THE BLIND PIG, ANN ARBOR – 6/3/07
It was a predictable crowd of white dudes in their 30s for the first of two Dinosaur Jr. shows at The Blind Pig, a storied but increasingly dive-y Ann Arbor venue that still considers the single trough in its scarred men’s restroom adequate. A muggy haze hung in the space between the club’s low ceiling and the heads of the capacity crowd, and it stunk a little, like the air in some R-rated toxin rain forest. As it turns out, this was the perfect atmosphere for openers and FOTM’s* Awesome Color, mad Stooges lovers who sprinkled their set with good-natured references to their southeastern Michigan roots. Since this was a crowd of the elderly, at least relative to average show-going age, most were attentive to the trio. They were music fans, curious about who Dinosaur Jr. had booked as their opener, and they stroked their chins while holding cold High Lifes to their necks. As for Awesome Color, the band’s lurching and messy young person’s blues music bumped between captivating and bullshit, which worked in a room that was willing to weigh the merits of both sides.
Vintage, double-tap assassination thrash roared on the monitors during the set break, and receding hairlines whipped wildly at the sound. There was speculation in the well-behaved crowd. Now officially reunited, what would Dinosaur Jr. play? Only material from the Lou Barlow era, just like they did on that tour a few years ago? Stuff from their fine new album Beyond, the one that sounds like it could have come out in 1989, right between Bug and Green Mind? Slayer covers exclusively? And hey man, Mascis has three Marshalls on stage. Where the fuck are your earplugs?
As it turned out, Dinosaur Jr. were their typical selves: apathetic, sly, and loud as shit. Mascis, still rocking lank gray locks like an overgrown Grandma Addams, stopped the action after opening with “Almost Ready” to tinker with what was an admittedly lacking sound mix. This kept happening throughout the set, but so did the pineal-melting electric guitar solos and glimpses through the bobbing heads of Barlow, crowded into a spot between the third of Mascis’ hulking amps and his own bass cabinet, slashing at his guitar up on its neck like an excited hardcore kid. Dino played a lot of new stuff, as well as a few gems from the old days; and, since Beyond isn’t a return to their old sound but a complete immersion within it, everything they did served to excise nostalgia and emphasize the trio as a real, working band. The heat in the room, the terrible sight lines, the spotty sound, the band’s mild irritability and a set list that sometimes stalled – it all worked in Dinosaur’s favor. This was not a Reunion Show, with formal wear and fancy seats and tickets that are priced to discourage losers from attending. This was a rock show in all of its hit-or-miss un-glory, and the fact that Dino chose to return in this fashion – they were undoubtedly offered piles of unmarked bills and jet boats with glass bottoms to reunite, and are instead in the middle of a club tour – means that there’s still a chance that the future of music isn’t purely regenerative.
*FOTM: Friends of Thurston Moore. Awesome Color record for Ecstatic Peace!, the St. Augustine of Indie Rock’s boutique imprint.