Photo courtesy of Rock Star Diary’s Flickr, from the previous night’s Irving show
By Zach Baron
Last Friday, on the first of the month, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer put pen to paper and, with the indifferent ceremony of a man who’d never needed to go into a back alley in order to gift his son Yankees tickets, signed the state’s long-standing scalping laws out of existence. “Scalping laws did not make sense,” the Governor was quoted as saying. “This will be good for the venues, good for consumers and good for the artists.” Outside Irving Plaza, nearly a week later, the street vendors were still figuring the new order out: “Got tickets, tickets?” murmured the guy next to me, before remembering and, finding his voice, raised it. “GOT ANY TICKETS?”
Inside Dinosaur Jr, a band on the books as long any New York State law, were discovering particular old freedoms as well. “Come on life/ I’m almost ready,” sang J. Mascis, blank and shadowed, as always, by an impossible stack of amps. The occasion was the second night of the band’s two night stand (and long-awaited reunion) celebrating the release of their new record, Beyond, and the venue, on a temperate June evening, was full of people who couldn’t—even in this city—stop smiling. Or, for that matter, keep the Dino T-shirts off their backs: in the crowd was a murderers row of badly drawn T-shirts, stretching from 1983 all the way up to 2007. “Maybe I should get another one?” asked a friend.
How different could it have been, truly, in 1989, the last time these three—Mascis, Lou Barlow, Murphy—were together onstage? A mid-performance fist-fight between Barlow and Mascis ended that era, and tales still circulate of bassists in Dinosaur’s later incarnations stalking off stage in disgust while Mascis continued, obliviously, to solo. This was, in part, what we had come to see—a band that still may not like itself very much, scraping together songs about depression and loss and dissolution, yet up there, triumphant despite.
At Irving, for once, things looked easy. Barlow mocked the front row for desperately signaling a need for earplugs, while Mascis leaned back twenty years—mixed in with the crackling nostalgia of Beyond’s new tunes were the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” “Little Fury Things,” “Feel the Pain,” “Crumble,” “Freak Scene,” and, by way of an encore, “Bulbs of Passion” and “Raisans.” This was a band not ashamed of their own past, of their reunion, their new songs, their still long but solidly gray hair, their newfound 16-year-old fans.
The band ended their set asking, “Just don’t let me fuck up, will you?” and their encore by saying, as they did in ’87, “I’ll be down, I’ll be around”—two promises the three have kept beyond any reasonable expectation, whether ours or their own. Here’s to a few more years.