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vs. Cameron Jamie [2004-11-16]

It promised to be a very special evening in Middelburg, The Netherlands. The European tour planned for The Melvins was cancelled, but for three shows in Vienna, Paris and Middelburg they agreed to play anyway, as a soundtrack to three short movies by Cameron Jamie. The music-, art- and movie-lovers were treated to something nice here.

The event took place in the so-called Vleeshal (“meat hall”), a part of the city hall used regularly for artistically minded expositions. The city hall is one of the most praised in The Netherlands and is an example for the later Flemish-Brabant gothic building style. The face was build during 1452-1458 but during bombing on 17th of May 1940 most of the building was destroyed. The rebuild city hall is used by the Roosevelt Academy nowadays, and the Vleeshal for art. The long and lofty hall is richly decorated and is equipped with a truly amazing beautiful ceiling. Because of the great acoustic one wonders why they don’t let music play more often there. For this occasion, a big screen was placed in the back of the hall, The Melvins playing beside it in the dark.

Cameron Jamie was born in 1969 in Los Angeles, in the area of San Fernando Valley. He grew up in a culture where rituals and traditions in the suburbs differ from those in the big city. Often violently, since Jamie quickly got accustomed with wrestling matches in a time it was still not professionally done in America. He moved to Paris where he buckled down to the wrestling, dressed with a rubber mask showing his own face. This sarcastic look upon the self-image, the failing American suburb culture mixed with European influences and the wrestling can all be found back in his movies, be it in a sadistic way. But he doesn’t concentrate in movie only; the Vleeshal exposed pictures and drawing from the Parisian artist earlier on.

The show starts with the movie Kranky Klaus (2003) and The Melvins introduce themselves with a lot of noise and a repeating, long guitar riff. The picture tells the story of St. Nicholas in the snowy villages of Austria (traditionally on the 6th of December) and especially the evil counterpart of St. Nicholas, The Krampus. St. Nicholas rewards the good people with presents; the Krampus punishes the bad with brutal manner. The Krampus is a Satan-alike figure, with big horns and hairy coat. In the movie they unexpectedly pay the Austrian community a visit and then they balance on the edge of prevailing standards while punishing the bad people, ‘til they cry and further. People are pushed into the snow with their heads and the mythical beasts do not hesitate to use their horns, usually leading to a fight equal to a wrestling match. This disturbing act of intimidation is well illustrated in combination with the powerful noise / grunge rock played by The Melvins, who used a substitute bass player on this occassion.

There’s no pause after the 25 minutes of the first movie; The Melvins continue to play and the title of the second movie appears on the screen: Spook House (also from 2003). The name already says what this is about; the subject of this picture is Halloween. Driving through the working class suburbs of Detroit an alarming portrait of rituals prior to this tradition is shown, particularly how the conventional American lane are adorned with dolls, grave stones and body parts. Between the flickering way the movie was shot (quickly changing pictures and varying black / white and colour shots) a couple of images struck me: a witch on a broomstick crashed into a commercial pillar, hanging dolls in the front garden, Mr. Death himself carrying a sickle, pumpkins… The light is the hall is changed to dark red to emphasize the frightening mood of a horror movie once again. The pulsating noise performed by The Melvins is helping a lot to accomplish this feeling, and the movie appears to last a lot longer than the actual 20 minutes it stands for.

The third and final movie showing this evening was made in 2000 already, and is a highly acclaimed work. The black & white super 8 picture BB shows teenage wrestlers, practising matches and imitating their heroes in the backyard. Life in the suburbs is once again the main theme, and Jamie's childhood love for the wrestling matches is easily discovered. People jump from roofs into the ring, molesting with chairs and other objects; it looks more like a sadistic torture than a wrestling match. The guitars, drums and cymbals grow more intense when the next wrestler stands up. Drummer Dale Crover gets one of his cymbals and starts running through the public pounding into the cymbal and making some noise, but this is not new to me. I also recognized some musical parts from their latest album with Lustmord, Pigs Of The Roman Empire, but apart from that most music seems especially written for these movies only. Almost improvising on the intensity of the movies, The Melvins work through slightly more than an hour of music, for which they got a well-deserved applause.

Of the estimated 300 people showing up this evening, I wonder if 10 percent of them actually knew The Melvins. Luckily, this fact didn’t stand is the way of art-loving Middelburg, and I didn’t see people running away. Besides, I think that the movies were more overwhelming to the public, and leaving them with more amazement than the soundtrack going with those. Special? Maybe. Impressive? Sure.

The Melvins
Cameron Jamie
Vleeshal

Justin Faase
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