I often get asked what music I listen to, my stock answer is that with the work I do, I am presented with so much different music, it’s hard to provide just one genre or style. One day I’ll be listening to a re-issue of a 70’s Jazz Fusion artist and an hour later I’ll be indulging in Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, there really is no rhyme or reason in the music world, whatever floats your boat I guess.
Had you have asked me which band I go back to time and time again, which band produces music that fills me with joy and puts a smile on my face every time I hear it, I would have to say an indie rock trio called Dinosaur Jr.
For the uneducated out there, Dinosaur Jr is a three piece band who formed way back in 1984 in Amherst Massachusetts and consists of J Mascis on vocals and lead guitar, Lou Barlow on bass guitar and Murph on drums. They went on to produce records that would form the backbone of my musical upbringing, the trademark sound of Mascis’s drawling vocals, sung over squaling, distorted guitar and the solos......please don’t get me started on them, they’re immense!
There have been various ups and downs for the trio over the years, Lou Barlow was fired by Mascis in 1989, Murph eventually quit in 1993 and the band disbanded in 1997. In 2005 the original lineup reformed and they have gone on to produce a further 4 albums to date, the latest being ‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’, released in 2016 and carries some of the sweetest lyrics, hooky guitar lines and basically has ‘Dinosaur Jr’ stamped all over it!
To date they have released 11 studio albums, take into account Mascis’s solo material and other side projects and you’re looking at quite a slab of music which has influenced countless artists and bands the whole world over.
Following the release of their latest long player, we were invited along to catch them playing live whilst in the UK, we obviously took up the labels gracious offer and hot footed it off to Bristol where they were set to play at a club called ‘Motion’, here’s how the evening unfolded….
'Motion' is a part of The Marble Factory, a venue that I've not attended before, from the outside, it resembled an old industrial unit and it wasn't until you got inside that you realised the sheer scale of the place. The bar area had a smaller stage along one wall and from there you entered the main room which was easily large enough to hold a couple of thousand people without breaking a sweat.
The support this evening was provided by German industrial punk pioneers 'Wild Style Lion' which I assume is a play on words based on 'Wild Stallion' (which just conjured images of Bill & Ted's fictitious rock band), they played a set comprising of what I can only describe as 'Industrial noise'. They reminded me in a way of Sleaford Mods in their approach, though the singer who had control of the laptop which provided the metronomic beats was accompanied by a baseball hatted guitarist who was churning out deep angular melodies which added a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to the equation.
After a short break to rearrange the stage, the lights dipped and Murph took to his kit, raised a stick in the air and up went the cheer, Lou and Mascis joined him and launched into their opening track 'Bulbs of Passion' which was lifted from their debut 1985 release, it still sounded just as punchy as it did 31 years ago!
From here, they took you on a rollercoaster ride through their back catalogue, highlights of the set for me included ‘Goin Down’ from their latest long player ‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’, 'Wagon' & 'Start Choppin’. The crowd seemed quite subdued until about halfway through the set when a healthy mosh pit kicked up, pressing the front row against the barrier. When the classic opening lines of ‘Freak Scene’ rang out around the room, the place just went nuts, I danced like nobody was watching and for those 4 minutes, I felt like I was 17 again, in my local indie nightclub with a warm can of Red Stripe in hand!
Lou Barlow looked relaxed on stage throughout the performance, wearing odd socks, his bass slung low, hiding behind a mass of dark curls, he pounded away at his bass like a priest exorcising a someone possessed but somehow managing to hit all the right notes, absolutely incredible!
J Mascis isn't renowned for being a man of many words and tonight was no exception, other than introducing a couple of the new songs, the chat was non existent, I would normally balk at this but knowing what he's like, I will stand down and just say that he let his guitar do the talking, and talk it did! Behind a solid wall of fuzz, he produced the goods, his trademark drawling vocals and killer solos hit the spot every time.
The sound that originated from his wall of Marshall's was nothing short of epic and ensured that the front row felt it just as much as they heard it, I for one was glad of my earplugs that were firmly in place to take the top end off the squealing wall of noise that was launched at you from the stage.
As the last notes echoed throughout the room, I scanned the audience, smiles as wide as you could see, people had come to see their heroes and judging by the looks on their faces, the band had delivered a perfect set, pulling material out of the bag from the very early days right up to present day. I listened to the new album recently and from the get go, you could tell it was a Dinosaur Jr record, some might say that they have failed to move on, not kept up with the time, for me, that’s exactly why I still love this band and I dare say that many others share the same opinion!
Words and Photography by Steve Muscutt