is falling apart on stage and it is wonderful. His band Lou
Barlow and the Missingmen have spent more time tuning, griping
and collapsing midsong than anything else. “This is our third
show. They’ve all been disasters in their own way,” Barlow
quips, smiling. “We love you Lou!” someone shouts to reassure
him. But Barlow doesn’t need the reassurance. He seems to
be having a fun time accepting his dysfunction.
relate. I’ve just popped a Xanax. I’m 27, but I feel middle-age
tonight, neurotic, health-obsessed. There is a kink in my
back that could very well be a tumor or, more likely, the
ravages of sitting on dilapidated furniture (the kind of hand-me-down
couch a journalist’s salary allows). I’m sweating, and there
are too many people around. Oh, and did I mention I’m full
of regret—Dinosaur Jr. regret?
1993. I’m 12. My friend Ben switches his CD changer ahead
a track to skip the “boring track,” the one without distortion.
Fuzzed-out guitars swell. We head-bang and air-drum as the
album comes to a close. I tell Ben I like the Meat Puppets.
He scolds me: “Not hard enough.” The next CD is fuzzed out
like Smashing Pumpkins, but it’s just too messy for me; the
vocalist sounds old, and sort of country. It’s Dinosaur
Jr., and for some reason it just can’t hold our attention.
He skips forward to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” If only I had
the year 2000. I begin finding tracks by J. Mascis and the
Fog (the Dinosaur leader’s post-breakup/pre-reunion band)
on my Napster account. My dormmate has been using my computer
again. He didn’t read the student handbook’s section on personal
space. I take a quick listen. It’s messy and weird. Select
all; delete. If I had only sacrificed the hard-drive space.
there isn’t anything to regret and there isn’t anything more
right than Dinosaur Jr. Shockwaves from amps send pulse waves
through the air as Mascis puts his hands on the strings of
his Jazzmaster. Like a cross between Jerry Garcia and Jimi
Hendrix, Mascis tears the notes from his guitar, sending burning
distortion coursing through the crowd. His voice, in contrast,
sounds 100 years old, full of ache, grizzled, insecure, lost
and lonely. A protruding gut and long gray hair sell it even
harder. “I feel the pain of everyone/Then I feel nothing,”
he croaks. I’ve heard it so many times before, but it makes
my heart drop and my nerves stand on end.
slouches over his bass, pounding out thundering notes and
triumphant riffs that could easily be mistaken for Iron Maiden.
Barlow and Mascis’ notorious rivalry seems to play out on
stage as both thrash at each other with their instruments
in a cantankerous sonic duel. Earlier Barlow mentioned that
he had purchased a new amp. “That makes my rig taller than
Jay’s,” he laughed, adding, “I win.” The band’s cover of the
Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” is a treat terrorized by Barlow’s
screamed backup vocals.
new release, Farm, provides the highlight of the night.
Punctuated by Mascis’ heartfelt moan, “I Don’t Wanna Go There”
feels vital and important rather compared to their back catalog,
as new tunes from other reunited ’90s bands tend to.
isn’t perfect. Long tuning breaks leave the mostly 20s-and-under
crowd bored. There’s a sense of trepidation about when to
start a song or what song to actually play, and Mascis occasionally
seems distracted, more interested in gnashing piercing dissonance
from his guitar than actually playing. The stage is full of
the dysfunction—the big, sloppy guitar mess, the palpable
tension—that makes the show worthwhile. It feels so tenuous,
like it could explode into ugly distortion and failure at
any moment. Dinosaur Jr. aren’t perfect, but they wouldn’t
be worth a damn if they were.
at Proctors, Sept. 30
summer of 1968, two Schenectadians would graduate from Mont
Pleasant high school and go on to become innovative artists
with far- reaching influence in their respective fields. One
was filmmaker John Sayles, respected maker of low-budget films
with a social conscience. The other was an exchange student
by the name of Jean-Hervé Peron, a quiet Franco-German who,
upon returning to his native Germany, would become politically
radicalized and, in his own words, “a lot weirder looking.”
He’d also co-found Faust, the influential krautrock band who
would mix Velvet Underground-style noise with a Dada-esque
flair for the absurd and confrontational. So it was a homecoming
of sorts when Peron took the stage at Proctors’ GE Theater
last week during a rare visit to the States, joined by fellow
Faust founder Werner Diermaier on drums and younger British
upstarts James Johnston (guitar) and Geraldine Swayne (primarily
vocals, guitar, and keys).
reputation as pioneers of underground rock, I wondered how
weird the band would still be after all these years. I’m happy
to report that things started off plenty strange. As Swayne
commenced the show with a lullaby churned from a small music
box, Peron proceeded to pour water and small stones into a
twirling cement mixer, creating a whining drone that sounded
much like labored breathing. The band proceeded into a head-bobbing
groove punctuated by scarifying guitar bursts from Johnston.
The video accompaniment unfurled into the first 15 minutes
of F.W. Murnau’s classic film version of the Faust legend;
the band answered the dramatic opening scenes with a churn
that devolved into a recitation of various dictators and food
(“Pol Pot! George Custer! Stalin! Goat cheese!”).
overshadowed by the power of Murnau’s images on the big screen,
the band’s performance took a turn for the better when the
video stopped and Faust started to flesh out the art mayhem
with songs. Things were dominated (in a very good way) by
the stomp of Diermaier, an ogre of a man who punctuated his
pounding polyrhythms by occasionally bashing a piece of sheet
metal that hung near his head. While Peron played bass primarily,
he proved quite adept at trumpet and classical guitar, at
one point leading the audience into an extended rhythmic exercise
where the beats were subdivided by 1, 5 and 4—progressive
were also visits to some of the most accessible songs from
Faust IV: the playful “The Sad Skinhead,” and one of
my favorite songs of all time, the brooding “Jennifer,” a
direct precursor to where Radiohead and Mazzy Star would travel
20 years later. For the remainder of the show, the band hardly
touched the ground, taking the noise possibilities of White
Heat-era Velvet Underground into outer space, and making
their signature alchemic mixture of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and
Autobahn rhythm come to life, krautrock melting minds down
in old Schenectady.