Friday Night: Dinosaur Jr. at Fitzgerald's

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Dinosaur Jr. Fitzgerald's October 5, 2012

According to the scene at Fitzgerald's Friday night, the '90s are alive and well. Fans flocked to the venue to see reigning hard rockers Dinosaur Jr. -- and many were turned away, as the show sold out.

The last time we'd seen Dinosaur Jr. was at Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival in 2008. It was a treat to see them in a more intimate club atmosphere.

The stage was set with tall walls of amps, countless pedals, and a backdrop of the band's new album, I Bet On Sky. The instant front man J Mascis stepped onstage, the crowd erupted in utter awe. With his distinguishable stream of silver hair in his face, he didn't smile or address the crowd -- per usual.

The band, which first began playing together in 1984, kicked off their set with Sky's closing track, "See It On Your Side."

"All right," Mascis said, after the song. "Thanks a lot." It would be among the only words we heard him speak all night.

In addition to showcasing many Sky newbies, the band weaved through their lengthy repertoire, pulling songs from Bug, You're Living All Over Me, Green Mind and Dinosaur.

Mascis tuned his guitar after every single song, which is unsurprising, considering how intricately he plays it. If there's anyone destined to be a guitar player in this world, it's J Mascis. From his guitar tone, to his massive pedal incorporation, to his countless crammed solos, he defines the ultimate rock guitarist. And he makes it all seem so effortless.

Equally as entertaining to observe was bassist Lou Barlow, who puts most other bassists to shame. Unlike Mascis, who seemed characteristically apathetic onstage, Barlow was jovial and talkative. He smiled at the crowd, and was visibly into every song.

"Thank you very much," Barlow said between songs, following the onset of a '90s nostalgic mosh-pit and some crowd-surfing. "You're a crazy Houston Friday night crowd!"

Barlow also took time to point out the '90s (and earlier) T-shirts in the crowd, including someone wearing Seaweed T, and another sporting Half Japanese.

If you were going to these shows in the '90s, you probably remember how crowd-surfing works: Once one kid successfully does it, all the other kids follow. Fitzgerald's became a wave pool, so to speak, for the latter half of Dino's set. Needless to say, it got a little rowdy.

"Be careful out there," Barlow said. "And do not go near this pedal board," he warned, pointing out the band's extensive collection of pedals at their feet. "Or you will get hurt!"

The band closed their set with "Forget the Swan," from their 1985 self-titled album, and left the stage. What followed was the loudest begging of an encore I've heard in a while. Despite it being past midnight, Dinosaur Jr. returned to the stage. Barlow asked the crowd for requests.

"'The Safety Dance'? That's not our song," he joked.

Finally, they played their famous cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven."

I can't say anything bad about the show. Dinosaur Jr. have had their documented brawls and hiatuses over time, but their reunion and new albums since then have been just like a new chapter in the book they're still writing.

I Bet On Sky sounds like Dinosaur Jr. as we've always known them. When they walk onstage, they instantly communicate to anyone in that same room that this is exactly what they are meant to be doing. They're a band that focuses on the two most vital parts of rock and roll -- two parts that we sadly see less of these days: They build their band around the notions of 1.) Flawless musicianship; and 2.) Not giving a fuck.

Personal Bias: I love Lou.

The Crowd: Long-haired, band T-wearing dudes in their thirties and forties. Excellent.

Overheard In the Crowd: "We're not worthy!"

Random Notebook Dump: Hoped for "Pieces" and "I Don't Think So."

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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