Live Review

Mudhoney / Chimers / Gravel Samwidge @ The Zoo

Walking into The Zoo, I was confronted by a barrage of shirts depicting the biggest names of the Grunge era - Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. This had me wondering, does a band really want to look out into the crowd and be reminded of all their dead friends? In a scene marked by drug overdoses, suicide and the otherwise premature deaths of many of its prominent members, Mudhoney demonstrate a longevity uncommon to other Seattle grunge alumni.

Putting it simply, Mudhoney are survivors. Despite battling their own demons they have outlasted almost all their peers, with a, mostly, unchanged lineup. Guy Maddison replaced Matt Lukin in 2001, whilst original members Mark Arm, Dan Peters and Steve Turner have remained committed to the cause. On the back of their recently released new album, Plastic Eternity, the group return for their first Australian shows in almost a decade.

Local support Gravel Samwidge, play a plodding brand of swamp rock and sound somewhat like a slowed down version of The Scientists. Veterans of the Brisbane underground rock scene, the band had many supporters within the crowd and likely won a few more before their set was through.

Chimers, despite being a relatively new group, delivered a spirited and confident performance. Given singer and guitarist Padraic was wearing an Obits shirt, it was likely no coincidence they sounded reminiscent of the Hot Snakes.

Mudhoney took the stage at 10pm, playing to a house full of eager fans - the band’s merch was almost completely sold out by 8:30pm! I have rarely, if ever, seen The Zoo more packed and I have never been more happy that this former hotbox of a venue is now air-conditioned.

Across an hour and half set, the band drew heavily from their recent releases, Plastic Eternity, Digital Garbage and Morning in America, alongside a healthy mix of the classics. Songs like Suck You Dry, Pretty Young Thing and Touch Me I’m Sick generated some of the biggest responses from the crowd, but despite this, the new songs sat just easily alongside the hits, for lack of a better word.

Perhaps due to the fact they have rarely been played live before, at least not on these shores, the new songs provides several of the set’s most memorable moments. Souvenir of My Trip, Move Under and Almost Everything delivered all the absurdity and sarcasm present on the record, and then some. Little Dogs was, dare I say, adorable. Do Mudhoney and that word even go together? Described by Arm as, “The most honest song I have ever written” this ode to small canines, in particular Arm’s pet Pomeranian sounded just as funny, and as sweet, as the album version.

21st Century Pharisees, a song which Arm stated, “Isn’t reaching its intended audience, instead I’m just preaching to the choir” and One Bad Actor brought an end to the main set. These recent songs, from Digital Garbage and Morning in America, respectively, demonstrate the strength of Mudhoney’s latter-day output. After a short absence, the band re-grouped for a four song encore. When Tomorrow Hits, off their second, self-titled album, delivered a brief change of pace before the finale, a rousing version of Here Comes Sickness.

It must be hard work staying in the rock and roll game for as long as Mudhoney, even harder to still enjoy it. To be able to release new music that engages and excites an audience just as much as their classics, is nigh on impossible. Arm’s voice, and trademark scream, have never sounded better and, vitally, they manage to navigate the difficult tightrope of performing tight, while sounding loose.

Across thirty-five years, twelve albums and thousands of shows Mudhoney have developed an obviously close bond, both musically and personally. All four members are clearly still enjoying themselves, joking with each other and the crowd whilst performing with an honesty and intensity that cannot be faked.

It would be hard to imagine Mudhoney still being around if they attained the heights of their more famous, and famously deceased, contemporaries. That said, with Mudhoney it never seemed to be about selling millions of records, but more about four friends getting together and playing the music they love. Judging by this performance, they will not be stopping any time soon.

- Nick Stephan.


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