This Little Underground 

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Even a sworn heathen like me has to admit that sometimes prayers get answered. In my Selections preview for the Melvins Tribute Show (Sept. 15, Will's Pub) in last week's paper, I threw down the gauntlet for any of the participating bands to attempt the Melvins' mondo Big Business-era, dual-drummer attack. Really, it was more of a public personal wish. What I didn't know at the time, however, was that Bob on Blonde already had that hot little idea cooking.

Boosting their juice for the occasion by doubling their manpower with drummer Eric Pitman (Chemical Ache, VRGNS) and guitarist/King Buzzo impersonator Cory Bennett (Will's Pub bartender, 2011 Undie award winner for Best Hair), this band brought the motherfucking noise. Clearly, these guys really put in the practice. Most impressive was the rhythm section, who, despite a new, two-drummer dynamic, were tighter than a German march. Not quite as put together was frontman Bob Hershberger, whose bottle depth led to some moments of performance meltdown. But it did result in a finale of total physical destruction involving a drunken human body crashing into the mountain of drums, and that always rules. The drum corps of Pitman and usual BOB timekeeper Waylon Thornton? Wow. Not since early lineups of Basements of Florida have I seen a dual-drummer setup from this city be so tight.

The latest double-barrel drum kick of the Melvins is the group in their most locked-in, concentrated and defined state. Channeling this side of them is to capture them at their most essential. And Bob on Blonde and their added mercenaries got into the spirit like no other and delivered the deluxe Cadillac version of this colossus. I said in my preview that any band to attempt it had balls. Well, what I saw up there were huge, swinging bull balls. And by the time the smoke cleared to reveal a pile of assorted rubble onstage, the only sensation left was the belief that this was the most ear-clawing, skull-crushing local performance in a long time. Hallelujah.

The beat

Other goings-down included Bard and Mustache (Sept. 13, Will's Pub), a Sarasota duo that plays venturesome, melodic chamber pop. Although more scrappy than polished, the two-piece uses guitar, cello, violin and drum machine in a way that's filled with possibility. They keep their passionate live playing as their life force, judiciously using beat tracks only as ribs to their arrangements. Sometimes the effects obscure their vocal interplay, which sounds like it could be pretty lovely. But given their setup, it's to their considerable credit that they don't play the twee card. Opting for drama, melody and spontaneity instead, they're testing the bounds of pop music a bit.

Indie heroes Built to Spill also rolled through (Sept. 10, the Social). You know, it's a good thing they have both decent music and considerable legacy on their side because they're kind of wooden onstage, making it more than a little laughable that they inquired between songs about having the light show be more dynamic. While main man Doug Martsch handled the matter with humor by offering any audience member 20 bucks to run lights, I've no idea why guitarist Brett Netson saw fit to cop such an onstage attitude about it. Ghostland Observatory's laser light show and Kiss' pyro wouldn't have added any electricity to his own statue-worthy stage presence. But still, I gotta admit, they sounded good. And they're still one of the more elegant of the intricate '90s indie rock bands.

Besides being more demonstrative, Northwest opener Helvetia showcased an intriguing vision of indie rock that melodically explores without getting lost. Atmospheric and mercurial, their nicely woozy music has full emotional range. Whether they stay in the moody pocket or blaze out of it in a fiery freakout, it all feels pulsing and alive. Most importantly, there's a distinctly enveloping heft to them. Warm echoes of the musical past course through their sound, but this is clearly something else decidedly modern.

The doctor is out

Heads up, boo boos. I'll be on column break next week. It'll be OW's big, annual Fall Guide so that'll cushion the hurt a little. But the week after, we'll be slipping into the always sexier autumn concert season and just plain kicking ass.


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