J. Mascis + the Fog
The Cotton Club, Atlanta, GA • October 25, 2000
Previously, the loudest show I’d ever seen had been a tossup between the AC/DC with Cheap Trick show at the Fox in Atlanta, or Motorhead at the Agora back in the late ’70s. That show was so loud that by the middle of the first song, the club’s main room was empty because everyone had fled to the hallways, out of harm’s way. You can tell by the timeline here that my ears have had a few years to recover. Well, the other night at the Cotton Club came damn close to those bygone days of ear ringing. Former Dinosaur Jr. founder and skatepunk J. Mascis played only the third show with his new power trio — aptly named “The Fog” — and the combination of Mascis, punk legend Mike Watt on bass and former Dino Jr. alum Greg Berz on drums attacked the night with a volume level that would drown out a Concorde. Touring to promote the new More Light album, Mascis has basically made another Dinosaur Jr., which is fine, since not enough people caught on the first time around. All the familiar trademarks were in evidence — the lazy, drawling whine of Mascis’ vocals, the guitar sound that mimicked a dentist’s drill, and a dense, heavy sound that rendered most of the songs unrecognizable until the chorus. Not that any of that is bad — it’s just the way he sounds. Either you like having your lungs flattened by a wall of Marshall amps, or you don’t. And if you don’t, then you most likely have stopped reading by now, right?
But it’s not to say that the evening was a total success. As mentioned before, this was a very early stop on the tour, one that started in Florida only a few days before. It’s hard to tell how much rehearsal went into this, but the band didn’t seem to be quite comfortable with each other yet. Watt, of course, was superb, filling the empty space left by the absence of a second guitarist well. He plays bass like a marauding bull. Looking more suited to working in a garage than playing onstage, Watt is both expansive and concise in the same song — a nifty trick, considering his previous groups, the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, set records for brevity — and he looked like he was having a ball. Mascis, on the other hand, looked like someone just rousted him off the couch after watching late-night infomercials, and he was none too happy about it. He’s always looked that way (check out Dinosaur Jr’s brief moment in the Sonic Youth film 1991: The Year Punk Broke) and his playing was spirited, on such moments as “Where’d You Go” and “Sameday” from the new record. No matter what his mood, it’s good to have him back. And like the saying went back in the day, if it’s too loud, you’re too old. Sounded fine to me.