Tonight is the third of a four-night residency of Massachusetts’ Dinosaur Jr. at The Garage in Highbury, London; they’ll follow this with seven nights in Brooklyn at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg in December to celebrate 30 years of their seminal classic album from 1993 Where You Been.
The trio consisting of – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph has been a massive influence on the music scene, from shaping the sound of grunge to inspiring a generation of alternative rock bands. Tickets for this run of dates flew out unsurprisingly as soon as they were released for sale.
Doors are at 7pm sharp, and there is already a decent queue outside the Garage, so there’s a good crowd already in the 600-capacity venue to witness the support for the evening Man On Man when they hit the stage at 8pm.
Crashing through the sound barriers of queer rock, MAN ON MAN, led by boyfriends Joey Holman and Roddy Bottum (of Imperial Teen and Faith No More fame), are here hot on the heels of their brilliantly loud album Provincetown a fusion of fuzzy, hard rock guitar and irresistible pop sensibilities, peppered with provocative lyrics and a modern queer classic. The set is far removed from Roddy’s previous work with Faith No More, so don’t expect any full-on hard rock numbers, but live, I must say, comes across heavier than on record with Holman’s guitar crunching through the tracks and matching the intensity of the backing track of bass and drums (there’s no live drummer for this show). The two members are dressed in matching blue/grey shorts and shirts with M.O.M. emblazoned above the pocket, and there’s a touching moment at the start of the show as the two lovers embrace and kiss centre stage. The short set covers a broad spectrum of styles like the shoegaze “Piggy” or the kaleidoscopic sounds of “Daddy” that really gets the front rows moving. An infectious energy and passion flows from the stage, and it’s hard not to get swept along for the ride. Lyrically, they don’t travel far from their backyard with songs about gay dating apps, hook-ups and a local venue close to their hearts in “Showgirls.” Write about what you know, right? Which they do and do well; remember, this is the man who penned F.N.M.’s first classic, “We Care A Lot”.
“Are there any gays here tonight?” calls out Holman to the crowd, and I’m shocked when I turn around to see just a couple of hands up in the now pretty packed venue. Now London, like my home town Brighton, has a thriving gay scene, so there’s either a lot of self-conscious folks in the audience or this is one of the most hetero shows I have ever been to. They close with the pumping dance number “I Feel Good” with its catchy as fuck keyboard hook that grabs and doesn’t let go with some meaty guitar and plenty of feedback; it’s the standout number of a way too short six-song set. After this run of dates with Dinosaur Jr., they’ll be back in London on Saturday for a show at the Boston Music Rooms. If you can’t make any shows, go give the latest album a listen. It’s a real grower.
Dinosaur Jr. takes the stage at 9pm to a huge welcome, and as the first notes of J Mascis’ guitar ring out from “Out There”, I feel we are in damn fine company tonight. And the lyrics fit the occasion perfectly.
“I know your name
I know the people out there feel the same
I know you’re gone
I hope you got some friends to come along
I know you’re out there.”
It’s been some time since I’ve delved into Where You Been, and even though I remember many of the songs from the album, I forgot the intricate, anarchic yet beautiful playing Mascis brings to the band, elevating these songs far above other artists at the time.
They effortlessly weave a blend of alternative rock with a sweet country twang that gets this crowd jumping with joy. The main set, as hoped, is the complete album in order as on the record but with some sweet added bonuses. How could a band this prolific and groundbreaking not have a few guests along for the ride? And from the last two nights’ reports, the fans have been treated to some real surprises. We don’t have to wait too long for the first of the evening, Tiffany Anders joining on vocals for a sweet rendition of “Get Me” to kick off side two of the album. The following guest gets no introduction that I hear, but he joins for two numbers, adding a little extra guitar noise to the sonic mix. The great thing about this evening’s show is you don’t just get carbon copies of the tracks as recorded. Every one of them feels like a live experience with plenty of improvisation throughout the set, making it that much more unique.
The guest that brings the biggest cheer by far is Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, who joins for ‘Tarpit’ from You’re Living All Over Me, a cover of M.B.V.’s own “Thorn” with Barlow taking up vocal duties and finally on the classic Cure cover “Just Like Heaven”. Tonight is definitely one of those “you should have been there” moments, and I’m sure this run of shows will be talked about for years to come. It’s one thing being able to catch Dinosaur Jr. with the original lineup, but to see them in such intimate surroundings, to hear Where You Been in full, along with some fantastic guests, is pretty damn special. They are back on stage once more in London, and if it’s anything like tonight, it’ll be another unmissable occasion. Brooklyn, it’s your turn next!
Words and Photos by Cris Watkins