Dinosaur Jr.


Dinosaur Jr., a band who were probably knocking about when Jesus and John the Baptist were dunking people in the river like rich tea in PG, have completely blown away this Manchester crowd and I’m fucking chuffed for everyone involved.

Finally entering the building, after downing our cans of shitty rum and coke because (and I quote) “normal cans will do us in lad”, we discover a freakish scene. Every other person in this gaff is donning the beard and glasses combo. Granted, achieving this look requires bad eyesight and the ability to wait for hair to poke out your chin but I’m not gonna lie, this is the only time this many people with that inclination have been in the same room at any particular time, unless there’s a beard and glasses convention I’m unaware of. It’s awash with middle aged men, some bald ones in particular reminding me of that cool teacher I had in school who went to gigs and liked Soundgarden and Meat Puppets. I can’t wait to lose my hair to be fair, it’s a fucking pain in the arse. Anyway, after one of the strangest supporting performances I’ve ever seen from Black Mountain’s Steve McBean – in the sense that he was alone, with the sounds of an entire band coming out the speakers – we gulp our blue ribbon (which is horrendous by the way) as Mascis, Barlow and Murph shuffle onto the stage.

Immediately blasting off with ‘Thumb’, ‘Going Down’ and ‘Lost All Day’, I realise I don’t know any of the words. Alas, I know it’s a great sound. I don’t really know how to explain the Dinosaur Jr sound, it’s just really nice and easy. Not in the REO Speedwagon easy where it’s like “kin ell lads when does it kick in”, but in an “I’m a bit sad, let me thrash it out on this guitar for a few minutes… ah that’s better” kind of vibe. Situated near the back, right next to the bar as usual (literally every gig here I seem to operate most comfortably within 5 feet of the OTT’s leaning bog eyed on the sticky ledge) I internally speculate whether or not I deserve to be here. Of course I’m a fan of tracks like ‘In a Jar’, ‘Freak Scene’ and ‘Feel the Pain’ but I certainly don’t know every song or album the Massachusetts trio have produced. Despite this self-doubt, I snapped out of this useless monologue and focused on the power of the band. I can’t get over how in every song, which you could sum up as a stoner/alt-rock exploit into the life of a skater or hippy child in the big city, the virtuosity of Mascis is immense. Usually I cringe at these solos but here, they’re fucking welcome. It’s less of a gig and more of an exhibition of what 30 plus years in rock n roll will do to you if you’re slightly sensible. I don’t particularly know whether to cheer for the moment or congratulate them in general for just making it out fairly unscathed. Like a sonic Ted Talk, the band are stoic and informative, yet surprisingly unpretentious.

Dinosaur Jr.

Continuing to rattle through slightly deeper cuts such as ‘Kracked’, ‘The Wagon’ and ‘Budge’, the atmosphere seems to be building. To be fair to the group they’ve been playing for an hour and half, which is a decent return for the 20 odd squid you pay to get in. As each song progresses to its crescendo-fuelled climax there is early applause, arms aloft, extreme oscillation and a general vibe that a lot of people inside tonight are watching one of their favourite groups of all time. I imagine back in the day Dinosaur Jr shows used to be a lot wilder and of course, it would be great to go back and experience one. That being said, the set tonight has still provided me with a sense of immense appreciation: the songs themselves have actually made it really enjoyable, rather than the crazy onstage exploits which usually get me all waxy lyrical about groups who really don’t have the staying power of a band like Dino do; something I need to sort out.

Once again though, it’s a cover that really tickles my proverbial pickle. With the gorgeous opening chimes and percussive smashings of The Cure’s ‘Just like Heaven’, I’m in fucking ecstasy. Seriously, my nan could probably blow this out to me on a recorder in the living room and I’d belt out all the words. Part of the encore, this rendition of a classic makes the whole set for me. If I must confess, Dinosaur Jr. aren’t my favourite band in the world. Of what I’ve heard in the recorded format, which is a fair amount but nowhere near the 11 album output, a lot of it feels a bit samey. Live however, they’re a different prospect. Possessing an arsenal of a loud buzzing guitar, a shaggy haired bass maniac in flares and the glorious bald head of Murph – who at the end wipes the evidence of a hard day’s work away with a black flannel in hilarious fashion – they’re a group to be admired for their dedication to producing consistent and relatable music.

It’s been a good night all round, I’ll see ya later.

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Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC