For the last handful of years, the House of Vans (QRO venue review) in Brooklyn has reliably provided free music & drinks every summer. For more than a handful of years, Dinosaur Jr has been reliably putting out strong indie-punk records, first as part of the emerging underground in the eighties, then post-Nirvana alternative nineties, and with the reunited trio in this century/millennium. Vans and Dinosaur met on Tuesday, July 12th, as the band played the space for a free show announced only that day.
The performance was actually their second at House of Vans, as earlier in the day Dinosaur Jr recorded a music video there, for their upcoming record, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. That had been announced the day before, but it was still a surprise on Tuesday to find out that one of the alternative music scene’s greats were playing a free show there. The official Vans House Parties series had wrapped up the week prior (QRO live review of final show), and while there are usually a few more shows at the space (and the summer is hardly over), this was a quick & strong return. Still, differences were felt from the House Parties series, from a start time two hours later than usual, to the addition of dark & stormy on tap, in addition to the free Goose Island beer – though the doors still closed not long after they opened, the low capacity like always.
Opening up the show was Screaming Females (QRO photos), a bit of an obvious pick, as the power trio is somewhat ‘Dinosaur Jr Jr,’ and if you’re a fan of Females, you should already be a fan of Dinosaur. However, it’s not a bad thing to have an opener similar to the headliner, and set the stage for what was to come.
Given that they recorded a video for their new album earlier in the day, and that Glimpse comes out only in a few weeks, it was expected that the set would focus on it. “Goin Down” was some of the epic Dinosaur Jr. that you’re always looking for, while “Tiny” rocked so hard bassist Lou Barlow’s strap broke during the song (and was fixed before the piece finished). Given the hard feelings that fed into his firing from the band by singer/guitarist J Mascis and drummer Murph a few decades ago, just before the band blew up in Nevermind’s wake, it’s always great to see how into being back in the band Barlow is now, even when playing the crowd pleasing songs from after his departure, like “Out There” and “Start Choppin’” from breakthrough Where You Been. It’s also great to see Murph rocking on “Feel the Pain”, the single from the first album without him, Without a Sound.
The set wasn’t just new songs and nineties hits, but also a few from their impressive post-reunion records, “Pieces” off of Farm (QRO review) and Barlow’s “Back To Your Heart” from Beyond (QRO review). Yes, there was their early indie classic “Freak Scene”, which drew huge cheers at its start (though no one – but your correspondent – did the mid-song “It’s still you!” cheer…), but also “Training Ground” from Barlow & Mascis’ pre-Dinosaur hardcore band, Deep Wound.
Unfortunately, there seemed to be some sort of serious time constraint, as early greats “Mountain Man”, “Sludgefest”, and their classic hard cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” were all on the set list, but skipped. It was a disappointment that the show ended at 11:30 PM, not midnight, because more Dinosaur Jr is always wanted. However, it was a great surprise from an unsurprisingly great band & space.