Notes Tagged ‘J Mascis’

J Mascis + Kurt Vile at Subterranean

April 1st, 2011

Descending the spiraled staircase Friday night at Subterranean, lo-fi skuzz’s reigning wooly king, J Mascis, was trademark conductor-ish, taking a seat without mouthing a word, simply thumbing a page on a purple binder affixed with two LED lights before jangling out the scratchy angst of the ’91 Dinosaur Jr. gem “Thumb,” howling through a mane long gone silver, “There never really is a good time / There’s always nothing much to say.”

To many, Mascis unplugged is a chain saw without a chain. And his long overdue solo album, Several Shades of Why, which he’s taken to tour the nation with Philly-based protégé Kurt Vile as opener, is the same old tease if you’re just waiting for the shred. One audience member at Friday’s show booed audibly and held up a thumbs down.

The dude obviously missed the point of the skeletal acoustic beauty that shines through when Mascis blesses fans with these solo tours. Friday, he equally balanced a handful of numbers off Several Shades with classics from Dino glory days—from Where You Been to 2009’s reunion effort, Farm. Turning “Ocean In The Way” into a muted-fret chug-a-lug heel-dragging anthem, Mascis’s endearing squall of a throat carried infinitely more character than his guitar ever will.

Vile on the opening side was all guitar, all shred, all the time, wielding at least five different axes that completely drowned out some of his finer Vic Chestnutt quiverings heard about a heavily Smoke Rings For My Halo–oriented set. But in a nostalgic, foot-dragging way, he slathered enough melody in there to move things forward. Particularly, a late Springsteen cover “Downbound Train,” had Vile shaking hair and fingers about a cherry-trimmed Gibson like a poster child for garage-band nation. It really didn’t matter what the hell he was singing.

Later Mascis threw us some chunks of fuzzy meat from time to time, stomping on a pedal on “Get Me” to loft a soaring scale, looping some hammer-ons on Several Shades’ title track, and jarring a lonely Neil Young–ish down-tune pluck on “Can I.” But they were always quick flashes of distortion. Vile made a cameo on two bedroom crooners, “Not Enough” and “Make it Right,” doubling up the latter with a warm wash of thick reverb to let the new-gen meets old-gen charm linger.

Still banter-less through a trio of back catalog encores, teasing one last bit of pedal-boosted electric fury on another Dino cut, “Tarpit,” Mascis flashed a smile when a superfan assured him he loved the rocker “more than coke and pot.” At show’s end, he thanked everyone exactly once, folded up his purple songbook and ascended back into that labyrinth of a staircase. Meanwhile the asshole who booed earlier lit up a cigarette and stumbled his way out the same.

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Unofficial SXSW ’09: Lost in Texas

March 23rd, 2009

Growing weary of the East side of the city and the hipster shantytown that has begun to develop an invisible belt around Mrs. Bea’s and Todd P happenings, I made it a point that I was going to get super random on day three and blindly attack one of the many warehouse or house parties and get more of a breath of Austin local. The way of music, I pretty much struck out, with every band I saw coming from out of town.  But the caliber of Austin-bred youth that aided in my temporary hitchhiking tactic to get to said parties made up for it, especially the two teenagers who thought I’d be impressed if I watched them snort pills of X off their dashboard.

Though the big pupil fun didn’t happen until the moon came out.  Since I had this plan to get lost come evening, during the day I figured I’d find pockets of free and unofficial in downtown proper.  There was a Swedish and Norway takeover at a creek-side lounge called Habana Calle that drew me in easily, 1.) because Loney Dear was headlining and 2.) because the Swedes are going to Viking-conquer the world if they continue to make indie pop the way they have been.  I spent a little time with a spastic, metal version of the Shout Out Louds, Ungdomskulen, who kept reassuring in broken English that they woke up that morning feeling the proverbial “it,” which turned out to be a healthy relationship with the cowbell, before killing the hour before Loney Dear took the stage, across the street at a tent show featuring a new sludgy guitar buzz band from San Diego, Earthless. As their own entity, they layer guitar squall near My Bloody Valentine ear-bleed level.  But with special guest J. Mascis in tow, they were the ultimate reincarnation of earl-90s fuzz.

No, I didn’t wear earplugs.  And yes, I regret it.  For a good part of the next hour of hitchhiking, I couldn’t discern a car horn from a phone call, let alone enjoy the delicate string arrangements of Loney Dear.  But that subsided by the time I took a breather at a coffee shop and convinced those aforementioned teenagers, just starting their day, to take and accompany me at this warehouse shindig put on by local producer, Scott Jawson.  There were plenty of local bands on the bill, mostly dance rock acts, but a few canceled and I got trapped out in the middle of nowhere with only The Mae Shi (California) to entertain in a two and half hour block.  That’s not to say they killed it. Their brand of strobe-yelp punk threw kids into a hip-shaking fury.  I think I saw my ecstasy friends jump a good four feet in the air during a twee-thrasher called “Run To Your Grave,” the band screaming the chorus to the ceiling – “You’ve got to tear, burn, soil the flesh.  God will do the rest.”

