21st March | SWX
Photos: Rowan Allen
Upon entering SWX for a show of this nature, a feeling of disorientation fills the air. It’s as if you’ve stumbled somewhere unintentional. The large space usually acts as a club on most occasions, and thus possesses such interior to fit such an event. The surprisingly well-kept flooring and side bars are all built to host a large amount of revellers with the intention of letting loose to anything with a beat, regardless of character.
Before this descends into a Tripadvisor review of SWX, there is relevance in the venue tonight, as it proves a factor in what makes their guests, Dinosaur Jr, sound absolutely crystal clear despite their unwavering loudness, and deliver an uncompromising, excellent set.
Dinosaur Jr are unquestionably strident, not quite to a level of ear-piercing discomfort, but loud enough to satiate those in attendance that love this band for that very reason. So when everything rings with surprising clarity, it unveils just what strong songwriters this band are, and little by little unveils the sentiment and anxiety that runs through their music. J Mascis, the perennial focal point of the group, is in effortless and flawless form; his playing fills the cavernous room and his bellowed murmur carries the full sensibility of the band.
The band settle early into cuts from Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not: riffs exude from Marshall cabs that are stacked upon each other. They practically enclose J in a semi-circle of cacophony, as the rhythm section really puts some exuberant bands to shame with their tightness and fluidity. It can’t be overstated just what a formidable guitarist Mascis is, especially live.
The solos leave you reeling as he reminds you just how much he can rip through ‘Knocked Around’ and ‘Freak Scene’ and make them sound joyous. As much as it seems like the age of such a guitarist has passed, Dinosaur Jr are full proof that perhaps that shouldn’t be the case.
The crowd is a mix of the die-hard and the influenced. It actually makes for a healthy demographic, showing the band’s continued relevance as decades and tastes have changed. Much like Yo La Tengo, they’ve been prolific in crafting a rich back catalogue, and when they get the chance during a full set to explore it, it’s a treat for fans new and old.
A one-two salvo of ‘Out There’ and ‘Feel The Pain’ draws a mighty bellow and the first pit from the crowd as they really tear into some of the more melancholic songs from their repertoire. It’s just the same as they close out with ‘In A Jar’ and ‘Tarpit,’ deep cuts from a classic album that still carry the same engrossing power.
Sometimes everything just pieces together, and band, crowd, and venue are all as one – as we see tonight. It reinforces how Dinosaur Jr are heavyweights at what they do, yet what is most impressive is how they’ve retained such an independence and integrity that belies their size. The size and the devotion of the crowd in attendance at SWX provides ample proof of this.