When I heard that Dinosaur Jr. would be playing at Rough Trade, NYC, the independent record store and live music venue, I couldn’t really believe it. The last time I had seen the band it was in December during their sold out 7 night stint at the Bowery Ballroom. I’d been to Rough Trade before, and knew that the music venue portion of the store had a capacity of only 250. 250 people? For a Dinosaur Jr. show? That’s all I needed to hear. I knew I had to be there. When would I get another chance to see this band in such an intimate setting?
Adding to the excitement was the fact that Those Pretty Wrongs would be opening. Jody Stephens, drummer for the seminal power pop legends, Big Star, and Luther Russell of The Freewheelers, have joined forces to make up this exceptionally talented duo.
We arrived pretty early for the show, but entertaining yourself at Rough Trade is a pretty easy task. The two-story record store is chock full of every kind of music you can dream of, and browsing the massive inventory is something that could quite easily keep any music lover entertained for hours. After purchasing Dinosaur Jr.’s just released album Give a Glimpse Of What Yer Not on vinyl, I witnessed J. Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph walk by the register and sit down at a table near-by. I had been unaware of the fact that the band would be doing a signing, but that’s the beauty of seeing a show at Rough Trade. It’s always an interactive experience and a chance to meet some of your favorite bands.
We got right up against the stage, with some very enthusiastic fans about 20 years younger than we were, but just as excited to see Dinosaur Jr. live . To me, it speaks volumes about a band when you can look around the audience and see it span generations. Dinosaur Jr., with their unique and timeless sound, is a band that does this effortlessly. Because the venue is so small, I could have literally extended my arm all the way out and just about touched the drum kit. That should give readers an idea of just how tiny this venue is. I’d wondered if the size of the venue would mean fewer amps and less volume, but glancing up at what I saw up on stage, I knew the volume would be just as outrageously and wonderfully loud as ever. Anyone who has seen the band live understands that unless you want your ears ringing for a week or more after, earplugs are a must. I felt like the Mama Bear of the fans around me when I passed out extra ear plugs like they were candy.
The evening opened with Those Pretty Wrongs. Stephens and Russell played a gorgeous acoustic set, which spanned the entirety of their new release. It was quite a different experience watching Stephens take over the job of lead vocals for the first time in his career, backed by only Russell on acoustic guitar. While there were traces of Big Star in the sound, this duo has managed to come up with a sound that is both unique and familiar at the same time. A lovely soft place in a world full of noise.
We thoroughly enjoyed the set, Stephens vocals in particular, but it was time for peace to segue into the excruciatingly loud, joyful and invigorating volume of a Dinosaur Jr. show. The sound is part of the experience. And although volume levels are notorioulsy some of the loudest in the industry, the melody, energy, and uniquely personal sound blend together to make magic.
The band began the set with The Lung, from their 1987 album “You’re Living All Over Me” and was followed with Goin’ Down from the just released “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”. The band ripped through their setlist with J.’s notorious drawl and blazing guitar riffs and Murph and Barlow’s earth shaking rhythm section. I rank Barlow up there with the best alternative bass players around, for sheer force, aggression and play-your-heart-out attitude alone. While all Dinosaur Jr. fans love watching J. shred his guitar, watching Barlow play bass is something everyone should see at least once.
With the volume so loud that fans were literally shaking, the greatness of the songs and the guys up there playing them, as well as the crowd knowing, as we always do at a Dinosaur Jr. show, that we were witnessing something special, the joy in the room was a palpable thing. Dinosaur Jr. fans know that we are on to something special and many of us have been for 30 years.To be at a Dinosaur Jr. show is akin to being part of a secret group of music fans that just get it. And while the rest of mainstream America is paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars to see Beyonce, Adele or Coldplay in arenas where they’re lucky to catch a glipse of the performer on the megascreen, we are a group of music lovers, standing together at a venue that holds only 250 people, happily and joyfully watching what real music is supposed to be. It doesn’t get any better than that
- The Lung
- Goin’ Down
- Love is…
- Feel The Pain
- In A Jar
- I Walk For Miles
- Start Choppin’
- Freak Scene
- The Wagon
- Out There