Photo by Tenaya HillsThe Grove of Anaheim
Tuesday, Aug. 16
Reunions are a mindfuck: "Who got fat?" "Who still hates who?" "Who's not going to show?" Even though the Dinosaur Jr. reunion at the Grove wasn't a high school reunion, it sometimes felt like it. Alaska! (exclamation point theirs) started the evening apparently just tuning their instruments until they suddenly tuned into their first song: tight, anthemic indie rock ready-made for the next soundtrack to The O.C. It wasn't bad so much as sterile—they felt less like a band than an idea for a band. Drunk Horse was next for a slightly larger audience: with a David Crosby-looking guitarist, a boogie-rock rhythm section and Thin Lizzy dual lead guitars, it was obvious the corpse of the 1970s was about to be flogged. At one point, the lead guitarist even did a John Paul Jones thing and sat down at the electric piano. The music then devolved commensurately, 1970 to 1976 reenacted over the course of a song: "How innovative!" to "Christ, stop!" Then the beasts we came to see: Dinosaur Jr., who created a mix of hardcore, metal, folk, English new wave and psyche when they were young and didn't know they were supposed to reject everything that came before punk rock, who pointed the way for bands like Nirvana to work the same musical mixology and explode. Singer/guitarist J Mascis looked a bit like a witch with his long, white-gray hair, and when he wasn't singing, he swayed from side to side or back and forth, the sum total of his physical performance. Bassist Lou Barlow responded to early cries about the inability to hear the vocals by explaining that J had a cold, but 20 years ago, Dinosaur Jr. was a ridiculously loud band with half-mumbled singing, so it wasn't much of a surprise, anyway. Drummer Murph just dripped sweat and looked like he was enjoying himself—not everyone gets to relive their youth somewhere other than the inside of their own heads. The set list was entirely from the band's first three albums—the J/Lou/Murph years, before Dinosaur Jr. became entirely Mascis' vehicle—and original high-water mark You're Living All Over Me got the majority of time. Still, they didn't completely avoid the reunion-tour clichs: as they stepped offstage momentarily and returned for a short encore, their cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" gave the floppy, shaggy crowd a final bit of double nostalgia—the perfect 1980s teen-movie prom-scene song.