Whether it be nostalgia or depleted bank accounts, there’s been a spate of reunions in the last couple years, most notably late-’80s/early-’90s indie-rock touchstones The Pixies, Slint and Dinosaur Jr. The original line-up of Dinosaur Jr. – drummer Murph, bassist Lou Barlow and guitarist J Mascis – reunited last year for the first time following an acrimonious split after their last album for SST, Bug. The band continued as a vehicle for Mascis, but it was Dinosaur Jr. in name only. On Monday night at the Blind Pig, the band recaptured the glory of its heyday in a special tour warm-up show.
The reunited band’s tour has been very well received; they have consistently sold out venues three or four times larger than the Blind Pig – making Monday night’s show a hot ticket. And for good reason: Seeing Dinosaur Jr.’s legendary loud aural assault in a small bar was like hopping in the Delorean and dialing it back to 1988. Murph commented on the success of the reunion, saying, “The tour has done really well. It has gone better than we could’ve thought or hoped. We didn’t know what to expect, but it’s been pretty cool all around.”
The band’s notorious tension also seems to have eased with age. Although put down recently by Mascis and Barlow for being out of shape, Murph said of Dinosaur Jr’s new dynamic, “It’s totally different now; it’s like 180 degrees – a whole new vibe completely. Lou has a family, Jay has a wife and it’s been a much different and better vibe.” The change hasn’t negatively affected the music, nor has it altered the group’s icy stage demeanor. There was almost no stage banter as the band segued from one song to the next with noodling, jumping into the songs simultaneously, as if through telepathy.
The band kicked off their set with “Gargoyle,” off its self-titled debut album. The sheer volume of the show was like a fourth member of the band, adding another element to the music. Mostly stage volume, Murph’s snares sucked the air out of the room, while his bass drum was like being punched in the stomach. Barlow’s basslines swayed your shoulders; Mascis’s shredding was like being picked up by the top of your head and hurled around the room.
The band selected songs exclusively from their three albums together, Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. They played fan favorites “Sludgefeast” and “Freakscene” as well as less-performed songs such as “Forget the Swan” with equal aplomb. Guitarist/vocalist Mascis was undoubtedly the star of the show, sounding like a mad scientist’s mash-up of Jerry Garcia and Tony Iommi. After nearly 20 years of playing these songs, the solos still astound, making a strong case for Mascis as the last real rock’n’roll guitar god.
As the band thrashed through their encore of “Just Like Heaven,” “In a Jar” and “Does it Float?” it was hard not to think of what it must’ve been like to see them in their first incarnation, when most of the people at the concert were still in diapers. Regardless, Dinosaur Jr. can still turn it out. “We’re still wrapping up touring. We want to see this through before we start recording new songs. We’re looking at maybe going to Japan in January after this mini tour,” Murph said.