Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
A healthy showing turned up at Union Transfer last night to see the Philly stop of Dinosaur Jr.’s tour in support of their latest release, 2016’s Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. The evening’s warm-up was Easy Action, their vocalist, John Brannon, a seasoned performer whose resume includes fronting the early 80s hardcore band Negative Approach and The Laughing Hyenas. Hailing from Detriot, Easy Action fully embraces the gritty rock n’ roll of their hometown, finding room to maneuver creatively within that space between proto-punk and hardcore. With an intense glare and mashed upper lip, Brannon screamed and yowled as the band plowed through its material, loud-n-fast its welcome M.O.
With 32 years as a touring band now behind them, Dinosaur Jr. ably sorted through their extensive catalogue, giving the new album its due but not at the expense of their most celebrated and seminal work, songs like “Thumb,” “Super Fury Things,” and “Freak Scene” garnering the heaviest responses from the evening’s attendees. Vocalist/guitarist J Mascis remains a study in understated showmanship. Cradled by stacks of Marshall amps, his fingers engaged his guitar’s frets from pure repetition and memory, his gaze fixed onto his instrument when he wasn’t singing. In contrast, bassist Lou Barlow [pictured], his unfurled nest of hair keeping his face covered most of the evening, bounced and rocked, strumming his bass from the neck as his head flailed back and forth.
During one of the band’s few interactions with its audience, Barlow scolded a member of the crowd who was complaining about how the vocals were buried in the mix, telling him to stand by the PA if he wanted to hear singing as the music is very loud from the amplifiers. “Sorry that I yelled at you before,” Barlow later said. “Been thinking about it all night. I’m sorry.” Following a performance of “Forget the Swan” meant to end their set, Dinosaur Jr. reentered the stage for two encores, the last of which featured Easy Action’s Brannon tearing through a scorching rendition of “TV Eye” by The Stooges. It was our lost shot of adrenaline before the lights came on and the mass exodus out onto the street commenced. — SEAN CALDWELL