Watching the night’s patrons spill into the venue, I had some fun trying to determine the type of fan J Mascis can still attract. Obviously, some of the crowd that night were donning the parent outfit, having long ago let their nose holes heel and likely traded their Docs for Nikes and their dreds for baseball caps. Others were plaid-clad and horn-rimmed, PBRs in hand and iPhones ablazin’. Mascis, as prolific and iconic as he is, still matters to a great deal of people, generation gap be damned, so the intimacy of the World Café was just about perfect.
8pm rolled around quickly and the opener, Kurt Vile, along with his backup band The Violators, emerged an unkempt collective of hanging hair with instruments peeking out from underneath. Vile was polite to the crowd, but short on banter. He’d come up with stuff like, “This song is about a monkey.” Or, “You guys having a good weekend?” It was a Wednesday night, and when he realized that (and I did hear a few people say, “huh?”), he followed with the redemptive response, “Ha… Wednesday.” We laughed.
The amplification was thick and the chords were pure sludge. Vile was loud but decent. I got a sense of nostalgia watching him, as if I were witnessing Dinosaur Jr. Junior, The Violators generating enough noise and thrust to recall the days of the uncomfortable ‘90s rock persona.
By 9:05pm, Mascis was on and applause ensued. Mascis sat in front of a microphone and music stand, hunched over his guitar. His white hair was receptive to the overhead lights, as they would shift from yellow to red to green to blue and so on. He began with Listen To Me, the first song from his new solo album ‘Several Shades Of Why’. When he finished he said, “guess I’ll move along to the second song on the album,” which was a very beautiful rendition of the album’s title track. He followed that with a cover of Edie Brickell’s Circle Of Friends.
Though acoustic initially seemed the theme of the evening, Mascis would routinely transition into distortion for solos and, at times, rhythm. He’d record basic loops so he could work with the intricacies of the fretwork, keeping songs relatively whole and remaining attentive to whatever music was facing him, which often went beyond his solo album. A good amount of Dino songs made the cut along with some of his J Mascis and The Fog output. Get Me was particularly beautiful, Mascis’ vocals effortlessly projected and perfect.
Vile returned later to aid Mascis in performing Make It Right and Not Enough. Before Vile left the stage, he told Mascis, “See you tomorrow”. Nice moment.