Gig/Concert: Dinosaur Jr. with Lou Barlow and MV & EE (and surprise appearance by Damian Abraham)
Venue: Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, Canada
Date: 21 January, 2010
Headliners: Dinosaur Jr.
In one word: Colossal
According to the Dashboard on my slightly off-white wee MacBook, the temperature today in Toronto is -2 C, but the sun is shining and it’s all rather pleasant. I just took a morning stroll down the ever-colourful Queen Street West and the equally technicolour Kensington Market, throwing smiles at a couple of hundred passing strangers while hearing a mix of fleeting sounds including the car horns from impatient taxi drivers, Macy Gray, Sonic Youth, drumming from a Jamaican busker, and the usual sirens of emergency vehicles; they’d all make a mad cut n’ paste mash-up if I wanted to take a creative leaf out of Brian Wilson’s book, or for a more current reference, tUnE-yArDs.
It’s my birthday today and right now I’m sitting in a library, which might not sound like fun times but I’m doing what I love: listening to music and reflecting on the good times had last night after seeing Dinosaur Jr. at the Phoenix.
Before Massachusetts’ finest took to the stage, there was an hour or so of music by the two support acts, Lou Barlow and MV & EE. The latter are a quartet, sans drummer, who served up a whole lot of spaced-out psychedelic wah-wah heavy guitar action. It sounded more like an acid-fueled slow jam than a proper set, but that is deliberate and exactly what MV & EE are all about. Definitely one for the space cadets.
“I hope you’re ready to be dripped on when my face gets melted off!” That was the warning from a girl leaning over me as I sat behind the barrier in the photo pit waiting for the main event. But of course I wasn’t sitting down by the time Dinosaur Jr. came on, though I have no doubts that the face-melting happened.
It’s really hard to talk about Dinosaur Jr. without rehashing the obvious puns, the most used and abused one being that Dino Jr. are no longer ‘extinct’, having reformed a few years ago with the original line-up of J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph. The bald drummer Murph was missing tonight but the man who took his place on the stool did a fantastic job filling in – props to you sir, whoever you are.
In musical terms Dinosaur Jr. are a band that can be genuinely referred to as pioneers. They became a big influence to so many of the best alternative rock and grunge music that the ‘90s. If we were to draw parallels to prehistoric time periods, Dinosaur Jr. could be considered as not so much as having invented the wheels of rock n’ roll, but for helping remold them to provide a defining sound of an era.
Tonight Dinosaur Jr. were roaring at full force, with the wall of amplifiers providing that distinctly sludgy sound, while at his feet J Mascis has a pedalboard with enough buttons and knobs that it might even make Tom Morello jealous. That pedalboard became a box of tricks that Mascis relied on throughout the night for his solos – I’m not a fan of guitar wankery when its done the super-technical yawn-inducing DragonForce way (or DragonFarce, as I so maturely deemed them a while back), but Dinor Jr are far removed from the genres of super-technical metal and instead Mascis’ provides the kind of tripped-out solos that inspire happy little zone-outs.
Dinosaur Jr. played a great selection of old and new material, with the highlight for me being the middle of the set which featured great renditions of “I’m Over It” (from 2009’s Farm) and then “Feel The Pain” (Without A Sound, 1994). Well, that was until the final song of the night… it’d had just passed midnight as Damian Abraham of Fucked Up came on stage to provide the vocals for “Chunks”. Given that this happened just seconds into the start of my birthday, I was extra lucky to see two awesome artists join forces for one of those memorable “I was there” gig moments. Freaking mega. And they couldn’t have picked a more suitable Dinosaur Jr. track for Abraham to cameo on, what with the angry Rollins-style vocal structure of the song.
A great night. Long may Dinosaur Jr. continue to roam – sure they’re getting on a bit, but don’t be deceived by J Mascis’s wizardry white hair, they’re still in their early 40’s and have a bit to go yet before they become rock n’ roll fossils like the Rolling Stones. (Albeit perhaps not capable of doing skate tricks anymore, as seen last year with the video for “Over It” which has a few dubious moments where stunt doubles were surely used – but a fun video all the same.)
Oh, and personally speaking, if Abraham’s appearance at the tail-end of this gig was the icing on my musical birthday cake, then the cherry on top just arrived in my inbox this afternoon with an advanced copy of Fucked Up’s latest record Couple Tracks. Woot.
© Brian Banks
Feel the Pain
Little Fury Things
I Don’t Wanna Go There
Chunks (with Damian Abraham)