J Mascis | Luluc – Newcastle Cluny 18th Jan 2015 – REVIEW

J Mascis - Newcastle Jan 15

J Mascis – Newcastle Jan 15

Review by Graeme J. Baty

The word ‘legend’ gets thrown around a lot. Here we have a genuine, yet humble legend. One of the greatest players to emerge in the last 30 years. Mascis is taking time away from the reformed Dinosaur Jr to embark on a solo tour of intimate shows. I picked up tickets early knowing this would sellout. Sure enough the place was packed out. I’m regularly stopped at other shows by people when they see me sporting my Dinosaur Jr t-shirt. ‘Were you there in 2010?’‚ ‘Yes I was!’‚ and I’m sure I’ll get that question until the day this shirt finally falls to bits.

Support came from Australian two piece Luluc, who are signed to Subpop. A quiet act who are gaining some major accolades in the US. They’ve toured with one of my favourite acts of the last decade, The National. Perfect sultry harmonies for a frosty Sunday evening. The two piece captivated the audience, well, except for a few rowdy people at the back! Watch out for these, I have a feeling they will do rather well over here.

After that delight a roadie got to work setting up J’s Aladdin’s cave of supplies, guitars, pedals, amps, drinks and what appear to be throat medicines. His stool sat in-between a fortress of monitors and amps, very cosy indeed.

His solo stuff is sublime and is quite juxtaposed to the Marshall stack feedback fuzz riff-fest that he is famous for. Not that it matters. It’s just as powerful unplugged. If not more so, the subtleties of his playing aren’t hidden away behind a wall of sound.

Tonight wearing a baseball cap and pink specs he dips into his bag of classic songs from across his career. I what you could call a crowd pleasing set, old classics such as Pond Song and Ammaring rub shoulders with new material such as the rambling blues ditty Drifter.

Mascis is well known for his devotion to analogue effect pedals, and although an acoustic set he brought a few gadgets along to play with. He plays his acoustic Gibson through a bunch of pedals and it is anything but quiet, he likes it loud! On Get Me he masterfully samples his chord progressions on a loop pedal and and adds some stunning fuzzy solos over the top.

One thing that always makes me smile at his shows is the people who are witnessing him in performance for the first time. They all seem genuinely blown away. I think this is because in the rowdy nature of Dinosaur Jr it is easy to overlook the complexity of the songs on offer. Stripped back with a guitar and a mike, it is plain to see.

J Mascis - Newcastle Jan 15

J Mascis – Newcastle Jan 15

Never been a big fan of endless twiddly solos but for some reason when Mascis does it, it sounds so right and is spellbinding to watch him play. He is completely in his own world, very quiet in between songs, eyes down concentrating on what he is doing. The audience seem utterly engrossed in this.

He finished the evening with his timeless cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’. It makes a fitting end to the evenings trip down memory lane.

I left the Cluny with an even greater appreciation of the man, the music and his talent. I’m just ecstatic that he brought this show to Newcastle, as we are often overlooked by US touring bands. Saying that I’d gladly travel to see Mascis any day!

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