Is this 2014 or 1987?
The Brooklyn Bowl is a relatively odd place to watch a gig. Take the experience of listening to support band Le Volume Courbe Vs. Grimm Grimm. They present an off kilter, mournful indie folk experience. Their music is ethereal, supernatural and conjures images of moors and fog. It sounds like the kind of music Cathy listened to before heading off to rendezvous with Heathcliff. Yet, between the songs the sound of strikes, and adjoining shouts of celebration, filtered over inevitably and surreally from the bowling alley portion of the venue. Regardless, the trio’s slightly mournful and strange, the singer uses a scissors as a percussion instrument at one stage, form of folk is warmly received.
Le Volume Courbe Vs. Grimm Grimm is in stark contrast to the offering from Dinosaur Jr. They provide a slightly more raucous proposition. The trio from Amherst, Massachusetts are now 7 years into their unbelievably productive reunion that has seen them release three albums that ably stand up in quality to their classic material. Watching them live in 2014 is an experience. When bassist Lou Barlow’s instruction to “Fuck Ronald Reagan” before “Gargoyle” is combined with the exuberant headbanging crowd and crowdsurfing during “Out There”, it could be 1987 again. J. Mascis and co. could be playing a gig in preparation for the release of their classic second album You’re Living All Over Me in December 1987. However, during “The Lung” I happened to look to my left to spot a gentleman in a leather waist coat pulling liberally on an e-cig, and then during the playful “Watch The Corners” the grey haired chap in front me took out a hanky to blow his nose. And we’re sucked right back into 2014.
Still though, the band are in top form. While singer and guitarist J. Mascis seems somewhat disinterested in what is going on as he sways like an innocent child through each song, he constantly wrenches a pretty incendiary noise from his Fender Jaguar. Bassist Lou Barlow is a livewire. He bounces around like a 24 year old, smacking his bass with such enthusiasm and verve you think he may snap the neck off the thing. Drummer Murph ties the whole thing together like the most powerful metronome on the planet.
They forge their way through a set of rarities and classics for the Dinosaur Jr. faithful. For the devoted, there’s the hardcore punk of “Training Ground”, a song from the band J. and Lou were in before Dinsoaur Jr. named Deep Wound, the proto grunge of “Bulbs of Passion” which Barlow as declared was the first song the band wrote where they thought they were onto something special, and the raw “Gargoyle” from their underrated self titled debut album.
For the more casual fan, the band whips out some hits. The laid back “Feel the Pain” from 1994’s Without A Sound, and hook-laden “Start Choppin” from 1993s Where You Been were commercial high points for the band back in the day and are the most radio friendly offerings in the band’s catalogue. They go down a treat with the crowd singing back every word. The more unkempt “Little Fury Things” and “Sludgefeast” are received like the classics they are.
The biggest reception of the evening is reserved for “Freak Scene” from 1988’s Bug and Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”. “Freak Scene” sports one the most infectious and awesome chord progressions in rock and a solo that is both fiddly and an ear worm. The crowd love it. They bounce and head bang like they’ll never get the chance to again. The pretty “Just Like Heaven” is given renewed freedom by Dinosaur Jr.’s unhinged take on the song.
As the crowd leaves, there’s a feeling of luck among the throng. How often do you get to see a band that is as good as it was in it’s prime, 30 years into its career? You could probably count the chances on one hand. Dinosaur Jr. is undeniably one of them.