Before Dinosaur Jr. took the stage last night to play its debut album in its entirety, superfan Henry Rollins told the packed house at Bowery Ballroom what he thought about Dinosaur, released in 1985: “It was a standout record then, it is a standout record now.”
After introducing the last of seven sold-out shows commemorating the album’s 30th anniversary, Rollins took a seat in the balcony and literally rocked (back and forth) the whole night as J Mascis, Murph, and a bearded, curly-haired Lou Barlow were joined by a slew of surprise guests. (Rollins wasn’t the only celeb in the audience: standing next to us were comics Eugene Mirman and Jon Benjamin.)
The on-stage cameos started with fellow Massachusetts native Evan Dando, a “young man who was raised on the same music that we were raised on,” joining Mascis for “Cat in the Bowl.”
After a run-through of Dinosaur and an intermission, the band played “Start Choppin'” with Lynn Truell sitting in on drums and her Imperial Teen bandmate Roddy Bottum (also of “Faith No More!!!”, as an audience member reminded him) on guitar.
Later, after the obligatory performance of “Feel the Pain,” Barlow introduced Kurt Vile and set the mood for “Crumble” by telling a story about Vile: “He and Jesse [Trbovich, of the Violators] were cruising in a car, probably somewhere, I don’t know, a dark road somewhere in Pennsylvania. This song, the next song we’re going to play, came on and Kurt was having a moment with it he was like, ‘Wow, this sounds just like old Dinosaur, Jr., this is a great song.’ Kurt Vile — who, of course, loves music, as we all know — is having a musical moment driving in his car late night — a romantic scene, to say the least — and then he was sideswiped by another car. Sideswiped! His car was spinning around.” Barlow said, half-seriously, that Vile was “doing this song to conquer the terrible memories of his near-death experience.”
After that moment of #healing, Stephen McBean of Pink Mountaintops and Black Mountain hit the stage for “Raisans” and then Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth joined in to howl the vocals of “Little Fury Things.” That was a bit of a treat, since Ranaldo had joined in on previous evenings but sat out Tuesday’s show, despite being in the audience.
Next up: a cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “Thorn,” featuring Kevin Shields himself. Lou Barlow said it was his favorite MBV song and recalled hearing it for the first time at a “shitty” dance club in England. “I was like, what the fuck is this?”
Then John Brannon came on and pummeled through a couple of songs by his own Negative Approach (“one of our favorite bands,” Barlow said) before he was joined by none other than Kim Gordon for a scorching cover of Dinosaur’s “Don’t.” (Gordon and Mascis teamed up to release a new song, “Slow Boy,” this past summer.)
Finally, it was time for the encore, an equally spirited cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.” Ranaldo and McBean shared vocals, Shields chipped in on guitar, and Gordon worked the tambourine, as you can see in the video at the top of this page.
Needless to say, it was awesome to see Sonic Youth bandmates Gordon and Ranaldo sharing a stage again (last time we saw Ranaldo at Bowery Ballroom, he was in the audience watching Thurston Moore play). And it made for an epic end to a week-long run that also included appearances by Tony Hawk, Mike Watt, Todd Barry, Bob Mould, Fred Armisen, Julia Cafritz, Frank Black, Eleanor Friedberger.
Happy 30th, Dinosaur Jr., and happy 50th birthday, J Masics. We’ll definitely be heeding Henry’s advice and seeing you again next year.