DINOSAUR JR @ Festival d'été de Québec

By Alex Huynh - Losing My Edge - 07/16/2005

"Ça sonne en crisse"

Can you fuckin' believe it? A semi-legendary band reunites and promises to only play their peak output? While Dinosaur Jr continued to exist throughout the 90's and even managed to score an MTV hit with "Feel The Pain", it did so essentially with only J.Mascis carrying the name on. That was a different beast from the one who were the symbol of lost potential, as their three releases (Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me, Bug) took their hardcore roots and infused some post-punk, pop, sludgy riffs and of course, the solos to create a blueprint for 90's alternative rock, a movement led by Nirvana. To coincide with the reissue of said albums (through Merge Records), the trio put aside their well-documented differences for a reunion tour.

Riding in cars reeking of gasoline and enduring the rancid burns of the proud sponsor of the Molson Dry stage can make one question the chosen setting, especially in an outdoor festival and emphatically not in Montreal. However, once Dinosaur Jr hit the audience with that first blast of sheer punishing sound, the world only existed on stage and the banners disappeared. Make no mistake, while this was a reunion show, the members have been keeping busy (J.Mascis as mentioned above, Lou Barlow with Sebadoh, Folk Implosion and other side projects). Finally, the egos and issues have been cast aside and here were three more mature musicians on top of their game hitting all the right notes of their classic songs, something they were not always able to do.

It was impossible to reconciliate the sounds of J.Mascis' guitar with the image of him nailing the just-another-day-at-the-office look. Like a true indie rock guitar hero, Mascis ripped out the most insane solos yet managed to always leave space for Barlow and Murph. His only interaction with the audience was a bunch of thank you's delivered in the indecipherable way that must have driven Barlow crazy. For his part, the bassist brought the heavy element to Dinosaur Jr and rocked out like a frontman. "The Lung" felt like living in a world where music is always good and throughout the show, the intensity never let up and the kids were loving it -- though Quebec was never one to pass up on a moshing/body-surfing opportunity.

Ending the first encore, which was kicked off by their asshole-tearing version of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven", Dinosaur Jr got around to "Freak Scene" after a night filled with enthusiastic requests for it. With the whole audience jumping in frenzy and delivering the song's last line ("don't let me fuck up, will you/'cause when I need a friend, it's still you") sans J.Mascis, it was finally understood what a life-changing juggernaut this could have been to many. Their transcending songs built on feelings of alienation and on dysfunctional dynamics are just as fresh and vital as they were before the grunge explosion. And lest we forget, it sounds fuckin' tight and heavy, and the solos are insane.

In Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life, the Dinosaur Jr chapter ends with a high and drunk Barlow running into Mascis a few weeks after "Smells Like Teen Spirit" broke and lamented that it could've been them. On this night, we were in an alternate universe. Their chapter doesn't end in 1988, "Freak Scene" is this generation's anthem and on the Molson Dry stage played The Biggest Band In The World.

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