Dinosaur Jr. Performs "Bug" at Belly Up Tavern
Featuring Pierced Arrows and Henry Rollins
A sizeable crowd packed the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Tuesday, December 13, for a special show by resurrected indie stalwarts, Dinosaur Jr. This current tour features a pre-show interview of the members of the band by ex-Black Flag frontman and current radio host Henry Rollins, followed by Dinosaur Jr. performing their 1988 album Bug in its entirety. Portland, Oregon based band Pierced Arrows opened the show with a fast-paced set of sloppy (I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense) garage punk. Snarling vocal duties were shared between the husband and wife duo Fred and Toody Cole, while drummer Kelly Halliburton mercilessly pounded the drums.
Henry Rollins came on stage to give a brief introduction to the band, and Bug, saying that some of the stops on this tour have seen Dinosaur Jr at the peak of their game. Guitarist J Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow, and drummer Murph (real name Emmett Murphy) joined Rollins on stage and the dialogue that emerged focused on Dinosaur Jr.’s early days - what kind of trials they faced as a fledging punk band, how their sound evolved over the years and other bands that influenced them. Sometimes the band had a hard time getting a word in, Rollins’s questions were layered and complex, but it was readily apparent that Rollins has a deep appreciation for Dinosaur Jr. as musicians. Lou Barlow remarked that they actually felt quite lucky to follow in the footsteps of bands like Black Flag, which did the heavy touring and winning over of fans in the early 80s that paved the way for bands like Dinosaur Jr. Dino Jr.’s first tour was a two-week trip as the opening band for Sonic Youth. Not a shabby start at all.
After the interview finished, Dinosaur Jr took the stage and ripped through all the songs on Bug. What really stands out is the volume. J Mascis doesn’t play with a half-stack amplifier; he doesn’t play with a full-stack amplifier; he plays with three full-stacks fanned out behind him. That is six four-by-twelve-inch speaker cabinets. Lou Barlow isn’t any quieter; not only does he use a full eight-by-ten-inch Ampeg cabinet, he also uses a full Marshall cabinet stack. You can feel Dinosaur Jr’s songs in your body. Barlow plays the bass like it’s a guitar, and spent the whole set strumming out full chords on his Rickenbacker. Layered on top of this is Mascis’s grungey and yet melodic guitar sound. He plays extended solos that never seem to repeat a phrase or measure.
One lucky fan got to join the band onstage to sing the vocals on “Don’t” and did a superb job. Dinosaur Jr. returned for an encore of several non-Bug songs that included “Out There” from the 1993 album Where You Been, “Feel the Pain” from the 1994 album Without a Sound, and a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” The cover wasn’t a surprise; Dinosaur Jr has been covering the song since 1989, with the immediately recognizable Mascis interpretation of the melody, and of course, an extended guitar solo.