It's freezing in New Orleans, but J Mascis is a legend, so people will come out for a great night of music. That fact was evident Tuesday night as a near capacity crowd filled Tips for legendary grunge rock band Dinosaur Jr. the band has been through a few times in recent years, yet it didn't matter for the group of old school fans that crowded into the club.
Since 1985 this band has been recording and touring, but with a ten year break during the late 90's, early aughts the band is still more than capable to deliver the best laid riffs they can muster, which is still quite good considering how long they've been in the game. Dinosaur Jr. also find themselves in an interesting place as an older band celebrated in alt rock circles. At this point, they've been a band just as long since reforming as they were before calling it quits initially in 1998. None of that matters though, because the songs are still brilliant and loud. Very loud, so much so that you could hear them start the show from across the street. In the rouses parking lot. Near the entrance to the store.
That's one of the big takeovers form seeing Dino live. The amps stand higher than the musicians, and with only three members Mascis, Murph and Barlow respectively, they can basically make as much noise as they're compelled to. This plays to their strengths as a band. They aren't balls to the walls, but instead have a tendency to write songs that get louder at moments while still maintaining a small amount of easy listening segments. This is important when your fan base is past their concert seeking prime of their lives, and have found themselves tired and bored by life after your 30's and 40's. The crowd likely averaged older than say if you saw a hit up and coming band, but the energy(especially on the floor) harkened back to a time where Dinosaur Jr. was the big draw, playing festivals fair and wide and getting all the acclaim that bands during that period became accustomed to.
On Tuesday they mostly stick to what they know works. It's smart, but also somewhat risky. Most of the songs presented were played last time they filled Tips, but we still got our money's worth. Again no one seemed too concern with the similarities between this show and the last show.
It's hard to get upset when you get to hear most of their best songs from their long career. Mascis isn't one for stage banter, choosing to let Barlow on bass do most of the chatting between songs. At first the set mostly featured tracks from their 2016 record "Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not," and while songs like "Lost All Day" and "Left/Right," are fun and enjoyable to listen to, those aren't the songs pretty are humming on their way back to the car. After "Glinpse" got a tender amount of attention the band turned it up and delivered "Watch the Corners," which might be the best post/reunion song the band has written since reforming. The guitar work is layered and beautiful, all while being tough around the edges. Mascis' voice is still as sullen and downtrodden as it always was, and it's those emotions that really make the song worth experiencing.
From there we got more and more well known tracks to keep the audience interested. "Feel the Pain," long the biggest song of the bands career, cut through the energy and found its rhythm as the crowd became 16 again and bounced up and down in the front where the band could see. The song is a classic, with a chorus as immediate and high energy as any of their other songs. Everything about the song still works, with the intensity of the chorus offsetting the gradual build of the verses.
That gradual build happens to be one of the best weapons the band has, but it's not the only weapon. The songs lyrically aren't super confusing, and the rhyme schemes are both easy going and intelligent, which in turns make it's easier to sing along. They aren't overly verbose either, choosing instead to let their mastery of instruments be their biggest selling point.
One of the best moments of the show was the inclusion of classic "Where You Been" tracks like album opener "Out There," and more importantly "Start Choppin'," which might just be as big as "Pain," judging by audience reaction. "Choppin" is a staple during their live sets, and it's easy to see why. The band brigns the crowd with them during this one, with the audience more than willing to attempt to hit the awkward high notes sung over the easy going but consistent beats of the song.
The band played on, digging into tracks from their first two records, which are way more abrasive than what came after, but again the crowd didn't seem bothered by the intensity. "Kracked whirled like a madman hiking through the mountains, and while the crowd slowly emptied out before the closing moments of the show, the band raged on, giving what little energy they had left to the crowd is sleepy New Orlenians. All in all, another consistent well executed show by living legends and a group of guys still making the most honest music they can. They aren't going to change t world, but for a small faithful fan base still intertwined with the band after over three decades, it doesn't matter because Dinosaur Jr. will always love in the hearts of our teenage selves.
Photos courtesy of Steven Hatley