“Who else here thinks that skate-punk is dead?” Mudhoney’s lead guitarist Steve Turner queried the sweaty, salty clot of Baltimorians that lay sprawled before him. “Then consider this a skate dirge,” he added, streaking his fingers down the neck of his red Fender, eliciting a filthy shriek of rock n’ roll. The crowd’s response was almost Pavlovian, as they pogoed, thrashed and moshed like it was 1991 all over again. “This is better than 1991,” vocalist/guitarist/grunge guru Mark Arm said with a smirk. “You guys are beautiful. Absolutely lovely.” Strange words coming from a man who wrote the blistering punk/grunge anthem, “Touch Me, I’m Sick,” but not at all out of place. Arm and his fellow Mudhoneyians are a little older, yes, and a little wiser, but no less inclined to give you a burning ass-wedgie of totemic rock n’ roll. Yes indeed, folks, while skinny, malnourished and sad may be all the rage now (The Stills, I’m looking at you), and New York City’s overly-sanitized streets still spoken of in unnecessarily hushed tones of reverence, who’s to say dirty, fat, and covered in beer and blood can’t find their niche or their coveted corner of the market to spit on and pummel mercilessly with sneering punk and twisted 70s licks? Whose to say Seattle is now only known as the city where that stupid Real World kid slapped the other stupid Real World kid? Mudhoney’s back in town, baby, and they’re very upset with you.
Openers The Apes brought their own brand of ballistic Stooge-rock all the way from DC, and they weren’t afraid to whirl it around their heads like a two-day old corpse. Amanda Kleinman’s bristling, cacophonous organs swirled around assorted heads like a screaming Magi, while Erick Jackson seemed to reach into everyone’s chest, Temple of Doom-style, and de-heart them with clangorous, simian bass. Jeff Schmid’s windmill arms pounded out a terrifying beat, and vocalist Paul Weil pranced and danced like an epileptic marionette, relaying tales from the heart of Sugar Mountain. The band confidently cruised through material from 2003’s Oddeyesee, and tossed in a few newbies from the as-of-yet-unreleased EP, Tapestry Mastery. “Aboard the Ark” and the new “Tapestry” were of particular note, blanketing the audience with dense and conflagrant rock, and oldies like “Lightning” from The Fugue and the Fog cudgeled everyone senseless. By the end of their set, you could see kids wandering around aimlessly, shaking their shaggy mops in an attempt to understand what had just happened, or for that matter to discern where the fuck they were.
After being beaten by The Apes senselessly and without moral conviction, the crowd of sweaty, masochistic Marylanders appeared primed and ready for round two. And as the bell sounded and Mudhoney descended on the stage, everyone’s personal safety was effectively rendered null and void. The band refused to take sides in the mangled Koosh ball of arms and fists and whipping hair that erupted on the floor. Tearing through tracks such as “Flat Out Fucked” and the aforementioned “Touch Me, I’m Sick” (which resulted in fists, devil horns, middle fingers, and other standard rock show gestures being pumped in the air in chorus-punctuation), the Seattle Stallions raked their fingernails across their guitars and displayed a blatant disregard for the well-being of eardrums. Not that the crowd, a humorous and heterogeneous amalgamation of ruddy cheeked neophytes with uncertain mustaches and grizzled grungsters with torn jean jackets and Mother Love Bone patches, seemed to mind much, as the air in that place was rife with the smell of teen spirit. Suffice to say, you don’t see much crowd surfing at any Interpol shows these days. And so what if the new underground has lost its sense of double vision, its bloodlust, or respect for the flannel-clad, burger-flipping adolescent buried deep within us all? As long as Mudhoney sees fit to remind us that a night at the rock n’ roll club needn’t end with an exchange of blog URLs and a solitary walk home with nothing to warm our throbbing genitals but our humming iPod.
At the end of the show, during the last of the three-song encore, High Priest Mark Arm, having cast aside his holy ax, rollicked and swayed his subservient parishioners with wild-eyed, ecclesiastical proclamations. Sweat dripping off the tip of his beak-like nose, Arm conjured up an army of banshees from the deep pit of his diaphragm, as his lanky red hair whipped around his face like fire. The man sang and performed as if he hadn’t been doing this for 20 years, and as if he were entirely certain that he was heading no nostalgia act, but a band in the full bloom of relevance.