Dinosaur Jr., The trio consisting of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Emmett “Murph” Murphy have beaten the odds. The band formed in 1984 and officially disbanded in 1997 after a falling out between Lou Barlow and J Mascis. The original trio would reconcile in 2005 and return with new music in 2007. While reformations seldom last, this past year saw the release of Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, the band’s fourth album since the original trio reunited, and 11th overall. The album has been receiving favorable reviews and stands as a synthesis of the band’s strengths wrapped in some of their most dynamic and cohesive playing. With Dinosaur Jr. sounding every bit as purposeful and relevant as any point in their 30+ year career, the trio are out on the road in the midst of a world tour. We caught the recent North American leg of the tour when it wrapped up at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro NC.
The excitement inside the Cradle from the sold-out crowd of elder punks, middle-aged rockers, and the younger generation of newly-minted fans was palpable. Everyone was keyed up and ready for a night of heavy, fuzzy, lo-fi rock delivered loud. Tapped to stir things up and get the crowd going were Detroit rockers, Easy Action. Fronted by former Laughing Hyenas and Negative Approach vocalist John Brannon, Easy Action ripped through a raging set delivered at a breakneck pace. Brannon was intensity personified as he roared and growled through his vocals with his notoriously furious and frightening delivery. The band matched Brannon’s forcefulness as they tore through a collection of garage punk with hardcore aggression that was met with rowdy approval from the crowd.
After a short break the stage was cleared, and with little fanfare and almost without notice, J Mascis emerged from the darkness and took his spot, stage right, in front of his iconic wall of Marshall amps. As Lou Barlow and Murph took their places on the stage, Mascis mumbled a greeting and the original Dinosaur Jr. trio started off with “Thumb” from 1991’s Green Mind album. What followed was a 15 song set that culled some of the best material from across the Dinosaur Jr. catalog. New songs like “Love Is…” and “Tiny” were well received alongside classic tracks like “The Wagon,” and “Start Chopin’,” with the biggest crowd reaction greeting the hit “Feel The Pain,” from 1994’s Without A Sound (as well as being featured in an installment of the Guitar Hero video game).
On stage, Dinosaur Jr. executed their aural assault without theatrics. J Mascis remained virtually inexpressive and unmovable as his fingers tore through a range of soulful and grungy feedback-laden guitar solos. His stoic demeanor was brilliantly offset by the wild stage presence of Lou Barlow who was in constant motion, head down and face hidden by a giant mop of hair as he attacked the bass with gusto. With each side of the stage representing an extreme, with Mascis and Barlow literally and figuratively on each end, it’s Murph behind the drum kit, center stage, that provided the balance and drive to keep everything moving. The performance was unassuming and simplistic, yet engaging. There was almost no banter or crowd interaction, just a heavy, high-volume, distortion-filled tidal wave of sound. Based on the thrashing and frenzied applause that greeted the set closing songs “Freak Scene” and “Gargoyle,” it was obvious that the crowd was completely enthralled, and 30 years on, Dinosaur Jr. can still deliver the goods