The big question when seeing Dinosaur Jr. is always "To earplug, or not to earplug?" On this night at the Belly Up, I decided to strike a happy medium. I set up camp at the back bar and remained within easy viewing distance of the band but a far cry from the maximum volume levels present closer to the stage. I could bask in that perfect Belly Up sound without having it muffled via earmuffs.
Even though the new Dinosaur Jr. album, I Bet On the Sky, was set to be released just weeks after the date of this show, this night was primarily a march through the band's greatest hits. They opened with the SST-era track "The Lung" and proceeded to plow through songs from every phase of the band. Early '90s tracks such as "Out There" and "Feel the Pain" got a huge response, as did their now standard cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven."
About a third of the way through the show, I decided to brave the ear-bleeding country and descended into the killing fields to snap some pictures. I approached the band from the left of the stage — the location guitarist and band mastermind J. Mascis had selected to house his monstrous rig, consisting primarily of three full-stack Marshall amps. The true sonic power of this set-up was pretty mind-blowing up front. A full-on wall of sound. After snapping a couple of pics, the band launched into "Kracked," followed immediately by "Sludgefeast." Two songs that appear in that same order on the band's 1987 album "You're Living All Over Me." A combo of songs that had no business being released in the 1980s because they are simply too heavy and psychedelic to have been appreciated by a general public obsessed with Poison at the time. The opening chords of "Sludgefeast" were epic. The swaying of the crowd up front was a far cry from a mosh pit — it was straight-up hypnotism.
With his long gray locks and beard, Mascis lead the charge like some alternative rock version of Gandolph that currently records for the Jagjaguwar label. As waves of distortion, phasers, and fuzz immersed the masses, the elder-statesman of the underground guitar gods once again proved his worth. He may be a man of few words, but when Mascis wields his axe people listen.
- Concert: Dinosaur Jr.
- Date: September 6
- Venue: Belly Up
- Seats: General, floor