A first trip to the main room of the Arts Club since The Polyphonic Spree more than two years earlier (!) ensued (and actually my first time in this room since it lost its East Village prefix) when I saw Dinosaur Jr for the first time in more than two decades.
Dinosaur Jr were one of many American bands I fell for in the late 80’s, inspired by the likes of Melody Maker and John Peel. Back then they were a precursor to the coming grunge invasion, releasing three albums with the original line-up of J Mascis on guitar and vocals, bassist and singer of the occasional song Lou Barlow, and Murph on drums.
By the time I first got to see them, headlining above The Boo Radleys and the ‘who they?’ Alabama Kids at the Town & Country Club (now the O2 Forum) in Kentish Town on the Green Mind tour in October 1991, Barlow had left to concentrate fully on his side project Sebadoh.
I saw them again on the hard-to-believe-now four-strong bill that also included The Jesus And Mary Chain, Blur and My Bloody Valentine at the Brixton Academy just six months later, before seeing them one final time back in Brixton three years after the first occasion, when they returned to promote sixth album Without A Sound.
They carried on after Murph left to make two more albums before Mascis retired the band name following 1997’s Hand It Over. All three original band members reunited a decade later for Beyond, remaining together still, with this year’s Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not being the band’s eleventh in all.
Album number five (Where You Been) is possible my favourite of them all (a close run thing with Bug and Green Mind) but the new one is well up to scratch, with there not being a duffer amongst the eleven (although whether it’s absolutely essential to have all eleven, is another matter, as they’re not a band with much evolution in sound across their oeuvre…).
I felt that there was just time before the gig to pop into The Dispensary for a very enjoyable pint of Fernandes’ Two Islands IPA. However, things were actually progressing very much on time, so I ended up missing the start of support act Sheer Attack.
When I got there, the band was in full flow, with the extremely long-haired singer throwing himself about in front of the stage alongside two enthusiastic slam dancers.
There were Marshall stacks galore on stage (no doubt for the main act), while the sound reminded me of early 1990’s Earache bands crossed with US hardcore from Dischord Records and the mighty Black Sabbath.
They were nicely intense, but a bit harder rock than is my usual taste, although they did a good job of warming things up for the main event. As they’re not on Spotify, here’s a track off their new eponymous ep on Soundcloud:
I was quite near the front of the venue by now, although I slowly retreated backwards during the set as the mosh pit developed. I have a clear recollection of being crushed up against the barrier at a previous Dinosaur Jr gig having arrived early enough to be at the very front. Those days are long behind me now though.
The three band members came on stage with barely a word (with Mascis wearing a t-shirt of first-wave UK punk band Eater), which was to be a feature of the evening. They kicked off with Thumb from Green Mind, before they reached back all the way to 1987’s sophomore release You’re Living All Over Me for In A Jar.
However, much of the set was taken up with tracks from the new album, which certainly didn’t feel out of place with the older material. This included Love Is…, one of Lou Barlow’s two numbers on the record.
A real highlight of the set for me was the 1990 single The Wagon (later also included on Green Mind), which had me joining in with a minor posse of people hurling themselves around.
After a couple more songs off the new record, Bug was raided for the first of two occasions for Budge, before the chiming-to-moshing Feel The Pain off Without A Sound.
The partly falsetto Knocked Around from this year’s album was followed by Where You Been’s Start Choppin’, with the main set ending with the utterly immortal Freak Scene and then a long Lou number that I couldn’t place featuring sheets of guitar noise.
If I’d checked out the band’s set-lists before the gig, I wouldn’t have been as surprised (and thrilled) that they kicked off the encore with their fabulous cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven. I really wasn’t expecting to hear this, and it was glorious. It was sadly missing the hard stop of the studio version released as a single in 1989, but was still a cause for throwing myself about with utter abandon once more.
It segued into the aptly titled Sludgefeast from You’re Living All Over Me, an intense if less tuneful end to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
It didn’t seem like more than twenty years since I last saw Mascis and co., and it was fantastic to finally see the initial line-up. It’s not often I only get to see the original band at a reunion gig despite having seen the band multiple times in their heyday!
A very good night on the band t-shirt front as I went with a Guided By Voices number in honour of the More Light album recorded by J Mascis + The Fog with GBV’s Robert Pollard (on three tracks), as well as My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. And with a line-up like that, it’s clearly an album I need to investigate.
Amongst the plethora of band tees were an impressive brace apiece for The Melvins and Butthole Surfers, as well as Motörhead, Spacemen 3, the Bearded Theory festival, Jane’s Addiction, Descendents, Eyehategod, Discharge, Dune Rats, Ramones, Pearl Jam, Bad Brains, Soundgarden and Forest Swords.
I was really pleased to see the old cow design t-shirt for sale (on purple) – I used to have a green one of these, but I have long since lost that (having presumably outgrown it…). I succumbed and treated myself to one that I have decided will be part of a family Christmas present.
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Here is the music from the night on Spotify: