Last night I went to a concert I’d been getting hyped up about for months. Built to Spill performing their classic 1997 album Perfect From Now On, with two mid-90s staples as opening acts: Dinosaur Jr., AND The Meat Puppets! It’s like 11th grade all over again! And for me, musically, that’s more or less the best possible scenario.
Moreover, the concert was at Terminal 5, which basically looks like the nightclub that someone would have designed in 1997 when asked to picture a nightclub in 2008. So this concert was totally meta.
First up were The Meat Puppets, a band whose name most people know, but whose music most people don’t. Admittedly, I am most familiar with their 1984 album II, which I only bought because it had the songs “Lake of Fire,” “Plateau,” and “Oh, Me,” which everyone my age heard for the first time when the M.P.’s joined Nirvana on stage for their Unplugged performance.
For the sake of mercy, I’ll leave my review of the Meat Puppets’ performance to two simple points:
1) Despite my teenage memories to the contrary, The Meat Puppets are not good, despite their singer’s insistence on wearing purple sweatpants.
Once the sad mess that was the Meat Puppets left the stage, roadies started wheeling out giant stacks of amplifiers for Dinosaur Jr. D.J. is and always has been a three-piece band (guitar, bass, drums), so watching a total of 5 giant stacks get wheeled onto the stage was both exciting and a little scary. In the end, exciting won, and so did Dinosaur Jr.
For the sake of full disclosure, of the three bands performing last night, Dinosaur Jr. was by far my favorite to begin with, as I’ve been romantically in love with ALL of their albums since high school. I got into Dinosaur Jr. as part of the post-punk/grunge scene, after Lou Barlow had left the band to form Sebadoh and Folk Implosion. As a result, while their first three albums, which Lou played on, are now considered indie classics (and were even re-released by indie powerhouse Merge Records a few years ago), a lot of my favorite Dinosaur Jr. material comes off the more self indulgent, guitar-solo heavy albums that J Mascis more or less recorded by himself in the 90s (The Green Mind, Where You Been, Without a Sound, and Hand It Over).
I had heard somewhere that since the band reunited, with Lou once again playing bass, that they were more or less only performing songs from their first three albums and from the new album they released in 2007. While I like all of these albums, to me they are bookends in the Dino Jr. discography to the albums that really made me love them in the first place. So when J Mascis shredded the opening riff to “Out There,” my buddy Mike (who I’ve been listening to Dinosaur Jr. with for more than half my life) grabbed me by the shirt and we rejoiced to the rock and roll Gods.
All told, the band did not shy away at all from their 90s stuff, and as a whole, the set, which featured almost 25 years worth of songs, blended together seamlessly and mightily. In favor of an orgasm-laden song-by-song recap, I’ll merely say that hearing “Freak Scene” inspired my old bones to mosh like a youngster again, and J Mascis’ schredding powers have clearly been augmented since falling from the teeth of the Balrog and being reborn as a white wizard.
Finally, Built to Spill took the stage to perform Perfect From Now On. While this is by far my favorite album of theirs, the thing I’ve realized about shows where bands perform a whole album straight through is, it removes the excitement of “what’ll they play next?!” and makes the people yelling for particular songs seem really stupid.
Over all, B.T.S. performed the album well, but it didn’t seem like they were having any fun at all, and when the singer’s guitar strap broke and no roadie showed up to help him he really didn’t handle it well, which was pretty off-putting. Come on dude, you’ve been doing this for like 15 years…roll with the punches.
At the end of Built to Spill’s set, a potentially exciting moment came when members of the Meat Puppets (including Captain Yuck) and J Mascis crashed the stage and took instruments from members of Built to Spill and started free-style jamming. The excitement really only lasted ’til Mr. Yuck started spookily reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas” into the microphone…and then I just wanted it to be over, which after about 15 awkward minutes, it was.
They say that all anyone remembers from a performance is if it started well and ended well. Sadly, this performance did neither, but the middle part was so unbelievably awesome that it carried the whole night on its shoulders. While there were more bad moments than good, the good moments were REALLY good, and I went home with a big smile on my face, eager to listen to “Puke + Cry” with renewed enthusiasm.