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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Still Freaky

"Do you want to go and see J Mascis?" my friend asked me. "It's a solo set and it's 2500 yen." J Mascis. The man who was in the band that were responsible for one of my top three mardy teenage anthems. The man who seemed guitar solos seem like a decent idea. J Mascis. In Tokyo. At a tiny venue. For only two thousand five hundred yen. What do you think?

Fast forward to the night of the show and things have changed a little. The demand for tickets has been overwhelming so the show has been moved downstairs to the Liquid Room's main hall. Goodbye intimate venue. Still, it's J Mascis. Maybe he'll play Freak Scene and all of this won't seem so bad.

The lights dim and the MC comes on stage. I get the main gist of what he says: it's eighteen years since the classic Dinosaur Jr line-up separated. Now they've got back together and have recorded a new album of original material which is called Beyond. Tonight, we are going to be the first people in Japan to hear this new album. Suddenly two and half grand seems like an insanely low price for this show. Not only are we going to hear the first new Dinosaur Jr album in almost twenty years (one guy near me tells his friend that he was only two when the band split), we're going to hear played by J Mascis himself. The lights go all the way down, the audience falss silent... and somewhere off stage a CD player clicks on and everything becomes clear. We are indeed going to hear the new Dinosaur Jr album, but on CD.

The new songs sound fantastic - the perfect fusion of both sides of Dinosaur Jr: the SST days of J, Lou and Murph, and the later era of Start Choppin' and Feel The Pain. I barely give a fuck though. Two thousand five hundred yen for this? Where's J Mascis? Is he going to come on at the end and strum a couple of songs before heading back to his hotel? I'm starting to get the feeling that we've all been had and this is nothing more than a glorified in-store appearance.

I need to do something about this. I want the promoters, the venue owners, Mascis himself, to know that they can't get away with this kind of shite. I have two small plastic cups and a half-full bladder. My options are limited but it's better than mute acceptance.

The album comes to an end. Just under an hour ago this venue was buzzing with expectation, but now the audience shuffles around, not able to muster anything like the same level of enthusiasm. The MC comes back on stage and launches into another spiel. "Wasn't the album great?" "Don't the band sound fantastic?" "Let's have a look at what you could have won." OK, I made that last one up but you get the picture. I decide that drastic measures need to be taken and hand the two plastic cups to my girlfriend. As I fumble about in the semi-darkness the MC says something about J Mascis and the crowd seem to be re-energised. The MC buggers off.

Grey haired and looking how a sane Daniel Johnston might, J Mascis shambles onto the stage and proceeds to play one of the best shows I have ever seen. Clouds part, the cups tumble to the floor and all thoughts of starting a riot disappear from my mind. Mascis seems to be a little confused about the running order of the evening, as he tells that he won't be playing anything from the new album since we're going to hear it all soon anyway. It doesn't matter, it just seems like the kind of thing he would say.

About halfway through what is basically a greatest hits set he plays Freak Scene. I am transported back to my teenage years and beyond, into that realm where a song is much more than just chords, melody and lyrics. Instead, it becomes a force that resonates through to the very core of your being and leads you to write overblown and overlong sentences like these in a vain attempt to convey just how good it is. I don't stop smiling for the rest of the evening and the only place I piss is in the toilet.