Dinosaur Jr. and Mike Watt

by Jack Diablo
Sometimes seeing genre-defining pioneers can be anti-climactic. You either grew up listening to the bands that paved the way for all that has happened since or you’ve done your homework and gone back to the source material that inspired your favorite artists. Either way, the potential for disappointment is high when it comes to these acts playing years after their prime.
But such was not the case on April 24th when indie legends Dinosaur Jr. and Mike Watt appeared at Freebird Live and rocked out in front of packed crowd.
Many bands are so full of themselves that they only put forth the effort when they feel the audience is worth the energy. But Mike Watt seems to thoroughly enjoy playing music regardless of how it’s perceived. Which isn’t to say that the crowd didn’t appreciate it – far from it. Watt has been around for years and it shows but he doesn’t let age prevent him from giving his performance all he’s got. Sweating and shouting like a hyperactive teenager, Watt proves you don’t have to “age-out” if you don’t want to.
One thing I can say for sure is that they simply aren’t making bassists like Mike Watt anymore. He shreds highly technical riffs that sound like funky indie rock but with a punk attitude and ferocity. Watt was joined by his backing band, The Missingmen, a pun on the short-lived band that launched his career, The Minutemen.
Dinosaur Jr. took the stage but not until pulling a fast one on us. Before they came out, a group of kids dressed up as the band came on first cleverly calling themselves Dinosaur Jr. Jr. The joke sort of bombed so they did what they do best and proceeded to play loud indie music that isn’t afraid to rock. And I do mean loud. Frontman J Mascis took his place in front of one of the most massive stacks of amps I’ve seen on the Freebird stage and hammered out face melting solos. Like most eccentric musical geniuses, Mascis remained relatively stoic during the performance even though the music was loud and raucous. It’s pretty amazing to see these passive looking guys play such aggressive music and it’s no wonder why so many popular alternative bands in the early nineties counted Dinosaur Jr. as a major influence.
As a special bonus, those in attendance at the show could trade in their ticket for a free limited edition 7″ or mp3 download. The recording is from a Pitchfork.tv performance and only available at the shows.
After various lineup changes, side projects, and ensuing drama, Dinosaur Jr. reunited three years ago and have been touring and recording steadily ever since. Putting past differences aside, J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph are working hard to keep the sound they pioneered relevant and respected. Since their reunion they’ve reissued the first three albums and released Beyond in 2007 on Fat Possum Records. Now on indie label, Jagjaguwar, the band expects to release their new album, Farm, this June.