Dinosaur Jr // Sub89, Reading // 22.3.2018
Dinosaur Jr are a mainstay of alternative rock music. Formed in 1984, by guitarist J Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph they soon become one of America’s key alternative bands. Combining hardcore with other genres like country and pop, Dinosaur Jr carved a unique sound led by Mascis’ heady effect soaked guitars, drawling vocals and Barlow’s punchy bass lines. After several line up changes, breaking up and other side projects, the band has been back with the original line up since 2005 and have showed no signs of slowing down releasing 4 new albums, including their critically acclaimed latest album Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not.
Support came from Black Mountains Stephen McBean. McBean’s set was a more relaxed one than that of Dinosaur Jr but it fitted in well. Playing a set of acoustic solo material utilising effects and looping. A comfortable mix of trippiness and folk music reminiscent of Bob Dylan showed that McBean was more than capable of doing things solo.
The show at Sub89 is one of Dinosaur Jr’s handful of smaller shows that the band are playing on their European tour but they still brought their A-game. The setlist was diverse, exploring their earlier albums as well as newer ones. Older songs such as ‘Freak Scene’ and ‘Sludgefeast’ particularly struck a chord with the audience, however newer songs such as ‘Goin Down’ and ‘Watch the Corners’ still gained a great response. The atmosphere at the show was definitely one of high spirits. The crowd was diverse in range, proving that the band refuses to rely on just its older fans and albums but manages to pull in younger listeners with their newer material. Mascis rarely interacted with the crowd other than the occasional thanks but instead focussed on providing the sonic goodness that the crowd yearned for. Barlow, despite nursing a broken collarbone, provided a higher energy which the crowd were more than happy to reciprocate.
Soundwise Dinosaur Jr really excelled. Mascis’ 3 Marshall stacks pointed towards his mic, to even further increase the volume, created a phenomenal sound. Barlow and Murph were not drowned out though, Barlows strumming technique on bass created a strong punchy rhythm reminiscent of their hardcore punk origins and Murphs drumming was tight, impressively keeping up with Mascis’ large periods of soloing and walls of noise. With Dinosaur Jrs history its unsurprising, but they are indisputably one of the loudest bands around right now. Ear plugs are a must!
Ultimately, Dinosaur Jr are a band that has to be heard live to be believed. Their huge sound is enough to sell them but the band had a great cohesion and clearly wanted to be playing these shows and making new music. There is no phoning it in with Dinosaur Jr, a band that truly should not be missed.