If Eric Clapton is God, then what does that make J Mascis? I'm pretty sure he's not Satan. Much too humble to be the Prince of Darkness. Zeus? Nah, he's just a guy. A guy who fronts one of the loudest bands on the planet, Dinosaur Jr. His band returned to Higher Ground Saturday night and delivered a hits-heavy performance that shook the place to the rafters.
Dinosaur Jr is back to its original lineup of Mascis on guitar and vocals, Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums. Yes, they're a little older; J's hair is grey, Murph's hair is gone, and the tempo on some of the songs is a little slower, but they can still bring it like its 1987.
The secret to their success is J's guitar playing. In contrast to his mellow stage presence, Mascis attacks his instrument with passion, spitting out deafening leads and massive riffage. His tools of trade are his signature Fender Jazzmaster, three ginormous Marshall stacks, and a phase pedal.
They opened on the softer side with "Severed Lips," off their 1985 debut album Dinosaur. It's as if they were trying to build up the audience's tolerance before ripping out their eardrums. Next was "The Lung" from You're Living All Over Me, their second and arguably best record. They played several more songs from both these albums during the rest of the set, along with a couple new tunes from the forthcoming Farm and a generous smattering of crowd-pleasers like "Freak Scene," "Out There" and "Feel The Pain." Barlow provided the between song chatter and took lead vocals for "Back To The Heart" and the classic "Forget The Swan." The show ended triumphantly with the one-two punch of "Kracked" and "Sludgefeast."
Dino Jr. was by far the loudest band I have heard at Higher Ground. Not only was my chest pounding to the rhythm, I could feel it in my feet through the floor. The house was a rockin', and the audience loved every minute of it. At times the sound verged on breaking up into so much white noise. This is all by design, of course. I mean, how many other bands sell earplugs at the merch table? (Editor's note: HG always has earplugs available -DB) I brought my own plugs, but my ears were still ringing when I got home.