One Fan Thinks You Should Really Go See Dinosaur Jr. On Next Week’s East Coast Tour
2016 marks the 25th anniversary of a monumental rock album. The one with the kid on the cover, alone, a failure of adult supervision. The trio from a small place with no scene in a northern coastal state. The front man capable of wounding with his guitar while hooking with its melody. The band was critically acclaimed as a new vanguard in rock music. The album is not Nevermind.You’ve had 25 years to listen to Dinosaur Jr.‘s Green Mind. So have you? There must have been some kids in your high school or your college dorm who listened to Dinosaur Jr., but probably not many. I love this band, and wonder why more people don’t love them too.Everyone had Ten and Vs. and Nevermind and In Utero; some kids had Dirt and Badmotorfinger and Siamese Dream; I had all of them, and I had Green Mind. I felt like an explorer, like Lewis seeing the Pacific, “Guys! This is awesome! Come see!” But nobody really did. I would play songs for friends, but no one seemed to hear what I heard. Green Mind was the alternative to Alternative, and to this day, the album I’ve listened to more than any other.Following the release of Where You Been in 1993, Spin Magazine put Dinosaur’s J Mascis on the cover with the headline, “J Mascis is God”, a nod to the ’60s graffiti copycats that tagged London with the same line about Eric Clapton. While other bands might have had a dynamic front man with a soaring voice or a poet whose lyrics are soul-stirring or a groove-driven rhythm section, Dinosaur Jr. was Mascis’s juggernaut guitar hugeness. More than Green Mind, Where You Been was a showcase for Mascis’s guitar. Bassist Lou Barlow would have recounted times in the band’s tour van when Mascis would solo for 5 hour rides between towns. The man can shred a guitar; that was the case in 1991, and remains true today.But being on the cover of Spin is one thing; being on the cover of Rolling Stone or Time is something else.Alternative rock had pierced mainstream consciousness, but Dinosaur remained obscure. The touring in support of Green Mind and Where You Been was constant and worldwide, peaking with a slot on the main stage at Lollapalooza in 1993. While Lollapalooza propelled many acts into stardom, some were never heard much from again. After Lollapalooza, Dinosaur didn’t tour again for over a year, and when they did, it was the same club scene they’d known prior. Their wave never crested.At that time, no one’s brother or sister had come back from college with tapes of Dave Matthews. Phish wouldn’t hold its first festival for 3 more years. Creep had hit the airwaves, but was not a harbinger of what to expect from Radiohead. Jack White was still Jack Gillis and was in high school. Alt rock was still in command of the music scene, but like always, the scene was changing, and the latter half of the decade would look quite different than the early 90s.In May of 1997, as part of their largest tour in 3 years, Dinosaur stopped in my hometown, Pittsburgh, for a show at Graffiti. The band would break up before Christmas.Being 17, I was on foreign turf as I stood near the bar at the back of the place. I’d never been to a rock club before. I didn’t really know what to do besides just observe this scene I knew little about. Or, let’s be honest, observe any scene for the first time. This is what Cameron Crowe absorbed so much of on the other side of the country. This is where older kids went to feel music, to see how it sounded, to be part of it. This was not an arena or an amphitheater. This was a club show, and I felt like part of the club.The Smoking Popes had finished their set, and the house lights dimmed. The two guys I had been standing next to for the last 30 minutes put their drinks down on the bar, and started wedging their way through the crowd. The one guy was pretty tall, tall enough that I could see him as he kept moving through the Club. He got to the front row, then stepped up on stage, grabbed a guitar, and destroyed the place for the next hour. I had been standing next to J Mascis and didn’t realize it.Clubs have occupancy limits for how many people they can cram in; they don’t have limits for how many Marshall speakers you can stack up behind a guitarist. If such legislation is ever adopted, a Dinosaur show will be Exhibit A.Mascis has said his colossal guitar sound is derived from his days as a drummer in the hardcore band Deep Wound; with guitar, he sought a way to make a thicker, heavier impression – something that hit like the drums.In a 2012 interview with Marc Maron, Mascis was asked about his guitar mastery; he answered, “I don’t know what to tell you… I’ve had a lot of drum lessons.”In 2005 the band reunited, and have toured with the same fervor they had 25 years ago, mostly playing the club scene from coast to coast. In boxing, they say to punch your weight; maybe for Dinosaur Jr. that means to be the world champion of mid-sized rock clubs, the demolishers of crowds between 500 and 1000 people.Mascis’s genius has not slowed down, it just keeps soloing over the melodies. They play the new stuff and the occasional gem from decades ago. And when those songs from Green Mind are played, there are people in the crowd, like the guy from your high school ceramics class and me, who can still smell the Vans we wore and the comic books we read when we heard it for the first time.Since the reunion in 2005, they have released four albums, including Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, which they are presently touring to support. They’ll have played 90 shows across the US and Europe before returning to the East Coast in late November for dates in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and North Adams Mass. Then it’s off to Australia in 2017.If you can catch any of the remaining tour dates, be sure to bring your earplugs, and keep an eye on the guy standing next to you in the crowd during the opening act.And please, go get a copy of Green Mind.