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You’re Reliving All Over Me

Dinosaur Jr., Ottobar, Aug. 28

Jefferson Jackson Steele
FURY THING: J. Mascis earns his retirement fund.

By Jess Harvell | Posted 9/6/2006

Prime Dinosaur Jr. was like gunning your Rabbit’s two good wheels while stuck in a sinkhole, your girlfriend deciding now’s a good time to finally dump your sorry ass. (These days, she’d probably do it over your cell phone, even more poignant/pathetic.) Classic teenager-in-a-cosmic-funk shit with extra sludge. So 15 years later, one wondered if grown men could/should be pulling off these songs live. Plus Dino was cosmically, passive-aggressively fucked up as a unit, and its reformation after a notoriously ugly implosion had a whiff of the unseemly.

Opener Mouthus was Dino with all the pop surgically removed. Two lacrosse players gone to seed--pretty sure one was sporting a Balti--Mouthus kept the drone furnace running full blast. Occasionally something the guys at Terrorizer would recognize as a riff peeked out from the nonstop feedback. But mostly it was a slow-motion parody of hard-rock theatrics, whipping that prep-school hair around like Rob Tyner’s ’fro. After a while the piercing squeals and shrieks and hacked-up noise hairballs felled the audience one by one. It was pretty great, but perhaps best enjoyed on a couch rather than wobbling on two tired legs in a too-hot Ottobar.

As the triumphant entrance music blared, the three Dinosaurs emerged to a full house’s applause. Lou Barlow, pickled in indie-rock pretty-boy juice, was unchanged after nearly two decades, though he had seen some time in the weight room. Murph perched squat on his drum stool, shaved head and serious gut drooping over his gym shorts--Michael Chiklis’ Shield character on his day off. And J. Mascis, Buddha-bellied and with a mass of stringy gray hair, still had the autistic wobble and the thousand-yard stare of someone who’s spent too long playing guitar.

And if any of the resentment still lingered between band members, you wouldn’t have known it. This was a Highly Professional Rock Show, complete with multiple guitar techs, mic-stand straighteners, and long breath-taking, sweat-mopping pauses. Murph’s extra beef could be felt through his drums and Barlow’s bass was mixed so high it punched you in the chest. The music was fuckin’ loud, the kind of full-body massage that crawls right up your legs and into your sphincter. As for Mascis, even in 1986 dude could seriously--preternaturally, even--shred, but his continuing devotion to Neil Young’s drooling one-note, hourlong solos kept things from sinking into Guitar Center self-parody.

Throughout, though, as thrilling as the music was--and it was--it was hard to escape the feeling that indie rock has fully entered its traveling-revue phase with a reunited Drunks With Guns soon to play the Golden Corral in Branson with two shows on Sunday. All the hits, no new stuff, no surprises, exactly what everyone had paid their 20 bucks for, and we were all home before Conan. Dino was even hawking the same T-shirts it was in ’92. Belligerent Mouthus may have irritated the assembled, but at least you were kept on your toes. Dino encored with a pro forma run-through of its cover of “Just Like Heaven” and a very fine “Freak Scene.” There are pleasures in nostalgia, even deep and nonshameful ones, but like a trip to Sizzler, you left full but not necessarily nourished.

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