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Dinosaur Jr with Band of Horses – [Live]

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Thursday, 13 September 2007
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It's an odd feeling these days, to stand in the audience of a show at 27 and be part of the younger half of the audience. The high school and college kids—the ones still searching for their identities—are usually the first adopters of new music, and so make up the majority of the audience at indie shows. Don't deny it, it's true. The older fans, the ones with 9am jobs and mortgages and wives or husbands to get home to aren't as quick to wade into a mass of teenagers who sing along just loud enough to be annoying.

It takes something special to get those fans out, something either completely amazing—the median age of Sigur Ros fans is undoubtedly much higher than that of Mates of State fans (which I'm reminded of every time the Mates come to town and I feel slightly lecherous for checking out some of the girls in the crowd)—or completely familiar.

And so it was that I found myself surrounded by people who most likely have far more invested in their 401Ks than I to watch Dinosaur Jr. The band's revival is a bit of an enigma. Quick, name three bands that put out a post-reunion album that was even relevant, much less critically lauded. It's no surprise if you couldn't. Yet that's what happened for Dinosaur Jr with Beyond, and now they are in the odd position of being a classic band touring on new material that people actually want to hear. In other words, this ain't no nostalgia tour.

First off, Ben Bridwell and the rest of Band of Horses took the stage in front of an imposing pair of Marshall stacks, a reminder that the evening would only get louder. They played a mix of favorites from Everything All the Time and a few choice numbers from the forthcoming Cease to Begin, kicking off the evening with lead single “Is There a Ghost?” Bridwell was chatty and engaging behind his dark beard, repeatedly thanking the crowd for coming out and calling the chance to play with Dinosaur Jr “a dream come true. No, really.”

The band stomped their way through “The Great Salt Lake” and “Ode to LRC,” and dedicated “Weed Party” to “that guy who just yelled for it.” It's odd to catch a show where the band sounds exactly like they do on record—not in the “play everything exactly the same” way, but literally sounding exactly the same. It's a testament to the songwriting and studio performance that the production value is hardly present—live, the guitars ring the same, the bass has the same tone, and then there's Bridwell's voice. During the first two or three songs, you could hear a bit of strain as the vocal cords warmed up, but after “Islands on the Coast,” it was amazing to hear how strong his voice really is, especially when you realize he's singing straight into the mic, with no vocal effects. It's a pretty ballsy move.

Set break meant time to wade through the miles of crap set up by Camel cigarettes, who were apparently sponsoring the evening. While it's cool that Camel gave away free tickets, the photo booth, spin art, sponsored smoking lounge and stand-ups promoting the 70 bajillion different flavors of cancer stick in the lobby was overkill and a little out of place, MTV-style marketing to a crowd that hasn't watched MTV since Dinosaur Jr was on there the first time. The visual clutter extended into the auditorium too, with signs hanging off the balcony and Camel ads flashing across the the big screens that flanked the stage—although the screens only showed the bands during the performance. There was a moment during Band of Horses where Bridwell glanced up at one of the screens, saw his face writ large, and smiled. It was an authentic “holy shit, maybe I'm a rock star” moment. Pretty cool.

The crowd had thinned a little bit by the time Mascis, Murph and Barlow took the stage. With an absolute minimum of stage banter—between the first song, “Tarpit,” and the fourth or fifth, not a word was said—the band tore through old favorites like “Little Fury Things,” “Feel the Pain” and “Sludgefeast.” They also graced the crowd with a few new ones, including “Crumble,” “Pick Me Up” and “Been There All the Time.”

While not as loud as they've been in the past, the band seemed at ease and self assured. Mascis ripped solos with a nonchalance that belied the sheer technical fury of the lines he was playing, while Barlow bounced around with the energy of his much younger self. Following a short break, they returned to play an encore comprised of “Freak Scene,” “In A Jar” and “Mountain Man,” the latter featuring Mascis strapping on the reverse Flying V. Dinosaur Jr has been described as the band “responsible for returning lead guitar to indie rock” and Saturday night, they proved that. The whip of headbanged hair may be grayer now, but don't be fooled. Dinosaur Jr isn't out to recapture past glory. They're just here to fucking rock.

For more information, visit:

www.dinosaurjr.com

www.bandofhorses.com

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