And then with an angular guitar jab it was over.  My phone was dead.  Had no money for a cab.  The ecstasy friends had bolted.  Not that I wanted to get in with a car with them, anyhow, however entertaining it would have been.  Instead I found myself in the company of three lust-for-club girls who would only offer me a ride if I went with them to a dj-throwdown at a gutted Salvation Army building.  Again, it was kind of a NYC-invasion type deal headlined by a slick, greaser-clad spinster dubbed Drop The Lime.  No local talent in sight.  But the dude dropped enough sonic limes to draw hoards of sweaty kids on stage, that knocked the power supply out at least five times, beyond the point of annoying and the straw that prompted an internal, “Screw it, I’m walking home.”

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Pitchfork Fest ’08: Lights & Music

July 21st, 2008

The buzz and short attention spans I spoke of in Day One, and the newfound diversity heralded in Day Two, these things imploded upon each other the final hours of Sunday, with one holy rockness middle ground rising up from the rubble.

The moment can be pinpointed actually, if you were to witness Les Savy Fav’s punk-maestro, Tim Harrington, careen his bald dome into a city garbage can, demanding the crowd hoist him, and his new stage, into the air so he could finish his song.

Post-set comment from a fan:

Dude wanted up, like Oscar the Grouch, towards the sky! Easily the most zenith of any rock and roll moment I have ever witnessed.

Sure it was the same debauchery Harrington’s built his reputation upon at various sweaty clubs across the country.  But there was a time when Pitchfork’s occupation of Union Park did not care to venture too far outside Japanese drum circles and freak folk…at least at four o’ clock in the afternoon.

Lots of subjectives and parallels here, no doubt; this year’s closers, Spoon, were part of the inaugural year’s line-up, for instance.  Call it happenstance.  Call it a mirror of the market.  One certainty ran from band to band on Sunday – their ability to work a stage on a broad-appeal level, yet still harbor that sub-radar exclusivity.

And everyone there, unlike years past, yearned to share the sentiment together.

San Francisco’s The Dodos owned the rest of afternoon, engulfing onlookers in Morrissey lulls, only to bottle rocket off into tribal clangery.  It took effort not to dance those rhythms out of your bones, especially with tales about “Fools” who take loved ones for granted.

While M. Ward brooded quintessential chill, whispering lofty Satchmo-gravel secrets to his mic, while fans built sculptures in the mud. The folkster sauntered through Daniel Johnston covers and reminded people to partake in the arts & crafts aspect of the festival.  It was a nice little resting point before the divine indie-vention of Spiritualized.

If Les Savy Fav brought people together with punk hedonism, Spiritualized exalted evangelical rock. Right at the end of the day, when the sun decides to fireball into your eyes, the band took the stage, gospel choir in tow, and unleashed notes that truly saved. Story goes lead singer, Jason Spaceman, nearly died of pneumonia in the making of latest LP, Songs In A&E.  When the brooding squall of “Shine A Light” erupted from his guitar, fans were there in a foot of mud beaming rays. And when the band hammered into “Come Together,” arms flew up in the air like beacons of hope.

Meanwhile, J Mascis amped his six-stack of Marshalls to blastatron, and ripped through all that late-’80s zen-guitar fuzz he and other Junior Dinosaurs married angst with. Whereas Spiritualized ask for redemption, Mascis just shredded emotion into oblivion, throwing his white mop all over his guitar, kids screaming “Feel The Pain” like an anthem: “I feel the pain of everyone, then I feel nothing.”

And then something odd happened. Droves flooded the side stage for Cut Copy, but no Cut Copy was found. So the droves about-faced and headed back for closer Spoon on the main stage. Word was that Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’d some unity and entertainment and…yeah.  But those that held strong on the side stage were treated to a misfit superjam made up of Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, King Khan and Jay Reatard on flower and ass-wiping duty.

I do not understand what’s punk about wiping remnants of feces on flowers and throwing them into a mass of people, but the three would rock just about anything the crowd demanded, from Nirvana to CSNY.  And just when the drunken buffoonery reached its max, Khan presented a late Cut Copy, whose flight was delayed…from Australia.

Running into that silly 10 p.m. curfew law that closed shop on Animal Collective the previous night, the Aussie club-hearts lit the last 30 minutes of that night aflame in pop-techno circusry; sweaty night thrusts, burning into brains with every camera flash:

Lights and music, are on my mind. Be my baby, one more time.

There were kids dancing without a clue as to why they were dancing. Synth-hook genius, indeed. But this was simply about sharing lights and music.

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