Last Thursday, before he dropped the between-songs banter and started making guttural animal noises, Lou Barlow told a joke. “I always thought, instead of calling it ‘indie rock' they should've called it ‘little rock,' ” he deadpanned. Rimshot. Groans all around. Then someone in the audience asked him to turn up the vocals. “Turn up the vocals?!” he mocked, before laughing, super villain style, “Bwahahahahah!”
We could almost be forgiven for not knowing the score. This was Dinosaur Jr.'s first ever show in Little Rock and its first in Arkansas in 25 years. But, as anyone even remotely familiar with the band should know, perhaps above all, it's about playing ear-splittingly loud. Who cares about the vocals?
J. Mascis, now silver-haired and wizard-looking, played in a cove of three Marshall stacks. That might've been a bit of overkill. Folks in the River Market and Argenta and probably Hillcrest probably got a taste.
Mascis' playing lived up to his reputation. So nimble in solos. So deft in those signature quick tempo shifts. So much sweet, sweet shredding.
Even in between songs, when normal bands might, you know, talk, crack jokes, the Dinosaur dudes filled the space by riffing on their instruments. J'd give us 30 seconds of guitar hero magic. Murph played crazy drum breaks. Lou made space sound effects with his bass when he wasn't making animal noises.
The packed house, somewhat surprisingly, was not exclusively grown folks. In fact, the pit looked to be just about all kids too young to have ever heard Lou. I guess that's testament to a band that, even after more than 25 years (give or take some line-up issues and a hiatus or two), still makes really, really strong music.