Friday, February 27
He’s a constant. Just the one consonant there as/in place of a name. Wilful as Neil Young, consistent as a Grateful Dead show – a rambling trawl through the works, served up for fans that know, already, what they’re going to get. And want more of the same. A grown up Garth Algar, one who ditched the drums – or at least keeps them to the side, a little hobby now, still “like to play” – focusing rather on those scribble-pattern guitar solos and that scratched-into-place melodic buzz of guitar strum.
Yes, he is J Mascis. And yes, you know him from/as Dinosaur Jr. And yes, he barely says a word on stage – apart from the ones he mumbles out as lyrics. But he’s a captivating presence. The trucker cap and long grey hair, those glasses long ago borrowed from a comedy skit.
You go to see J Mascis to hear exactly what you expect – if there’s any sort of surprise it’s a fluke. This year’s “surprise” is the cover of Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You. There’s
always (at least) one cover – The Born With The Thorn In His Side was often a staple. Mascis steamrolls through songs to make them his own, just matching it up to his standard delivery is his way of owning it. His Fade Into You feels like it could have been part of any of the mid-90s Dino J albums. Or released to the internet just recently. Any – and all – J Mascis songs feel like that. Some relic or something brand spanking.
He sits on the stool and slacker-strums, his loop pedal is the safety net, his arcing solo bursts are launched out over the song. They never quite belong to the song – they just hang there, slightly out of place. Perfectly in their own space.
You could argue – definitely – that there’s a pattern. A cherry-picked solo or Dino J moment, each song a hollow intro of ringing chords and mumble-words and then stumbling into a shriek of electric-guitar-solo-for-the-acoustic, a different pedal being used to give a slightly different flavour – the setlist could read “The Flanger Song”, “The Fuzz Song”…instead of “Every Morning”, “Pond Song”…
You should also argue – certainly – that is why there is such a thing as a solo J Mascis show.
His studied nonchalance. That croaky-groan voice. Those perfectly imperfect songs – the way a guitar solo could end at any point, and so too could the tune. Cold cuts. End of song. End of story. Clean break.
Hearing him howl out Alone as set-closer might even be worth the price of admission.
He’s a one-off. Master of a strange, curious muse – and so perfectly he’s aged with/within his music. As an older guy now he makes Dinosaur Jr Music for Old/er People. He is Dinosaur Sr.
He is fucking great.
It would be totally valid – on the basis of all of this – to thoroughly hate a J Mascis show too.