Dinosaur Jr. (photo: Patric Carver)
Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis was once referred to in Rolling Stone as a “shred wizard.” It seems he’s taken the sorcerer imagery to heart, adapting the long white locks and beard typically associated with figments conjured by the likes of Tolkien and Rowling.
Though Mascis has been sporting this look for a while now, it still makes an impact on stage. However, the charmed air about Mascis ends with his appearance; there’s nothing magical about the way he carries himself. Lumbering to the stage before the show, he turned to security and seemed to sigh, “Let’s get this shit over with,” to no one in particular. He didn’t interact with the audience at all during the show, save for a few unintelligible mumbles between songs.
Unfamiliar parties would probably see this as a slight to the fans, but I doubt the superfans in the audience would have seen it that way. It’s part of the aura surrounding the band. Dinosaur Jr. was one of the first bands to really make the experience of disaffected youth manifest sonically. Whereas other bands were constructing lyrics to tell the story of young people self-exiled from society, Dinosaur Jr. really captured in their sound what it feels like to be lonesome when in a crowd of people.
It’s a remarkable but limiting feat. You can only really play the dull drone of internalized angst so many ways. All their songs sound amazing, but they also sound strikingly similar. Last Friday at the Regency Ballroom, this was proven once again. The show was amazing, but there weren’t any singular standout moments.
Mascis, cocooned in his lair of Marshalls amps, segregated from his bandmates, absolutely did uphold his title of “shred wizard.” Complicated without being obnoxious, Mascis’ guitar solos proved over and over why live music is worth leaving the house, even for hardcore introverts that dig the drone of Dinosaur Jr.’s sound. Bassist Lou Barlow did so much head banging that I felt concussive after the show. His entire body seemed to be wrapped around the unified purpose of pouring the low end over the crowd. And though they share the characteristic of a single name, drummer Murph continues to be the anti-Madonna behind the kit. His playing is solid and timeless; unwavering. There’s a primitiveness to his pounding, but it is so brilliantly punctuated with tight drum fills. It’s the eradicator of drum-machine pop-princess pap.
My ears were ringing the day after the show with the dull, gray glow of Dinosaur Jr. still fogging up my brain, but I didn’t find myself humming their songs like I would with other bands whose performances really affected me. Maybe that’s part of the magic of Dinosaur Jr. You have to be there — you have to feel it for yourself. You’ve got to enjoy it in the moment, because it isn’t going to stick around.