Monday, July 6, 2015

Mudhoney at the Bowery Ballroom

Mark Arm
While in high school in Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, Mark McLaughlin (later known as Mark Arm) started Mr. Epp and the Calculations, a joke band named after his math teacher, and performed from 1981 to 1984. Arm and his friend Steve Turner in 1984 formed a more serious band, Green River, which released an album and two EPs until its demise in 1987; members went on to form Mother Love Bone and Pearl Jam, while Arm and Turner formed Mudhoney in 1988. Arm and Turner named their new band after Russ Meyer's Mudhoney, a film neither had ever seen. Mudhoney presently consists of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Arm, lead guitarist Turner, bassist Guy Maddison and drummer Dan Peters; original bassist Matt Lukin left the band in 1999. Mudhoney released its ninth and most recent album, Vanishing Point, in 2013.

Mudhoney launched a seven-date east coast tour tonight at the Bowery Ballroom. The alternative rock quartet performed 24 songs from all but one of its albums but introduced no new material. The set reached back to the band's first single, "Touch Me, I'm Sick," and its b-side, "Sweet Young Thing (Ain't Sweet No More)," songs which even pre-dated the band's 1989 debut album. Mudhoney also resourced the band's early 1980s punk inspirations by covering songs by the Angry Samoans, the Dicks and Black Flag. Mudhoney's set demonstrated how the band converged the primal rage and energy of punk with the minor-key thud of heavy metal for a fuzzy, distorted, pre-grunge sound. Mudhoney performed like a garage band that exploded the garage walls. Whether it was a slow, sludgy song or a high-adrenalin rocker, Arm abused his vocal chords with a snarl and a screech as Turner played roaring leads with wah-wah, fuzz and other dark, heavy tones. When Arm put aside his guitar, he commanded even more attention as he writhed around the stage like Iggy Pop. With 27 years of experience, Mudhoney knew well how to work its music and its audience; all the audience needed was new songs.

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