REVIEW // J Mascis delivers an intimate fuzzed-out show at Thekla

a tremendous set demonstrated why J Mascis is a rock legend

Best known for fronting the legendary alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr, J Mascis and his distorted guitar tone helped define the underground music scene in the late 80s and 90s. He’s always had a knack for huge, fuzzy guitar solos and has ended up on many publications’ lists of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.

J Mascis and his distorted guitar tone helped define the underground music scene in the late 80s and 90s

So, when he appeared on stage at Thekla and picked up an acoustic guitar, I was a little bit dubious. Mascis’ best songs are blaring and distorted – so I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work.

My concerns dissipated completely as he blasted into the Dinosaur Jr classic Thumb. Despite opting for an acoustic instrument, Mascis had an extensive pedal board set out in front of him, smothering the guitar in a sea of distortion and fuzz. The track sounded just as great live as it does on the album it’s from, now almost 30 years old, the guitarist effortlessly charging through the song’s climactic solo.

effortlessly charging through the song’s climactic solo

Despite the music he plays, J Mascis has always been seen as an incredibly laid-back person – almost to the point of caricature. This is partially because of his drawling, sleepy vocals, with it almost sounding as though he’s singing from his bed on most songs. His stage set up at Thekla supported this image, with two mugs of tea being set out for him before the show. He also didn’t speak throughout the set apart from the occasional brief song introduction, which was normally ‘Here’s another one for you.’

the set featured a slew of Dinosaur Jr classics

But really, Mascis’ songs speak for themselves. The set featured a slew of Dinosaur Jr classics, such as The Wagon and Blowing It, and even though Mascis had no drummer or bassist accompanying him, the songs sounded huge. Armed with a loop pedal, he layered guitar tracks over each other, delivering a wall of sound.  

Mascis also played a handful of songs from his solo albums, including last year’s excellent Elastic Days. Slightly more stripped back and intimate, these songs acted as a nice respite from the show’s heavier moments. Mascis closed out the set with Alone, a cut from Dinosaur Jr’s Hand It Over. The song was finished off with a gargantuan extended solo that saw him scale the entirety of his guitar’s fretboard, drawing on for minutes. It was nothing short of impressive.

a gargantuan extended solo that saw him scale the entirety of his guitar’s fretboard

Following a short break and plenty of applause, Mascis returned for an encore, delivering two classic covers; The Cure’s Just Like Heaven and Mazzy Starr’s Fade Into You. He managed to inject his own distorted jolt into both songs, while also retaining the feel of the originals. They did a great job of closing out a tremendous set that more than demonstrated why J Mascis is a rock legend.

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