Dinosaur Jr. Rock L.A. Like It's 1989

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Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis / Photo by Amy Wallenberg
WRITTEN BY
Liam Gowing

Music fans are wise to be leery when they see phrases like "all-original lineup" and "long-anticipated reunion tour" followed by that cracked-out whore of the punctuation world -- the exclamation point. We all know what she's hiding: The fact that the band members are broke and temporarily putting aside mutual hatred for quick cash.

And while that initially seemed to apply to indie rock progenitors Dinosaur Jr.'s latest tour, the trio proved otherwise Monday night at West Hollywood's Troubadour, limiting their onstage banter to a "thank you" here and a "here's a new one" there to allow the music do the talking. And it spoke very, very, very loudly.

Standing in front of three Marshall stacks fed by a fourth Fender amp and countless effects, Mascis -- looking every bit the guitar-geek Gandolf with his flowing white hair -- unleashed an aural assault on opener "Tarpit" from 1987's You're Living All Over Me. And with original low-ender Lou Barlow (who rejoined in 2005 after a 16-year absence) aggressively strumming his distorted bass and Murph pounding the skins in barely controlled chaos, he never let up.

The sold-out crowd was witnessing an entirely new Dinosaur: Mascis and Barlow didn't come to blows, nor did Mascis take over for Murph on drums. And though these dudes have never been exactly glowing beacons of happiness onstage, they did seem to not hate each other -- a far cry from their 2005 reunion tour, which, Barlow has admitted, "was all engineered by the manager" in order to "make all this money." For Dinosaur Jr. clichés hold true: time does heal wounds.

For listeners who've only heard Dinosaur Jr. on record, the group's live show is a real ear-opener, the songs little manifestos: 1993's "Out There" was a Bloody-er Valentine; 1987's "Sludge Feast" was a sonnet to atom-smashing noise. And by the time it was all over, Dinosaur Jr. had firmly reestablished themselves as the missing link between hardcore and shoegaze, Sonic Youth and Neil Young.

But the beauty of the show was seeing how well the songs from their excellent June release, Farm, compared to the oldies. Although the greatest applause accompanied the tempo-shifting 1994 hit "Feel the Pain," the five Farm tracks the trio played -- including the instantly likable rambler "Over It" -- had all the punch of the old favorites and a touch more sparkle.

In fact, as Mascis broke from his characteristic warbling on another of Farm's bumper crops, "I Want You to Know" -- and actually sang its pleading hook "Stay with me" -- one couldn't help but hope he was directing the lyrics at Barlow and Murph... and that they'd listen.

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