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Three of a kind

The last time I saw Dinosaur Jr. — the real Dino Jr., with Lou Barlow on bass and Murph drumming — it was the late ’80s, the Allston club Bunratty’s wasn’t even the now-defunct Local 186 yet, the drummer had hair, Mascis’s wasn’t gray, and you could still get into a 21-plus show with a fake ID. I’m also pretty sure I didn’t buy a ticket in advance — that, as at most club shows, I just paid a cover at the door. They were a band from Northampton, not Boston, and Bunratty’s was just another stop on a national tour supporting their latest album on the LA indie SST — probably 1988’s Bug. Those geographical distinctions lost relevance long ago, especially since Barlow went on to lead both Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion from Boston throughout the ’90s, until he and his wife bought a house in LA. But at the time they made all the difference in the world. The ’80s were a time of scenes: Boston had one, LA had one, and so did smaller cities like Athens, Minneapolis, and, yes, Northampton. Dinosaur Jr. were a proud-to-be-loud post-hardcore trio from Northampton I’d first heard on the San Francisco college station KUSF on a compilation put out by the NYC indie Homestead. These things mattered.

Although very little of that had any bearing on the original trio’s reunion show last Friday at Avalon, there were echoes of the indie past in way the crowd greeted the band. Mascis may be Dino’s soloing frontman — he soldiered on without Barlow and then without Murph well into the ’90s — but it was Barlow who received the warmest home-town welcome: the low, rumbling chorus of "Loooooo" that welled up from the audience as the band took the stage, Mascis fiddled with his infamous pedals and stacks, and Lou strapped on the Rickenbacker bass that was once as crucial to the trio’s sound as J’s guitar heroics. And with Barlow strumming chords rather than playing single notes, his aggressive/melodic bass once again laid a foundation for Mascis’s loud/louder/even louder walls of guitar that made those first three Dino discs so distinctive. There were no surprises, no warm embraces, no conciliatory gestures: Mascis, Barlow, and Murph stuck to a potent script that included the best material from those first three discs, right down to an encore of the Cure’s "Just like Heaven" into "Freak Scene."


Issue Date: July 22 - 28, 2005
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