all photos: Franz Mahr
words by: Richard Benjumea
Twas a night of legends at the 9:30 club on Saturday night; Henry Rollins, Keith Morris and the original lineup for the ever loud Dinosaur Jr. fate had brought me to this show. I had always wanted to see Dinosaur Jr, and when I found out that they were playing their underrated ‘Bug’ album in its entirety, along with legendary Black Flag frontmen Henry Rollins and Keith Morris, the 16 year old in me geeked out.
The average age of those onstage that night was probably 50, yet if you went there expecting a watered down nostalgia fest, you would come away severely disappointed. Keith Morris’ Off! and J. Mascis’ Dinosaur Jr. showed that despite their male pattern baldness and gray hairs, respectively , they could still channel their past angst just as good, if not better than any of the new groups out on the scene today.Dino Jr has always been on of those bands that I had wanted to see at least once before I, or they for that matter, died.
My first introduction to them had come with the tag of loudest band you will probably ever hear’ come Saturday night, they definitely lived up to that distinction. The effortless (AND MASSIVE) wall of sound that Mascis achieved with his 4 Marshall stacks was equal parts awe inspiring and bone shaking.
The night started out with Off! Keith Morris’ new band that, along with his frantic screams and the heavy power chord riffing of Dimitri Coats, threw out the window the maxim that punk/hardcore is dead. They played a blistering short set of about 8 songs that had this writer, at least, looking to star an impromptu mosh pit.
Then came the waiting. As I waited for the band to come on, I looked at my surroundings and was pleasantly surprised to see a mix of old and young faces. From the middle aged father bringing his son to probably his first rock show ever, to a pre teen couple praising the alternative awesomeness that J. Mascis has brought into their lives.
The first part of this two part shebang of an event was the interview Henry Rollins would conduct with the members of Dinosaur Jr. After what seemed like an eternity, Rollins came out to a raucous round of applause and, after introducing Dino Jr to the stage, J. Mascis and crew came out to an even bigger one.
The interview, I must say, was less than what I was expecting. The snail paced, pre planned, predictable questions that Rollins threw at Dino Jr seemed to serve more a purpose of exacerbating the crowd’s impatience than enlightening them. This of course was not helped by J. Mascis’ trademark enigmatic one word answers.
The bassist Lou Barlow took over any real answering on behalf of the trio, providing any real insight into the evolution of the band . When asked how he and the drummer, Murph, responded to Mascis’ ear splitting wall of sound, Barlow mentioned that he and Murph were forced to play really hard and really close to each other in order to even hear one another.
After a little of self praise on behalf of Henry Rollins, who claimed to have created the entire Hardcore scene along with a handful of his peers, Dinosaur Jr. came on.
They played a couple of non-Bug songs before delving into the album. I will say it time and again, as someone who has admired the band but has never really been a diehard fan, I was blown away by the sheer force of the band’s intensity and J. Mascis’ timeless songwriting.
They did indeed play the entire album and even invited a fan from Arkansas to perform the closing number, “Don’t” after which they took request from the fans as to which songs they wanted to hear. The band had to pass on two songs after Barlow passed on them on account of either a hazy memory or moral imperative. (Barlow was kicked out of the band in 1988)
Overall, the band showed an energy well suited to a band half their age. As a non diehard fan (that kid from Arkansas definitely put my fandom into it’s right place), I definitely was able to appreciate the sheer musicianship of a band like Dinosaur Jr. A band that has no interest in making it big and that always has just wanted to, as Mascis put it in the interview, “Make music that we, ourselves, would want to listen to”
As Henry Rollins put it during their introduction, I was indeed witness to a sonic explosion that I soon won’t forget.