Dinosaur Jr. and Shearwater at the Cabooze, 10/18/12
Photo By Brantley Gutierrez
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Cabooze, Minneapolis
Thursday night at the Cabooze found the crowd witnessing both the beautiful path music is currently taking, and one where music has been and likely always will be. Austin, TX natives Shearwater represented the former; stalwart powerhouses Dinosaur Jr. the latter, with Dinosaur Jr. also making a nearly airtight argument for bands being stronger for never really changing the product they offer.
Shearwater began the night in off-kilter, measured bursts, finally finding steady footing with "You As You Were" from their new album, Animal Joy, released in February. Shearwater has a fully unmistakable sound, with plentiful pianos and ultra-proggy arrangements, to say nothing of Jonathan Meiburg's deep, almost pained vocals, but the end result--though slightly difficult--is ultimately palatable.
They moved through their roughly 45-minute set seamlessly, with songs like "Rooks" from 2008's Rook and "Breaking the Yearlings" highlighting the strange dichotomy present in so much of their work: the quiet parts are often busy and filled with time-changes and the like, while the louder passages are more simply arranged, all of it sounding at once both hopeful and morose.
They wound up their solid set with a version of R.E.M.'s "These Days" that was instantly recognizable, but Shearwater had unquestionably left their own stamp on the now 26-year-old classic. Covers are a tricky business sometimes, but Meiburg and company seemed capable of just about anything you can imagine by the end of their set.
After a short break, the mighty Dinosaur Jr. took the stage to much cheering from the now well-oiled crowd, and did what they do best: played a few things with the piles of Marshall stacks on stage turned up to 11, then played a few more with them turned up to 14. They opened with "See It on Your Side", the fairly laconic (for them, at least) closing track from their new I Bet on Sky and from there moved through a couple of other new songs before trotting out their now-classic "Start Choppin'" from 1993's Where You Been which began a mini-set of songs full of some of the best guitar riffs ever recorded. The set also included "Not the Same," also from Where You Been, the new "Watch the Corners" and "Feel the Pain" from 1994's Without a Sound.
The fact that these songs all seemed like they could have been from the same album is where Dinosaur Jr.'s strength lies. Often, bands are criticized for a lack of growth or failure to branch into territory that could be deemed uncomfortable, but Dinosaur Jr. found that magic formula which few other bands have found (only Pixies come to mind, honestly), one that allows them to operate in a small portion of the spectrum and not be expected to grow at all. They have grown despite this assessment, however, though the growth has been lateral, the way a vine does along the ground.
J Mascis' vocals have not changed in the least, always sounding like he has a bad cold, while churning out riffs so massive they could collapse a city street; bassist Lou Barlow, who's storied and often tumultuous time with the band--including a years-long (mostly) silent feud with Mascis that was constant alt-rock gossip fodder--caused the creation of Sebadoh upon Barlow's departure in 1989, is the bands mouthpiece onstage and plays his bass like he stole it, while Murph mans the drums and hardly even acknowledges the crowd. This is what Dinosaur Jr. was, is and will continue to be.
The hour-long set began to wind down with "In a Jar" from 1987's You're Living All Over Me, "Freak Scene", the song that made them known to the world, and "Forget the Swan" the opening track from their debut, Dinosaur, with Barlow manning the vocals. They came out for a quick two-song encore that ended with "Out There" and then they were gone, leaving in their wake a silence from the stage that was nearly as deafening as the previous 60 minutes had been.
Critic's Bias: I like a lot of different music, but I love loud guitar rock more than anything else. Very few bands do this kind of thing better than Dinosaur Jr. does. I came of age to a ton of music that sounded like this, but not much of it has stood the passage of time. I'm both surprised and elated that Dinosaur Jr. have.
The Crowd: Full of people who had been going to see them since the '90s or were just slightly too young to have attended their shows then. Not many younger people at all.
Overheard in the Crowd: "J [Mascis] looks like he has skeleton hair."
Notebook Dump: There aren't many bands you go see in hopes they'll play their hits who have new material that is just as good or sometimes better.
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