Live Review: J Mascis at The Cluny, Newcastle

Part i – minor gripes

…I do wish that I’d got an earlier train, plus this one’s delayed and it stops at Chester-le-Street. I don’t enjoying running to gigs, I like taking my time, stopping off for a McDonalds strawberry milkshake on the way (oh the wonders)…

…I’ve chosen a spot by the stairs that lead to the bar, now anyone who fancies a drink or is just coming back from fetching one gives an ‘excuse me mate’ as they barge past. The support act could be a bit more interesting as well; handsome man meets handsome woman, but they’re as captivating as a conversation with Chris Martin about the colour grey. This chat-incessant audience aren’t really giving them a chance though (but alas! Geordies will be Geordies)…

…The sound’s a bit off, I wish someone would fix one of those dodgy sounding leads (Leeds Leeds Leeds)…

…Running for a bus. 10pm’s a stupid time for a last train home anyway…

…Bus was late (“No excuse, there’s no traffic around” the old guy next to me in the station keeps saying). I didn’t have to run after all. This bus is so rickety and in an open letter to that drunk woman that’s telling the whole top deck her life story:

Dear Lady,

please stop…

…I wish I wasn’t such a miserable bastard…

Part ii – J Mascis

J Mascis looks like a wizard, a wizard dressed like a 14 year old boy on ‘non-uniform day’: baseball cap, a graffitied T shirt, and baggy washed jeans. He doesn’t speak much, if at all.

The lead vocalist/guitarist of Dinosaur Jr. is out on the road alone, playing a mixture of solo stuff and Dino classics. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal, each song usually begins with J (whose real name turns out to be Joseph, a bit less Homer Simpson than I was hoping…) playing either a sequence of chords or a riff, he then records this using the pedal, sings over it in a voice that sounds like a pubescent teenager (sorry to mention the Simpsons again, but think this guy) and then plays a solo on the electrified acoustic (you can feel the wooden casing about to snap at any moment)

So all in all an average night then?

Well, no. In fact, not at all…

Each of these elements is perfect in its own right. The riffs and chords are gorgeous, his voice is awkward and broken but works beautifully, drawing out emotion in every word. And as for his solos? holy shit! This man knows his way around the neck of a guitar. Not once did anyone present tonight get lost during one of his solos, not once did someone think he took it a bit far, that he over exercised in self-indulgence, but at the same time not once did anyone feel he left something out, ending a song short. Each solo showed incredible technical ability, as well as spotlessly fitting the mood and feel of the track it belonged to. At times it felt like his guitar was speaking to each and every one of us in that room, taking us on a journey of bends, and turns, and slides.

Most importantly he knew when to stop.

And how can I feel so sure speaking on behalf of everyone else?, well because of the deafening response to everything J played tonight, that’s how (Plus there’s the fact that I usually hate solos. Usually, that is…)

And sure the audience were here for his Dinosaur stuff, that’s a given, but the J Mascis stuff went down brilliantly as well (see “Every Morning” or the opener “Listen to me”), as the did the few odd covers he chose (Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ and an encore of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’).

‘Listen to Me’

But the highlight? Well it was always going to ‘Get Me’, It’s a near perfect-song. The vocals that switch intermittently, unpredictably from squeaky to deep, the flurry of notes that make the riff, and the finest of all J’s solos.

Whilst he’s playing “Just Like Heaven” I headed to the exit, waiting by the door until he finished and then legged it.

I had a bus to catch…

‘Get Me’

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