J Mascis @ the Olio Festival
As the central figure in the underground act Dinosaur Jr., with a huge catalogue of work compiled over the last two decades, J Mascis surely needs little introduction. However, the indie rock icon has certainly stripped things down on many levels since those early formative years.
The warm acoustics that can be found on his latest solo effort Several Shades of Why were certainly evident on this night, when Mascis appeared in support of the 3rd annual Olio Festival. Gone was that shear blistering wall of noise and distortion; replaced by a quiet stage presence, a black music stand and a tiny glowing light.
I arrived early, standing in line with a dozen others, when not 5 minutes later, Mascis appeared; where he seemed content to chat and smoke. Upon finishing his last cigarette, he walked past us, while numerous fans exclaimed “J”! one went on to say “playing anything off Bug tonight J?” (referencing the 1988 album) at which point Mascis stated: “fuckin’ right man” and headed back to his dressing room.
The lineup swelled as people seemed happy to enjoy the buzz and banter. Upon the doors opening, the merch table was aligned with CD and vinyl copies of the latest record, tees and stickers. Inside, the seats were plush and comfortable as this venue seems to take us back to simpler times. I saw fans checking out and experimenting with seats, trying to find the best sightlines.
I observed some of the opening act The Dirty Mags huddled in a corner near the stage, conversing with various stage crew and roadies. As guests continued to trickle in, they took the stage shortly after 9:00. Treating arrivals to songs like: “Liar”, “Blood Sweats”, and “Mine Forever”, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the harsher sides of Nirvana and The Strokes; but underneath it all there was a dark brooding foundation of southern blues rock. They capped off an eight song set with some solid beats and a tune called “Mainline” which seemed rather impressive to say the least.
J Mascis took the stage shortly after 10:00, clad in flannel and a t-shirt he was quite mellow upon entering. He seemed pleased with the intimate atmosphere and subdued seated crowd. With an acoustic plugged in guitar, Mascis started the show with songs from Several Shades of Why. “Listen to Me” “Not Enough” and the title cut stood out. Songs filled the room and I couldn’t help but find him reminiscent of Neil Young up there. Later he showcased some very impressive work on the fingerboard, especially on such Dino tunes as “Ocean in the Way” from 2009’s Farm and “The Wagon” from 1991’s Green Mind. Also somewhat surprisingly, a cover Edie Brickell’s “Circle of Friends” was added to the 14 song set. A single two song encore capped off a pleasantly simple evening and I probably wouldn’t expect it any other way.
To Hear an Audio Review: http://soundcloud.com/cjsfa/scott-white-j-mascis