J. Mascis, the singer and guitarist for early 90’s Massachusetts indie rock legends Dinosaur Jr., played at Nashville’s Exit/In on Wednesday night.
Australian folk duo Luluc picked up another set in support of Mascis after the scheduled opener, former Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew, cancelled his tour for personal reasons. Songs mostly came from the pair’s most recent album, Passerby, which was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National.
They established a mood of elegiac folk Americana that Mascis would blend with his ’80s hardcore and metal influences.
Mascis is touring in support of his fourth solo album, Tied to a Star, which was released through Sub Pop in August. Like Several Shades of Why, his 2011 debut with Sub Pop, Star largely eschews Dinosaur Jr.’s fuzz-saturated guitar heroism sound for more acoustically-driven compositions.
Although several of Star’s tracks feature backing instrumentation, Mascis sat alone on the Exit/In stage with two Gibson acoustics running through a couple distortion pedals, a looper, and a Vox amp.
Mascis played “Me Again,” “Every Morning,” “Stumble” and “Drifter” from the new album.
A fierce defender of the soaring, extended solo in a genre and time that prized technical imprecision as an expression of punk-rock sincerity, Mascis stepped on his pedals and interjected hard-edged tones and dramatic, squealing string-bends into his pastoral strumming and wistful Neil Young moaning.
In the live setting, this gave mixed results. Sometimes, as with “Every Morning,” Star‘s lead single, and his set’s closer “Alone,” Mascis recreated Dinosaur Jr.’s winning formula of blending hardcore punk energy with melody, with Mascis’s solos exploding into existence with exuberant, urgent, howling pitch bends.
However, for his solo renditions of early-period Dinosaur Jr. songs like “Little Fury Things” and “Pond Song,” kicking on the fuzz was predominately jarring.
“Alone,” from Dinosaur Jr.’s 1998 album Hand it Over, boasted the set’s final, longest and best solo. Mascis’s fretwork is hypnotic as he hunches studiously over his guitar. His style represents a tension between heavy metal riffing and sweep-picking and a lyrical use of sustain, like a more reserved Ron Asheton (The Stooges).
Leading into “Alone” was “Not You Again,” from 1991’s Whatever’s Cool With Me. Mascis rendered the song sweetly before launching into a minimalistic, chugging palm-muted riff.
For his encore, he took requests, ultimately playing a thrashy rendition of “Repulsion,” from Dinosaur Jr.’s 1985 debut Dinosaur.
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