Dinosaur Jr. at Otto’s – DeKalb, IL 4/11/09

Dinosaur Jr.’s choice to play DeKalb, Illinois, a town 65 miles west of Chicago was a weird one. Then again, Dinosaur Jr. is a weird band.

In 2005, the capricious ‘classic’ lineup of the band that fell apart shortly after the release of 1988’s Bug reunited to much fanfare. The legendary feud between singer/guitarist J Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow was finally put to bed after over a decade. Along with drummer Emmett “Murph” Murphy III, the ensuing tour was a triumph, and was followed by a successful comeback album, Beyond in 2007. img_7640

Two years later, the band is gearing up for the release of Farm, due in June, with a run of dates across the US.

The band took the stage in pieces for Saturday’s’ set. Murph and Barlow were first – Barlow, a legend in his own right for his work with Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, was especially well received. Minutes later (or so it seemed), a sedate Mascis wandered on stage and picked up his guitar, standing in front of his giant wall of amplifiers. The band then launched into bouncy “In A Jar” off of 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me. The thirteen-song set was heavy on cuts from the band’s most recent disc, as well as their 1985 debut, Dinosaur. Highlights came in the form of “I Don’t Wanna Go There”; a track off of their forthcoming disc (and being handed out as 7-inch or digital download with every concert ticket purchase) as well as the gorgeous Barlow sung “Back To Your Heart”.

The band is not only a formidable live act, but also a fascinating character study. It’s as if none of them would have anything to do with each other if they weren’t in a band. Then again, they probably don’t. It should be noted that Dinosaur Jr. are an incredibly loud band – to the point where earplugs were not only recommended, but also sold at the merch table.

On stage, Mascis a bit of an artifact – silver haired, stoic and reserved. His guitar playing was sinewy – alternately invigorating and demanding of the concertgoer’s attention. On occasion, he rocks from side to side. Barlow, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. He was energetic, hardly able to stay in one place and conversational with the crowd, to the point where it’s fair to suspect that he may have been indulging a little too much. Murph, seated between the two, was the perfect conduit, providing the steady beat and acting as the glue keeping the two personalities working together.

It seems to work well for Dinosaur Jr. As the band’s original lineup celebrates the twenty-fifth year since it’s inception, they seemed to do something in DeKalb that not many bands that have reunited after a long wait can claim. They picked up exactly where they left off and showed no signs of losing a thing in the process.

See more photos from the show on our Flickr page.