Dinosaur Jr. Broke My Ears

The Neptune, Oct. 12th, 2012, Seattle, WA – Dinosaur Jr. was a big band during my college days back in the early 90’s.  They were one of the bands who helped make my transition from heavy metal to alternative rock an easier one.  Dinosaur Jr. had that alternative college rock sound but had a hard edge and a ripping guitar solo in every song that I responded to.

Green Mind was the big album at the time and the bands major label debut.  I’m just now reading up on the on Wikipedia on their history and learned a few things.  I knew they were from Western Mass, so there was some home town pride involved, but I was reminded (I swear I knew this at one point) that the bassist my friend Todd and I were standing inches from was Lou Barlow, the indie rock impresario who started the band with J. Mascis and who had his own seminal side project Sebadoh which he focused on after he was kicked out of the band.

So, with that aside – if you want to get more history, check out the Wikipedia page – let’s focus on the show itself.  Something else I didn’t know until hearing it among the crowd that night is how loud Dinosaur Jr. is live.  You don’t hear that mentioned often enough these days, that a band is loud.  Just that is so old school.  I loved them for that.  In looking at the stage set up they had going on, it was clear they were going to rock, they had a ton of equipment on the little stage and the stacks were pushed up near the front for maximum ear bleed potential.  On top of that, my friend Todd and I secured a spot really close to the stage near the beginning of the show.  We were right next to one of the PA speakers.

Todd, meet Mr. Speaker

At first, when Dinosaur Jr. played the first few songs, it felt like I wasn’t going to be able to make it.  My eardrums are pretty blown out at this point, so it’s not that I’m not used to some loud noise, but the sound was coming through so muddy.  I couldn’t make out the individual parts, it wasn’t a good clean sound.  This is something I’ve been more in tune to recently, and I worry that one of my favorite spots to see shows in Seattle – Neumos – suffers from band sound design.  Or no sound design.  I haven’t experienced that at the Neptune yet, but being right up front seemed to be a problem.

I kept looking over at Todd to see if he wanted to bail and to his credit he didn’t, we stuck it out, and it paid off.  After a few songs, my ears had built up enough tolerance and I started to be able to distinguish between the songs different parts.  And I loved that we were where we were for the show.  It’s rare that you get that good a spot without a crush of people behind you.  And, as it turns out we had one in front of the amazing Lou Barlow.

Lou Barlow

For me, rock n’ roll in a picture

I enjoyed every song, it was a ton of fun being that close.  I recognized only a few tracks – Dinosaur Jr has a huge catalog and I didn’t follow them too religiously back in the day – but watching those guys work and get so into it, Mascis and his amazing guitar work, while we leaned on the stage was a special thing.  It was fun to see on their bigger songs a fairly large mosh pit break out, not too often you see those these days, but I shouldn’t have been too surprised that it happened in Seattle.

This pic here of Lou Barlow got retweeted by the band @dinosaurjr – a geeky social media trend I’m digging, Dan Deacon favorited a post of mine recently.  Sorry for the bit of navel gazing, but I think it’s interesting how connected we can be to the artists these days, if you can consider Twitter engagement any kind of connection.

I look forward to the next time Dino Jr. comes to town, but for the ear hangover I had for days after, I might enjoy it from further back.

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