Thursday, 17 June 2010

Dinosaur Jr. + Built To Spill @ The Junction, Cambridge

There have been a fair few reformations of late. Some from the likes of Spandau Ballet and Boyzone who should have been left to die and others that were more exciting to hear of, blink-182, the end Godspeed’s hiatus and the return of grungy, alt-rock heroes Dinosaur Jr. On hearing the newest release from a reformed band, one’s instinctual reaction is to prepare to wince as you hear the scraping of the bottom of the barrel. Dinosaur Jr.’s 2009 release Farm is a massive exception, with a cascade of guitar distortion and masterful solo’s.

As J. Mascis trudged on stage, he wandered over to his fort of amps and turned every knob up before even glancing at his audience. The road crew has presumebly wised up to this habit as they slipped their earplugs in while I was left regretting pushing my way to the front.

Any complaint one might have with the rather clean sounding mastering of the new recordings since the reformation can be disgarded as the audience were treated to the true fuzzy distortion and raw howling solos of the grunge era, with the mumbles of Mascis struggling to compete with his own creation. The sheer volume of the music hit you like someone clapping you over the ears for the first few numbers, but like chicken-pox, it’s good to get it out of your system and hence build an immunity. By the third song I was so deaf I might as well have been wearing earplugs, so I saved myself £2.50.

J. Mascis started a band because he wanted to be an American rock star, and an American rock star he certainly is. Time has not left the band unchanged, it has robbed Mascis of his brown hair and ability to read a setlist that isn’t A1 in size, but fortunately the music remains intact. Playing classics and new material, it’s as if they never left. Despite regular drummer Murph being absent and replaced for the show, the drumming was not in the least a disappointment and despite a Nirvana influence standing right in front of me, my eyes were found foraying towards the tireless and talented drummer.

Mascis isn’t one for crowd interaction or...well, moving much, but maintained his rocker cool with hypnotising finger work, perhaps subliminally coaxing the audience ‘buy a a t-shirt’. No one wants to clap along or join in with singing anyway, this is a grunge gig, not Butlins.

Pieces despite being a track on the latest album Farm sounded like a classic with a recognisable sweet guitar riff and ringing chords. For me the mystery as to which song was coming next was thwarted by Mascis’s gargantuous setlist, but I at least knew what I had to look forward to.

The music of the influential Dinosaur Jr. pleased both the young grungers who were born a couple of decades too late as well as the middle-aged nostalgists of which the audience was majoritively made up. Support act Built To Spill made the major error of mentioning oil which coloured their set with touchy hecklers, plus technical difficulties didn't help; Dinosaur Jr. kept their mouths shut and delivered glorious sound to treat as well as permanently damage the ears. I swear, I’m still hearing that one.

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