Longtime :: clicky clicky :: readers will recall that we reported [here] on attending a Dinosaur Jr. show in December 2005, one of several performances filmed for the recently released DVD Dinosaur Jr. "Live In The Middle East." As it turns out, that live date provides good context for the mildly surreal but wholly electrifying Dinosaur Jr. in-store / non-in-store set [check this PDF, page 19] Monday night at retailer Urban Outfitters in Cambridge, Mass. focal point Harvard Square.
The difference between the 2005 show and the performance this week is the difference between celebrating "what was" and exalting in the sweaty, quasi-religious actualization of "what could have been." Monday night we witnessed the transubstantiation of the "what could have been" from a useless pile of barstool wishes about what a band might have accomplished into a heaving, thrashing "what is." Which is a lot of metaphysical bullrorfle we are throwing out as a way of explaining the chills we got seeing Dinosaur Jr.'s J, Lou and Murph move further into a collective future while mining its fractured past.
Dinosaur somewhat sheepishly took the made-for-the-occasion stage a bit past 8PM and rocked 400 lucky attendees, most of whom had waited in a line ringing the city block that houses the faux hipster retailer, for about 65 minutes. Barlow delivered the occasional joke about the oddness of the event ("It's like a real show! Murph's head is sweaty, and he doesn't have any towels... If someone could just hand him a $35 t-shirt for him to dry his head with..."), and owned up to spending a lot of time in the store in the '90s hanging out outside dressing rooms. Barlow and Murph even handed out earplugs (literally in a jar, although pun is somewhat intended) to unprepared show goers, with the friendly bass player joking more than once about heading to the adjacent CVS for more earplugs. Even typically reticent guitar god Mascis cracked a quiet smile when one fan sarcastically yelled "louder!" in between songs (Mascis responding with something like "are you really sure you want that?").
The performance was jarringly good, certainly more lively than we had ball parked while shuffling our feet and waiting for the rock. But the thunderbolt of realization that we were seeing something pretty special came about midway through the set. After opening with a somewhat flat-footed "Almost Ready" (although it doesn't sound that way on the recording) and then hitting their collective stride with a smoking "Budge," Mascis and crew did something we hadn't expected in the least: they played the paralyzingly great and monumentally heavy-hearted "Out There," with bassist Lou Barlow headbanging along and strumming his bass in the space where we had seen his replacement Mike Johnson play so many times in the early- and mid-'90s. The track is the opening cut from Dinosaur Jr.'s second Lou-less and second major label album, the breakthrough set Where You Been. When we saw the band in 2005 we were floored when they played "The Wagon," the opening cut from the first record without Lou (Green Mind). But we really thought that further forays into the Lou-less catalog would be minimal at best.
Dinosaur Jr. --
Happily, we were wrong. And seeing the original lineup intensely rocking the song was uplifting. The trio broke out another post-Lou classic, "Feel The Pain" (from 1994's Without A Sound), and experiencing those old/new, new/old tunes amid a sea of kids many of whom were the age we were when we saw another version of Dinosaur play them gave us an odd feeling that our life had suddenly folded over on itself. Suddenly we were that old guy at the show we used to stand next to -- but at the same time suddenly we were 20 again. The feeling was heightened by the fact that the stage set-up at the Urban Outfitters was reminiscent of that of the Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass., where we saw that band several times between 1993 and 1996.
Anyway, we haven't even gotten to the best part of the show yet, which we'll just go ahead and tell you was back-to-back blinding-hot renditions of "Kracked" and "Sludgefeast." The version of the latter tune was particularly searing, even though on the whole it didn't seem as if the band was performing as loudly as we've experienced them in the past. The two tunes were filled with screaming guitars, Lou's head banging and Murph's ruthless pounding. Then the band left the stage and the gear was getting broken down when the band heeded calls for an encore. J, Lou and Murph returned and played what we were surprised to learn is a crowd favorite, the hot rocker "Pick Me Up." It's the third track from the recently released triumph Beyond [read our review of the record here], and it's a great song. We were just surprised that of all the tunes the youths were hollering out, and of all the great tunes on the new record, that one seems to resonate with the youth of today.
Dinosaur Jr. --
Dinosaur Jr. --
Here's 16 seconds of YouTube video from the show -- it's "Freak Scene," and if you look closely you can see the back of Mr. 'Nac's head. The entire set list is posted below. To hear the entire set, hit this link and stream the whole thing via The Hype Machine's flash-based player. If you want MP3s of the whole set, hit this link and fly on over to Bradley's Almanac for the goods. Dinosaur Jr. is on tour in the U.S. for another week and then the band heads off to tour the UK, Europe, Australia, Japan and who knows where else. Full tour dates are at the band's MySpace shack linked below.
1. Almost Ready
3. Back To Your Heart
4. Been There All The Time
5. Out There
6. This Is All I Came To Do
7. Feel The Pain
8. Freak Scene
E. Pick Me Up
Buy Dinosaur Jr.'s Beyond from Fat Possum here.
Buy other Dinosaur Jr. recordings from Newbury Comics here.
Dinosaur Jr.: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr | Wiki