Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dinosaur Jr. Reminds Me Why I'm Glad They're Not Yet Extinct (and that J Mascis remains one of the greatest guitarists ever) -- Concert Review

Concert Review

Dinosaur Jr.
Green Music Fest, Chicago
June 23, 2012

At this stage of my concertgoing existence, I don't like--or more accurately, my legs and back can't tolerate--festivals and/or shows where I have no choice but to stand for the duration.

So the fact that I went down to Bucktown on Saturday night for the Green Music Fest along Damen Ave.,  just to see Dinosaur Jr., should provide ample indication of how much I like them.

Mind you, it was a relatively low-key festival and Dino Jr. played just 90 minutes, but my physical discomfort was enough to feel grateful that the band's roaring set was good enough to be worth my effort in catching it.

Refer to Wikipedia and for a fuller history and background of Dinosaur Jr., but my familiarity with them dates back to 1991. Living in the San Fernando Valley at the time, perhaps I'd heard their song "The Wagon" on "world famous" KROQ, but I think I was rather uninitiated when I saw their Green Mind album at Tower Records in Sherman Oaks, CA.

I can't recall if I heard a sample or was just intrigued by the cover art, but amidst the glorious year of Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten, R.E.M.'s Out of Time, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, U2's Actung Baby and other now legendary releases, Green Mind quickly became one of my favorite albums.

Then, as now, Dinosaur Jr. is led by J Mascis, the guy on the left in the photos above and below. I reverently describe him as a guy that looks like he spent years living in a basement, crawled out into the light, strapped on a guitar and--imaginably with Matrix-like expertise implants--plays with godlike abilities that blend Eddie Van Halen with Neil Young.

I don't say this lightly, as I admire a wide range of six-string geniuses and have seen many of them live -- Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, Buddy Guy, Tom Morello, Kirk Hammett, Carlos Santana, Joe Walsh, Trey Anastasio, Mike McCready, George Lynch and many more -- but there is no one whose solos sing to me more than Mascis. His speed can rival anyone's, but I also cherish the feeling he evokes.

Originally, starting in Amherst, Massachusetts in the mid-'80s--by the way, having seen Aerosmith, my favorite band from Boston, on Friday, it dawned on me that with due respect to The Cars, Pixies, J. Geils, Boston, Mission of Burma and others, and with some geographical liberties, I was seeing my second favorite "Boston band" the following night--Dinosaur Jr. was Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph.

Though they experienced a fair amount of indie success before I heard of them, by the time of Green Mind--their major label debut--Mascis would kick Barlow out of the band, and Murph would subsequently leave as well.

Mascis continued on as Dinosaur Jr. with assorted bandmates until 1997 and I generally prefer the '90s material to the earlier stuff. But with the original trio having reformed in 2005, the reunion shows I'd previously seen were, understandably, heavy on songs created by Mascis, Barlow and Murph.

Which is my typically longwinded way of explaining that I really liked their gig at Green Music Fest--which requested just a $5 entry fee!--because along with earlier album songs like "Little Fury Things," "Freak Scene" and their cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," they also played a few of my later-era favorites, such as "The Wagon," "Out There," "Feel The Pain" and "Thumb" (though not the aptly titled "Green Mind").

And with whatever acoustic sacrifices to be ceded for standing amidst a sweaty throng, they sounded damn good to me. Macsis' laconic drawl has always held a certain appeal, but as his vocal gifts would never be mistaken for Roger Daltrey's, any deficiencies his singing has suffered as his hair has grayed are largely insubstantial.

And as a guitarist, he's still astonishing. If only I had a bit more room around me, I would've been in air guitar heaven.

As it was, 90 minutes of what could've been hell was made a whole lot happier due to one of my favorite--if always somewhat under the radar--bands delivering a ferocious set of thunderous songs and blistering guitar solos. And for only $5 at that.

Here's hoping Dinosaur Jr.--whose new album, I Bet on Sky, drops September 18--has several more great years in them before they go the way of their namesakes.

Here's a clip of "Out There" from last night that someone posted on YouTube, followed by a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite Dinosaur Jr. songs:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice write up. Agree that it was a good show. Surprised at the lack of material off of Beyond & Farm, but not complaining. J's solos made the show. Thanks for the video!