Thursday, June 14, 2007
Yes, you read that title correctly. This past Monday night, J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph brought their reunited rock to the Harvard Square location of Urban Outfitters. From the moment the free, corporate-sponsored show was announced, the cynic in me was slightly amused/befuddled, thinking that Dinosaur Jr.'s desire for the tall reunion dollars had finally driven them over some surreal line (and had driven them there in a custom-painted Toyota Yaris, no less). Even on Monday afternoon I wasn't sure I wanted to go... I figured the crowd would be massive (it was), the wait would be long (yup), the personal space inside U.O. would be scarce (yeah), and the set could be short and even restrained (oh, how wrong I was).
But it was Dinosaur freakin' Jr., and too close to home base, so Amie and I wandered to the square well before door time to find a line that stretched from the store's east entrance, around the block, and far beyond the one on the opposite side. My ambivalence returned, but before bailing, I had to check in with Jay Clicky Clicky (read his coverage here) to see if his impressive blogger credentials had secured him access. And after meeting up for a quick beer across the street, lo and behold, a simple wave of our hands at the doorpeople and the intonation of "these are not the Boston music bloggers you're looking for" got us inside.
While the considerate gentlemen who appeared to be in charge snagged a chair for the very-pregnant Amie (if you didn't know, um, surprise), Jay and I headed down in front near the stage. Waitaminute, there's an actual stage? Yeah, the organizers did this thing up right, setting up a not-unimpressive (although not very elevated) stage against the store windows that contained nearly all of Dino Jr.'s regular gear (Mascis may have been short a Marshall stack or two). This was to be no stripped down in-store; The 400 of us who got in were about to see the real deal. I started to get excited. And glad I brought the earplugs.
Knowing I was about to see this long-loved trio just a few feet in front of my face tempered the occasional wave of that ol' corporate-induced cynicism... it was hard to fight it when Jay pointed out the mural behind the band's gear: brightly inked Urban Outfitters and Toyota text scattered amongst the band's name, WERS' call letters, and actual little dinosaurs. When I tried to get a photo of that slightly silly backdrop and the crowd in front of it, I was quickly tapped on the arm and told, very matter of factly: "No. Photos". Every not-sneaky-enough kid with a camera phone out was getting the warning. Yet another aspect of the event that raised the "ick" level a bit... the days of successfully squashing such things are long past, and it'd been awhile since I'd seen that level of image-controlling uptighted-ness. But knowing this whole thing was drawing a bunch of attention to the independent Emerson college radio station WERS and other commercial-free stations around the country (through the Free YR Radio program) made that arbitrary rule, and the rest of the marketing mania, much easier to swallow.
When the band came out, even they looked a little struck by the surreality of the scene... maybe I was projecting, but Murph and Lou's sheepish smiles betrayed not only amusement but a hint of discomfort. Earplugs in, a few stick clicks from Murph, and they ripped into "Almost Ready", the first track from "Beyond", their new album that by all rights shouldn't even exist, much less be so damn good. The show's soundperson deserves some major praise, as the live mix was excellent, far better than I expected from an in-store setup. And while it wasn't as loud as your normal club show, it was still likely louder than anything Harvard Square was used to. Just after I noticed an unprotected girl next to me, both index fingers shoved well into her ears, Lou handed out some plugs after finishing "Back To Your Heart", and she fortunately snagged a pair.
As good as the first few songs sounded (despite the PA failing briefly during "Back To Your Heart"), it wasn't until the band broke into "Out There" that they seemed to hit a stride, that I got carried away and really started feeling that we were at a bona fide rock show, environment be damned. That song apparently convinced Lou (who had already left the band when it was originally recorded), too, as he joked for reassurance: "It's kinda like a real show, come on!". No 'kinda like' qualifier needed there. I was surprised to find myself having more fun than I did at their first Boston reunion at Avalon almost two years ago. Jay and I figured they'd do a standard in-store set of 6, maybe 8 songs, but they gave us a much-appreciated 11. New stuff, old stuff, even another song recorded after Lou had left the band: "Feel The Pain". They hadn't mined the riches of their post-Lou material on the 2005 reunion tour, so to see those two songs was something special.
But the kicker, and I think Jay CC agrees with me, was the one-two headpunch of "Kracked" into "Sludgefeast", exactly as they appear on their 1987 SST masterpiece (and 2005 Merge re-release) "You're Living All Over Me". I've listened to that album so much that my brain automatically kicks into "Sludgefeast" after "Kracked", and to see that happen so powerfully in front of me was just glorious.
The show could have ended right there, and it felt like it would as the band left the stage, but they reappeared and delivered an ace version of "Pick Me Up" by request, probably my favorite track off the new record. It's remarkable how smoothly material from what is ostensibly the band's third phase blends so well with the stuff from the first two, and how some of the mostly-young crowd had apparently adopted those songs equally. And while it's easy for me to feel old in a crowd filled with college-aged kids (and in this case, even younger), this time I was energized. Many who hadn't even existed when the first few Dino Jr. records came out were smiling, sweating, and totally in awe of Mascis' undeniable guitar skills. And so was I.
Here are the Mp3s from the set. Head over to Clicky Clicky for Jay's take on the whole thing...
Live at Urban Outfitters
in Cambridge, Massachusetts
on Monday, June 11th, 2007
1. Almost Ready
3. Back To Your Heart
4. Been There All The Time
5. Out There
6. This Is All I Came To Do
7. Feel The Pain
8. Freak Scene
11. Pick Me Up
Some Dinosaur Jr. linkage...
the post's post-script... If anyone has an issue with these Mp3s being made available, just let me know (my contact info in the 'nac faq). Live sets recorded with a Sony ECM-719 mic and a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc, converted to .wav and then edited to 192kbps Mp3s. Files are made available for a limited time, and are not reposted once removed.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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