March 14, 2012

Review: Dinosaur Jr. Bug Live at 9:30 Club, In The Hands Of The Fans [DVD]

Dinosaur Jr. Live at the 9:30 Club In The Hands Of The Fans, Bug
At least as far as this DVD goes, you can judge the contents by the cover: herein legendary indie rock trio Dinosaur Jr. performs the third album recorded by its original line-up. The proceedings feel a little rote at times, but it's all there, and, damn, is it good. This performance of Bug was one of many the band executed in 2011, and this particular show was captured to video in late June (here's DCist's review). From a cinematographic standpoint, the concept of the DVD -- that six Dinosaur Jr. fans were selected to film the concert, presumably to give it some sort of stamp of fan approval -- results in probably many more cuts than necessary to holistically capture the excellent performance. Sure, some of the angles are nice, and the crowd shots are occasionally amusing. Still, we feel like director David Markey (the man behind the absolutely wonderful "The Year That Punk Broke" film) perhaps felt obligated to use more than just the best camerawork. Cutting to a shot of the backs of heads in the balcony just as the first chorus of "Post" kicks in? Really?

Or perhaps that is a bit of humor creeping into the process. After all, this is a film that starts with the exceeding loquacious and musically pedigreed Mike Watt feeling his way through some introductory lines he reads off a piece of paper out of frame as a used car salesman might in a low-budget commercial. Keith Morris, the first singer of legendary hardcore act Black Flag and now with the band Off!, similarly and comically gets through his lines, and Dinosaur's bassist Lou Barlow has to take a do-over. Stacking the three stilted intros at the beginning of the DVD underscores the econo/DIY vibe characteristic of the scene birthed by the above-referenced bands, among others. One other little hint of humor -- the DVD credits state it features Ian Mackaye at one point, and we learn at the close of the film that the extent of Mackaye's presence was him posing for a photo with fellow D.C. hometown hero Henry Rollins toward the beginning.

All that said, the cuts to the various angles we mention supra perhaps serves as some proxy for the overwhelming sensorial stimulus of Dinosaur Jr.'s ear-bleeding volume, which doesn't quite translate, although the sound on the DVD is crystalline and, to a certain extent, revelatory, as guitarist J Mascis is sometimes so loud the various sonic textures from his pedals are unclear. Overall, the performance is a series of rushes, big moments like when drummer Murph and Mr. Barlow (wearing only socks throughout, incidentally) locked in on a caffeinated groove during "Let It Ride."

After some perfunctory introductions of the fans in whose hands the cameras were placed, they just disappear for the most part. That is, until the end of the show, when one of the cameramen (and they are all predictably and somewhat disappointingly men) takes lead vocals on "Don't" to protect Barlow's voice from the throat-bleeding lyric "Why!? Why don't you like me!?" Incidentally, we recollect from Juliana Hatfield's recent bio that Ms. Hatfield (who once recorded a bracing cover of Dinosaur's "Raisans") was in a studio adjacent to Dinosaur when they were cutting the song, and apparently Barlow was spitting up blood after recording this vocal. While it would have been nice for Mr. Rollins or Mr. Mackaye or Mr. Morris to sing, the guy acquitted himself well. And so "Don't" is one of the surprise highlights of the night, as the lysergic power-downer begins with a gentle feel before the threesome conjures the hurt something fierce.

The DVD contains a number of extras, as is de rigueur, including the encore, "Sludgefeast" and the aforementioned "Raisans" from the Dinosaur Jr.'s epic sophomore set You're Living All Over Me, as well as two tracks the band warmed up with, "The Wagon" from Green Mind and "In A Jar" from ...All Over Me. MVD Video released "Dinosaur Jr. Bug Live at the 9:30 Club, In The Hands Of The Fans" February 21. View the trailer here. Purchase the DVD here.

Full album stream of Bug.

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