BEING THERE: J. Mascis @ World Cafe Live

Photo by DAN LONG

It was a cool, clear and serene early autumn Thursday in Philadelphia when J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame played an uncharacteristically intimate, largely acoustic set downstairs at World Cafe Live in support of his new album, Tied To A Star. And yet, despite this being a picture-perfect setting for an awesome concert by a legendary alt-rock figure, it was probably the most awkward show I’ve ever been to in my life. Seemingly everyone in the 200-plus person crowd was aged north of 35. Everyone except me. So, I wondered if it was just me and asked a few of my fellow audience members what they made of it. Did they find it awkward at all? But after getting answers like “NO WAY” or “You just don’t understand how he gets down,” I found myself more puzzled than ever. But I guess you have to understand the show from my perspective. First of all — and what I am about to disclose may negate the need for a second of all or a third of all — I was born two years AFTER You’re Living All Over Me was released. But since then, I have been to a lot of shows and it is invariably some combination of talent, effort and establishing a connection with the audience that keeps everyone involved and happy. The artist usually comes out with lots of energy, greets the crowd, maybe even slaps a hand or two just to get people into the show. Instead, Mascis just came out, sat down, put a book on the music stand and, without saying a word, launched into “Listen To Me,” from his 2011 solo album, Several Shades Of Why. He stops after a few bars and says “It got really quiet in here,” then continues on for four songs — “Me Again,” “Little Furry Things,” “Ammaring” and “Every Morning” — without even looking up except to take a big gulp from his beverage. As I looked around the room, I saw around 20-30 people actually moving to the music, which I found a bit weird, given the listlessness of it all. Also, you know how when you’re at a show and you hear the first three seconds to a song you like and the crowd starts cheering in recognition of and excitement for the song that’s about to be performed? That happened only happened three times last night during a set that lasted about an hour and a half. After his last song he encored with an electric, and admittedly electrifying, version of “Flying Cloud,” rocked out, mumbled a “Thanks” and walked off. Later, after I’d expressed my confusion about what I had just witnessed, my editor explained to me that trying didn’t become popular until long after Mascis’ career had begun and by then it was too late to teach the old dog some new tricks. — CLAYTON RUSSELL

SECOND OPINION: Funny how two people can see the same show, but have such different views on it. Where I was, people were singing along to almost every song. Lots of hootin’ & hollerin’. It was weird – J. was sort of a Rain Man version of Bruce Springsteen with the acoustic set. No doubt, he’s a strange bird. But there is no denying J.’s absolute mastery of the guitar. The man is a fucking beast. An innovative, proficient, dreamy, and ballsy guitarist. One third of the time, he kicked in the distortion/overdrive on the acoustic & shredded. Good show. And, FWIW, actually came out to do an encore even after house lights started to come up. — DAN LONG