Henry Rollins: The Column! My Travels With Dinosaur Jr.
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
I am on the road with Dinosaur Jr., the mighty trio from the great state of Massachusetts. They're in the middle of a week of shows that feature them playing their breakout 1988 album, Bug.
Thankfully, this is not some act of desperation, or a band cashing in on past achievements. The great news is that there are a lot of Dinosaur Jr. albums -- and none of them sucks.
Oh, there might be that one you play a little more often than the others for sentimental reasons, but you don't wonder what the hell happened on any of them -- they are that good.
The last two albums, 2007's Beyond and 2009's Farm, were excellent, as were the tours that supported them. The band revisiting Bug is just a great night of music for those who know what they are in for. As an added bonus, the opening act is Pierced Arrows, the new band of Fred and Toody Cole of Dead Moon. They are as real as the day is long. What a band. Count me a fan.
Previous to their scheduled shows on the East Coast a few months ago, Dinosaur Jr. contacted me and asked if I would be interested in conducting a short interview with them onstage before they went out to play. Are you kidding?! A chance to see Dinosaur Jr. night after night? I said yes so fast it hurt. It was a great time. And recently, when the band asked me to come aboard for the West Coast leg, I gladly leaped at the chance. What a great way to end the year.
And so here, for the purpose of relaying the 411 to our fabulous Los Angeles readership and the rest of the world, I give you my reportage, written from the side of the stage into my steno pad during the California shows the band just completed.
A Fanatic's Notes Dept.:
12/12/11, Costa Mesa: Band onstage and delivering big-time. Rhythm section extremely together. Drummer Murph has steadily upped his game over the years and is now driving the band forward with great force. There is a happiness I feel whenever I see this band play, that hits me the same way every time since I first saw them in 1986. The waves of sound batter and melt you. It is dense-melodic-carameloid lava punctuated by bass and drum explosions. It is an awesome combination of force and momentum that by turns comforts and smashes.
12/13/11, San Diego: Pierced Arrows again show that they are one of the realest shots of rock & roll you will ever see. Audience is into it. The sounds that come from J Mascis' guitar continue to amaze every night. One of the most totally realized guitar players since Big Brother and the Holding Company's James Gurley. J's sound has all it needs. 23:05 hrs. Partway through "They Always Come," I am reminded yet again that I am in the right place whenever I am at a Dinosaur Jr. show. I am sitting on the floor with my right foot resting on J's far right lower cabinet. I love this access. The band makes me realize that music is the best thing there is, and justify every record I have ever bought.
12/14/11, Los Angeles: Pierced Arrows are a true north band. They are pure like Roky Erickson or Hank Williams. They are heavy without being overbearing. They are damn good, to sound a little Hemingwayesque. Dinosaur Jr. play first song. You know how bands give it up for the last song of the night, like if they give it their all, the audience will remember the entire show? That's how they started. All night, J has been sending sonic spears into the cosmos. Murph is a tornado of percussion. Lou is slashing at his bass like a guitar player. 2340 hrs. "Out There" explodes from the stage. Again, it's like the last song. But they keep playing. Some nights a band just owns it from note one until the last. That's how it went down tonight.
12/15/11, San Francisco: The Fillmore is one of the best-sounding venues anywhere. The fact that so many greats have stood on this stage only adds to this experience. Pierced Arrows guitarist Fred played here in the late '60s and had not come back until tonight. They were great again. Dinosaur Jr. go into "Freak Scene" and the packed house turns into a blur of activity. The band is heaving great slabs of sound from the stage and the audience is uploading it totally. So many smiling people.
A young man volunteers to sing "Don't," and partway through jumps into the audience, where he floats on a sea of hands. I realize that Dinosaur Jr. music has been passed on to another generation and this band is going to get no rest until they keel over. Last song of the night is "Gargoyle" from their first album. I think J might rocket through the roof. He holds his own with any guitar player who has been onstage. Standing behind J's six cabinets, it is just loud as hell. "Gargoyle" keeps happening, peak after scorching peak. I can smell something melting. This is why you go to shows.
Next stop? Portland, Oregon. Pierced Arrows/Scratch Acid/Dinosaur Jr. Already buckling up.
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