The usual snake of people waiting silently to be granted entry through the legendary doors of Berghain was gone. As one approached the venue that night, one entered into a packed mammoth of a space that Mudhoney had no problem filling with the feedback of guitars and the pulsations of bass drums. Oftentimes I have wondered aloud to friends at Berghain whose ears are filled with techno how a rock band would sound through the aurally luxurious Funktion-One sound system; Mudhoney was the wall of sound to provide that experience.
Aside from being able to claim to be the gig with the largest amount of plaid in one concentrated area in Berlin, the t-shirts scattered throughout the venue reflected the musical leanings of those wearing them and listening, with The Melvins and Sub Pop frequently sighted.
The first two songs blurred together as a bit of a grunge warmup: monotonous tones of distorted guitars and the distinctive rawly slinky bass line of Mudhoney. But by song three, “Suck You Dry,” Mark Arm was no longer finding his bearings. In his Vans and faded jeans, looking like he just stepped out of 1990s Seattle, Arm took the audience under his command. From the people sardined on the staircase to those listening through the windows at the bar, they were all transfixed as the drums developed into a chaos that was rhythmically logical.
When Steve Turner hammered out the first three chords of “Touch Me I’m Sick,” the audience lost a bit of control. Every chord was perfectly in place to create an angsty anthem still relevant more than two decades later: “I won’t live long, and I’m full of rot/Gonna give you—girl—everything I got/Touch me, I’m sick, yeah/Touch me, I’m sick.” A couple directly in front of the stage thrashed and twirled to the chords, forgetting the crowd around them in their animalistic indulgence of their adolescent musical memories.
Several songs into the set, “What To Do With The Neutral”—a track off of “Vanishing Point,” the band’s most recent studio release—slid in. Arm seemed to possess the sinewy stalk of the 1977 incarnation of Iggy Pop. Sweat dripped off of him as he shirtlessly paced the stage. The tempo was brought back up with a cover of the Angry Samoans’ “Stupid Assholes,” and as Arm took a swig from his plastic cup of white wine, he murmured one of his few spoken lines during the set: “I’ve always heard that Germans make the best whites.”
After a much-desired encore, including “Here Comes Sickness” and a gritty rendition of “Into the Drink,” the bedraggled crowd leaving Berghain looked a little bit different that evening.