Date: May 15, 2015
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Venue: Skully’s Music-Diner
Merch purchased: One MxBx t-shirt ($15)
By: Kris Kotlarik
Before I start this hoedown, I would like to commend the various promoters and venues of this city for making this a hard decision; there was also The Who and Joan Jett playing at Nationwide Arena, while TV on the Radio was at the Newport Music Hall. Ultimately, The Who cost too much (plus I do not care for Joan Jett), and the Newport has obscene box office “convenience” fees that need to be outlawed yesterday. So ultimately, Melt-Banana’s value was too good to pass up. Plus the show was highly entertaining.
On the surface, this seems like an unassuming band; the drummer has a setup so simple that it looks like a souped up “My First Drum Set” kit. The singer was rocking some skinny jeans (or were they courduroy?), and the entire ensemble looked like they weren’t yet able to legally acquire booze (which is kind of a shame, as Skully’s has a nice bar).
But if you give these guys a chance, you’ll come away quite impressed. You’re looking at what John Coltrane might have sounded like if he came around 55 years later. In particular, I was quite impressed with the group’s drummer and his ghost-snare prowess. The singer was also all over the stage and possesses a high vocal range. Looking at the crowd, you would find most of the spectators looking on. No moshing, no hand-clapping, no crowd surfing; just musical pondering. Generally, I prefer shows like this; it certainly beats getting ribchecked into the rail/stage while trying to watch the musical goings-on.
Occasionally, their act may grow a little weary for those with short attention spans. Again, for me, that’s great; if I wanted to mindlessly stroke out during a show, I wouldn’t be here. But they could stand to do more to keep the crowd engaged. If you’re in Columbus on June 13, go to Brothers Drake and catch them there; that venue will be much better for this band.
Let’s get these out of the way early, because the rest of what I say henceforth will be positive:
-0.5 for using a drum machine
-0.5 for using a pre-programmed bass track
-0.5 for activating Skynet (the programmed tracks drowned out all human-controlled instruments)
Melt-Banana acknowledged that they are a two-piece live ensemble on a Facebook post, with one female singer screeching her way through the tracks while controlling the computer programs with what appears to be a Playstation Vita (he said, jokingly), and one guitarist wearing a hospital mask shredding everything in his path with a huge battery of gear. With that said, this would have been an off-the-charts show with a full ensemble. Agata and Yasuko O. are both a formidable presence onstage, but part of the fun in seeing a group known for its energy is seeing a full band interacting with each other.
None of that took away from the crowd’s enjoyment of their setlist, as this particular crowd was crazier than any show I have recently seen. Their setlist, which included a cover of Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge,” spanned their entire lengthy discography, a rarity in this day and age, and they clearly know how to entertain a crowd, as there was much more moshing than I had anticipated.
I had relatively low expectations for Melt-Banana coming into the show, and the expectations were lowered even further when only the two members went onstage. Those gripes aside, the show was nearly perfect. If you see Melt-Banana and enjoy borderline schizo music, you’re going to be entertained.