Fans in the crowd at Warehouse Live's Dinosaur Jr. show Friday night should have known what was in store for them when J Mascis' roadies began setting up his equipment. Six amps for a single guitar player. If you thought the show was loud, imaging standing three feet in front of them, like Mascis has for the last 25 years.
Aftermath finally made it through the security line in time to catch the last few songs from opener Lou Barlow, once friend and then foe of Mascis. The two went to high school together and were founding members of Dinosaur Jr. until Barlow left to work out his frustrations via his side project Sebadoh. Eight years later, Mascis disbanded Dinosaur Jr. and began to tour solo. If you count all their side projects, Mascis and Barlow must have about 30 albums between the two of them. This makes for an interesting and diverse show once you get past the point of not being able to hear anything because of all the noise you're hearing. Mop-haired Barlow opened by playing both bass and guitar with support from MIke Watt's guitarist and drummer in support of Barlow's solo album, Goodnight Unknown, released this month. Barlow's bass playing has always been melodic, and his new work is no exception, but unfortunately, the sound at Warehouse Live was muddy at the low ends and so the songs sounded heavier than their album versions.
When Built to Spill took the stage the sound problems continued, as Brett Netson seemed to have trouble getting any sound from his guitar. Not that anyone cared. A vast portion of the audience was there to see Built to Spill, leaving happily after their set. By the second or third song the kinks were worked out and the five-piece from Boise plowed through "You Were Right," "Stab" and "Joyride." Throughout the show, Doug Martsch sipped something from a vessel that looked like an urn on top of his amp. What was that? During "Wherever You Go," drummer Scott Plouf was hitting the drums so hard he had to come up off his stool every few beats. They played "Weather" to calls from the crowd and closed with "Carry the Zero" but in spite of the satisfied fans in the audience, the band seemed quite subdued.
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Then it was time to move all Dinosaur Jr.'s equipment on stage. Lord, there were so many amps. Mascis, the Gandalf of indie rock, was again joined by Barlow (they made nice in 2005) and Murph for one of the fuzziest sets Rocks Off has ever heard. Dinosaur Jr. will forever be associated in our head with the indie sounds of the early '90s - they're in the same mental category as Sonic Youth. We were glad to hear that little has changed for them, musically, especially because we once saw Mascis perform during the solo years and were extremely disappointed. On Friday night, they were louder than Built to Spill despite having two fewer members, and played with so much gain that it was sometimes hard to tell what song they were playing.
They opened with "The Wagon," which sounded darker and slower than the Green Mind version. That was followed by "I Want You To Know" off their most recent album Farm, "Get Me" and "Plans." Mascis's guitar solos seemed totally improvised, often off-beat and off-kilter, as though he were just screwing around. Between songs, Barlow and Murph filled the gaps with silly little countrified ditties that by the fourth or fifth time started to make us giggle in their idiosyncrasy. All the songs felt slower and grungier than normal except for "Feel the Pain" which was frenetically faster than the version that made the band famous. After playing "Freak Scene," the band left the stage, then returned for a short encore. Fans who stayed for their set probably left the venue with Dinosaur Jr.'s songs ringing in their ears - a gift for the weekend. Lou Barlow wrote in his tour diary for Paste that he was pleased to see so many young fans getting into Dinosaur Jr., and Aftermath noticed the same. Fifteen years ago, the band helped change the way we looked at music. It's nice to see that they're still able to do that.