Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Dinosaur Jr. Bring Bug to Paradise
Last Wednsesday (June 22nd), I had the chance to catch one of those once-in-a-lifetime concerts when Dinosaur Jr. performed their landmark album Bug in its entirety at Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA. Dinosaur Jr. is certainly in the running for my favorite band and although Bug isn’t my favorite album of theirs, it is still an epic record to see performed live. To make things even more exciting, Henry Rollins was interviewing the band onstage beforehand and confrontational hardcore punks Off! were opening the gig. Henry Rollins is a personal hero of mine and one of the last true renaissance men so watching him interview one of my favorite bands was a special moment in my concert attending history.
I arrived as Off! were blasting away inside. I do mean blasting away, as it sounded like sticks of dynamite were blowing up in the center of the room. I was wary of how well some aging hardcore vets were going to perform but they certainly put on a hell of a show. The band is fronted by original Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris who later went on to form Circle Jerks (see what I did there?). He was as intense as ever and was not shy to speak his mind about life and politics. The band had a thick, destructive low end and combined the best elements of thrash and hardcore flawlessly. I was surprised at how tight they sounded as they tore through songs from the First Four EPs record. I guess it had to take a group of veterans to get me excited for hardcore punk again. The younger generation of hardcore bands should be taking notes.
Next, Henry Rollins conducted an excellent and thorough interview with Dinosaur Jr. onstage. They spoke about their first gigs outside their hometown of Amherst, MA which took place in Boston. When asked if their loud playing caused them any trouble, guitarist/singer J Mascis told Rollins that the sound guy threw a bottle at him the first time they played Boston. They also discussed the trials and tribulations of touring and living on $5/day. Bassist Lou Barlow told a story about spending his last $5 at KFC while Mascis berated him about the way he ate his chicken. When Rollins asked what kept them going during the hard times, Mascis responded, in classic fashion, “We didn’t really have anything else to do.” In fact, the interview was full of these deadpan Mascis one-liners. A video of the entire thing can be seen below.
Dinosaur Jr. came on stage with Mascis stating that they were going to play some songs before getting into Bug. This was met with wild applause as they launched into “In a Jar”, one of my all-time favorites. They quickly followed with “The Wagon” which features a guitar solo that is widely considered one of the best in rock history. It was at this point that Mascis calmly stated “OK we’re going to play Bug now” and began the unmistakable opening riff from the album’s flagship song and slacker anthem “Freak Scene”. The rest of the album flowed effortlessly, sounding even better than the raw production found on the recording. Mascis has stated that he doesn’t even like Bug that much and that a lot of the songs are extremely personal and bring back bad memories. Still, he put a lot of emotion into his playing and delivered a performance that would please any fan. Drummer Murph and bassist Lou Barlow were right behind him provided a booming rhythmic backdrop to each thunderous rocker.
Bug ends with “Don’t”, a track where Lou Barlow notoriously screamed so hard on the recording that he began to cough up blood. Barlow stating that he couldn’t sing the song and gave microphones to two audience members. The band then played a crushing 12+ minute rendition with Mascis soloing the entire time and the two audience members screaming bloody murder while “singing” the song’s one line, “Why don’t you like me?!” The band took requests from the audience for the encore and played “Out There”. They ended with “The Lung” which could not have been a better pick in my opinion and finished things off with a scorching solo. Luckily for all Dinosaur Jr. fans, In the Hands of the Fans will make history filming the band’s performance at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.