Monday, January 25th, 2010
Dinosaur Jr at Sonic Boom and The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangHad you the opportunity to go back in time and tell the 23-year old me that, in just over a decade, I’d be so fortunate as to see two of my all-time guitar heroes – Johnny Marr and J Mascis – live and awesome in a one-week span, I’d have told you to shut the fuck up. And then asked why, if you had the power to go back in time, you’d offer me that bit of information instead of, oh, stock tips or sports scores. But yeah, seeing The Cribs last week and then Dinosaur Jr not once but twice on Thursday was pretty ridiculously cool.
While precognition is only slightly more plausible than temporal displacement, it’s still quite a coincidence that I selected this photo for my not-yet-failed Photo 365 project a couple weeks ago and then framed last week’s cover of the week as I did – it’s almost as though I knew that Dinosaur Jr was going to be at Sonic Boom in more than pre-recorded form. Which, of course, I did not so the almost last-minute announcement on Monday morning that the trio would be playing an in-store in the Annex record store before their sold-out show at the Phoenix was a WTF of the best kind. And one that would surely require a lot of advance planning and waiting in order to get a good spot.
I’m sure some had hopes that this would be a fully-plugged in, foundation-shaking rock extravaganza that people would be talking about for generations to come, but those sorts of expectations were just a bit unrealistic, what with all of their gear already set up and soundchecked at the Phoenix. What they did bring when they finally arrived at the packed house a half hour later than scheduled – traffic, dontcha know – was a semi-acoustic setup that wasn’t going to damage anyone’s hearing, but would provide a unique experience. They also didn’t bring Murph – apparently border issues left him at home in the land of the free and a replacement drummer in Kyle Spence, who played with Mascis in The Fog. Mascis came bearing a Gibson acoustic rather than one of his signature Jazzmasters but the fuzz pedal and tube amp that accompanied it ensure that things wouldn’t be too polite. And you could call their six-song set a bit mellow and certainly unprepared, it was not polite – a J Mascis guitar solo, even one on acoustic guitar, is epic, rambling and awesome but not polite. They may have come without a set list, but the selections they did decide on offered a pretty good representation of the Dino jr canon – three from the original trilogy of records, one from their latest Farm and most excitingly to me, a couple from the non-Barlow years, which through no real fault of Lou’s, are my favourite. Knowing that material from those records was in the mix for this tour was pretty damned exciting.
And the belief that they were focused only on Lou-era material was part of the reason that I had yet to see the resurrected Dinosaur Jr live, even though this was their third time coming through town since 2005. The first time out, my understanding was that they were only playing material from the first three records since the touring was in support of the reissues and I missed their Summer 2007 visit in support of Beyond on account of scheduling. And I’d seen the charity J Mascis/Broken Social Scene gig back in July 2006 so it’s not as though I hadn’t borne witness to J Mascis’ guitarwork before. These rationalizations were, however, entirely moot when I got to the Phoenix Thursday evening. The in-store was a delicious appetizer but this was the main course. The unbelievably loud and wholly electrified main course.
I hope that anyone who found the Sonic Boom set too low-key for their tastes had tickets for the Phoenix show. While they opened up relatively slowly with Green Mind‘s “Thumb”, the energy accumulated quickly and by the time they got to “Out There” about mid-way through, this Dinosaur was moving at full speed and leaving a trail of sonic destruction in its wake. I’d always thought of Lou Barlow as the sensitive mope-rocker of his solo career, so it was a bit odd to watch him absolutely rock out on bass, lurching and hair-whipping through the set. In contrast, J Mascis stood relatively placid at stage right, safely ensconced in his fortress of amplitude while spewing massively fuzzed-out guitar solos from his fingers and lazily drawled lyrics from his mouth.
It was a personal thrill to hear “Feel The Pain” from Without A Sound, not their most celebrated record but my gateway drug into the world of Dinosaur Jr, and “The Wagon” which closed their in-store set in grand style but was even better delivered at a billion decibels. For the finale they went back to the (more) classic material with a blistering “Freak Scene” and a Living All Over Me-centric encore of “Kracked” and “Sludgefeast” before inviting Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham onstage to close things out with early b-side “Chunks”. It was an epic show and, knowing that this no longer really counts as a reunion or a farewell, there’s no reason to not expect more of the same in the future.
The Ottawa Citizen and hour.ca have interviews with J Mascis. aux.tv and For The Records were in attendance at the in-store while Chart, eye and The Music Slut report back from the Phoenix show. NYC Taper is sharing a recording of the Dinosaur Jr show in Brooklyn last week.
Photos: Dinosaur Jr @ The Phoenix – January 21, 2010
Photos: Dinosaur Jr @ Sonic Boom – January 21, 2010
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “I Want You To Know”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Almost Ready”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
MP3: Dinosaur Jr – “Forget The Swan”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Over It”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Been There All The Time”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Feel The Pain”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Get Me”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Start Choppin'”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “The Wagon”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Just Like Heaven”
Video: Dinosaur Jr – “Little Fury Things”
MySpace: Dinosaur Jr
Wilco are doing their bit for Haiti relief efforts by offering a couple of complete live recordings from last year – Keyspan Park in New York and HMV Forum in London – in exchange for a minimum $15 donation to either OXFAM or Doctors Without Borders.
Fans of free shows and record store ambiance have a tough decision to make on February 5 – to see Great Lake Swimmers at Sonic Boom at 6:30PM or Hawksley Workman at Criminal Records at 6PM. Of course, both have their own proper shows coming up – Great Lake Swimmers at Trinity-St. Paul’s the following night and Workman at Massey Hall on April 24 – but they’re not free and you can’t shop for Animal Collective LPs while they play. Okay, maybe that last bit’s not such a bad thing.
Aussies The Temper Trap are setting out on a North American tour that includes a date at the Mod Club on March 30 with Danes The Kissaway Trail. The former’s debut Conditions came out last year while the latter’s second album Sleep Mountain is due out in March.
Good Friday will be a day of hard choices for Toronto dream-pop aficionados. In addition to A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s show at The Garrison on April 2, Norwegian sonic apocalypse merchants Serena Maneesh will be just a short hop away at the Great Hall that night to showcase their new album S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor, out March 23. This may not necessarily be an either-or proposition – the venues are just a kilometer apart and if set times are obliging, you could do parts of both. That was the case the last time Serena Maneesh were here at Lee’s Palace in September 2006 and Early Day Miners were a couple blocks away at The Tranzac – Serena Maneesh managed to utterly demolish their set both figuratively and literally in under 45 minutes and I made it to the EDM show in plenty of time. Here’s hoping they haven’t learned any lessons in endurance in the past few years. Tickets for the show are already on sale for $15.
If you, like I, are missing seeing Sharon Van Etten open up for Great Lake Swimmers at the aforementioned Trinity-St. Paul’s show on February 6, you’ll be pleased to know she’ll be back on April 5 for a show at the Horseshoe with Megafaun. I’m not so familiar with Megafaun but Van Etten’s Because I Was In Love is a quiet gem of a record – The AV Club and On Milwaukee have interviews with the singer-songwriter.
With their new album Romance Is Boring out tomorrow, Los Campesinos! have plotted a North American tour that kicks off with an April 20 show at The Phoenix. Clash has an interview with the band and Gareth Campesinos tells Drowned In Sound why he’s auctioning off his glockenspiel (and donating the proceeds to Haitian relief).