half or so of flawless music, proving yet again that if you like your music slow and pummeling, there’s nothing that beats a live Melvins show. The band played across their catalog as always, starting with the seminal tracks “Sesame Street Meat” and “the Kicking Machine,” and bringing out Jeff and Jason for the finale, a cover of Kiss’s “Deuce.”
Rock apparently keeps Buzz and Dale and Steve and Jeff and Jason all young enough to keep going full bore. The show was completely high energy start to finish and a good time was had by all (just as importantly for the people on stage as in the crowd). Even pre-show experimental artist Toshi Kasai, who makes shape changing laser designs sonically linked to noise, seemed like fun, in the right context. For both fans and non-fans, they tour a lot. If you’re even have interested in getting a taste of a genuine, no-frills, insanely entertaining night of loud music, go see them now.