For the many kids who saw the end of the pop and pulp Countdown generation mutate into the all-embracing Rage regeneration, Dinosaur Jr has alway signified low-brow indie rawk and roll. In its early years, ABC TV’s Rage would screen the video of Dinosaur Jr’s Freak Scene every weekend as the epitome of US college radio’s adoration of long haired, lo-fi guitar discordance, a saturation which most loud Australian bands in the past decade can trace direct descendency from.
Dinosaur Jr were also a three piece – guitar, bass and drums – which set the pace for what would happen in the early 90s and change the face of modern music. Certainly, beyond the pin-up brigade of the Seattle scene, Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis (guitar and vocals) is indie music’s guitar deity, a man whose constipated whine and genre-shattering belief in ‘the lead break’ defies AND defines the do-it-yerself totality of slacker rock and the indie ideal. His three big speeches of this tour’s opening night, containing a sum total of three words, speaks volumes: dig my gig and almighty rig (a six-box Marshall amplifier stack) or go home. Yeah.
With the lights down, Mascis walked on and just plugged in and played, the stage lighting eventually unveiling the band’s ten speaker stack with drummer George Berz wedged between a wall of Marshalls. Bleach-blonde bass player Mike Johnson would keep an eye on the infamously-temperamental Mascis for his involuntary lead breaks, the sign of a trio in tune with each other’s random urges.
Indeed, one could almost say that the great melodies that infiltrate all Dinosaur Jr songs are merely platforms for the Mascis lead frenzy, but seeing he pens, produces and plays all of the material in the studio for each new release, maybe it is just the live arena where he looks a little bored with the drudgery of chorus-verse-chorus in comparison to his glee when called upon to cut an impromptu solo.
The emergence of Get Me and Out There were the first tunes to embrace the crowd, both from 1993’s Where You Been, but the material more in tune with the vintage Dinosaur Jr fans – from 1988’s Bug and 1991’s Green Mind – certainly situated the level of fervour of this audience. The Wagon sealed the night for the older fans, followed by their biggest hit, Feel The Pain, complete with three different, staged introductory riffs designed to bamboozle the trainspotters. This wasn’t an attempt to alienate the pop kids, maybe just a pat on the back for archivists who have hoarded their seven albums stretching back to 1985.
From their new album Hand It Over, the strange timing of Never Bought It and the eight minute wail of Alone were sparse offerings for such an occasion. Although, with an encore containing Freak Scene (1988) and The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, my assumptions of old time festival favourites might just be right. Any backing for J. Mascis to work on his lead scales was alright by me.