Monday, December 05, 2005

Dino Tone

Saw Dinosaur, Jr. on Friday at Irving Plaza.

MikeDot and I had seen them this past July in Central Park and it was an amazing show. Both of us came away from that grinning like fools and overpowered by the majesty of the rock.

Friday was a different vibe. For one thing, it was indoors. For another, I was literally at the foot of the stage, right in front of J. Mascis' stacks of amps. It's now Monday morning and I still can't hear any frequencies above 1.2K. Strangely, all my Husker Du and Sugar records sound great now.

Anyway, I saw two things in Mascis' playing that I thought were interesting. First, he has got so much volume and so much overdrive on his sound that he actually voices chords differently just to scale back the sound. For example, on Sludgefeast, he was basically just playing the root notes in the verse (A - F#), but it sounded like he was playing huge chords. I noticed this again and again during the set. It was very rare for him to play more than two strings when he was in fully-distorted mode.

Second, I was amazed at how relaxed his hands were. He was closer to the relaxed movements of an old jazz player than he was to the vise-like grip I see in so many rock guitarists. He got from place to place on the fretboard with an economy of movement that I rarely see.

I've always thought that the guitar player that Mascis owes the most to is Dickie Betts. He plays the same kind of thick, fluid, melodic solos that Betts usually least when he is not dive bombing the tremolo with the flanger, the chorus, the delay and the wah going all at once. The solo on "Blue Sky" is the spiritual ancestor of the guitar solo on "The Lung."

I bailed on the Saturday show because, frankly, my old man ears couldn't take it. Still, it's tough to beat the anthemic moments in the best Dinosaur material.


hazmat said...

The last guitarist I can remember seeing who looked really relaxed, as you mentioned, was Richard Lloyd. His fingers looked as if they were literally dancing along the fretboard.

Chrispy said...

When I saw David Gilmour I was waaayyyy too far back to see his hands, but in close ups I've seen he also has that sense of effortless relaxation.

Clapton has it too.

Hey Dave - how're your high frequencies? I think a man as elderly as yourself needs some earplugs...

Dave Cavalier said...

The high-frequencies are back and now my Husker Du records sound like crap again. If I had gone for another night of Dinosaur, Jr., my Sugar records would have sounded bass-heavy.

I'm only at stage one of being elderly. Things stop working. Stage two is things falling off. I'm hoping my sense of shame falls off first.

hazmat said...

Too bad Sugar broke up. Their shows were so damn loud that it might "fix" your high frequencies, much as you "fix" a dog. Then again even Bob solo acoustic is loud. So you have that going for you. I can only see Bob solo acoustic so many times, though....