Event Review: J Mascis
Double Door, Chicago, IL
When thinking back on the previous ten years that I have been a fan of Dinosaur Jr./J Mascis, there is a certain void where youths usually are able to fill in tales, myths, and legends of their favorite rock stars. The three-month/year drinking and drug binge, five porn stars in one night, etc. I have no stories. And I like this. I do not want to see my musical hero in fifteen years, wrinkled and older, wondering where all of the good times and stories have gone. Like Mick Jagger. Instead, I want the music to fill that void so I am not looking at a sixty-year old man, unsure of whether I am seeing a rock concert or an ad for Viagra.
I walked into the Double Door around 10:30 and caught the end of Hot Dog City's set. It was way mellower than what I expected Cobra Verde, the following band, to be and at about 11:00 my prediction rang true at an apical decibel that probably would have made Pete Townshend cringe. If anyone mistakenly came to the Double Door expecting J Mascis with The Fog (his backing band), Cobra Verde supplied an ample substitute of sound for those who masochistically seek out ringing or bleeding ears.
Finally, at around midnight, Mascis walked out, The Fog nowhere in sight as he is on an acoustic tour right now, still wearing the exact same outfit as he was earlier in the evening when I spoke with him (giving me a sort of satisfaction to know he doesn't change his clothes to go on stage). Offering only the slightest acknowledgments and greetings to the crowd, Mascis was taciturn as usual. That was perfectly fine with me because I skipped the Tenacious D concert the week before on purpose. So when he immediately went into "Thumb" and followed it up with "What Else is New," these songs stripped down to their essence, which is such a stark contrast from the "ear bleeding" noise of Dinosaur Jr./J Mascis and The Fog concerts, the crowd knew they were in for a great evening that was only going to get better.
He played through a set that sounded like a J Mascis Anthology, touching on early masterpieces like "Quest" and "Forget the Swan" to present day favorites like "Same Day" and "Waistin'." He even played a new song, "Everybody Let Me Down," a track he wrote for a recent Allison Anders movie, which was incredibly well received by the crowd and rumored to be on his next record. And there was something for everyone as Mascis closed the set alongside Cobra Verde, armed with electric guitar he proceeded to rip out what was a Stooges cover I believe, though after Cobra Verde's first appearance on stage I will admit my ears couldn't have differentiated a bomb explosion from a dog barking.
Overall, for fans of J Mascis, an acoustic evening is so important to the overall experience of his music. Songs from the albums sound so crisp and textured while the live electric experience is so raucous and heavy it leaves the listener overwhelmed when it's over. And then there is the acoustic concert, Mascis, alone, with no feedback or fuzz or distortion to mask what are undeniably some of the best songs to come out of the 80's, 90's, and now the 21st century.
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