Tag Archives: J. Mascis


Chad VanGaalen’s Unique Voice Is in Fine Form at Rough Trade NYC

December 7th, 2017

Chad VanGaalen – Rough Trade NYC – December 6, 2017

Since 2004, Canadian singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen has been churning out records on his own terms. He generally plays all of the instruments, records the songs and even does the artwork for his albums. In fact, he may be more well known for his art as he is an award-winning illustrator and has animated all of his own music videos, plus some for other bands like J Mascis, Timber Timbre and Love as Laughter. Both VanGaalen’s music and his artwork take on a morbid sensibility as you can spot one of his songs right away from its detuned guitars, homespun recording quality and his high voice that often quivers like Neil Young’s ghost haunting an off season waterpark. He is truly a unique voice in today’s indie-rock scene and has put out a tremendous body of work that deserves more recognition. Playing New York City is generally pretty rare for VanGaalen, so his sold-out stop at Rough Trade NYC last night seemed all the more special.

The soul and post-punk fusion group Un Blonde opened the show, led by the eccentric guitarist and singer Jean-Sebastien Audet, who would stop his band at the drop of a dime with a single gesture and could ring out every ounce of soul from each song’s melody. They were extremely tight and VanGaalen even joined them toward the end of their set on flute for an extended free-jazz jam. And as soon as he returned for the headlining set, you could tell VanGaalen and his band were there to have fun. “We went to an arcade and got fucking wasted,” he joked with a playful smirk on his face. “We didn’t even play pinball! So is it cool if we just chill out?” From that declaration, it would be safe to think that this might be an off night for VanGaalen and Co. As It turned out, it was anything but.

The band played loose and heavy giving his bedroom DIY songs Sonic Youth–styled makeovers. VanGaalen’s voice was also in tremendous form, eliciting chills when he hit the height of his register. The singer-songwriter treated the crowd to much of his new album, Light Information, as well as career-spanning hits like “Clinically Dead” and “Heavy Stones.” VanGaalen’s main set ended with an extended noise jam during the Diaper Island track “Peace on the Rise,” which felt transcendent and inspired. For the encore, he played two numbers off his 2008 album, Soft Airplane, “City of Electric Light” and “Rabid Bits of Time.” The latter’s chorus, “No one knows where we go/ When we’re dead or when we’re dreaming,” sounded more triumphant than on record and was a truly powerful way to end the night. —Pat King | @MrPatKing


Dinosaur Jr. Celebrate New Album’s Release at Rough Trade NYC

August 8th, 2016

Dinosaur Jr. – Rough Trade NYC – August 5, 2016

Dinosaur Jr. – Rough Trade NYC – August 5, 2016
Forget about the Olympics. Anyone looking for a classic example of people getting together to produce greatness despite their differences need look no further than J Mascis and Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. Their historic infighting dissolved the band in the late ’90s in what was bound to remain a tale of what could have been. Yet against the odds, they reunited in 2005 sounding as good as ever, putting out album after album like nothing had changed. And in a way, things haven’t: They still don’t get along. Barlow recently admitted that he’s hardly on speaking terms with frontman Mascis. They’re like an indie-rock Fleetwood Mac minus the mountains of cocaine and intraband romances.

Friday night at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade NYC marked the release and celebration of Dinosaur Jr.’s fourth post-reunion full-length, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Notanother ear-splitting album to add to the band’s canon. The humbly introverted Mascis nestled into his stack of Marshall amps while sporting a giant blue Cookie Monster T-shirt. They kicked off the set with the muddy classic “The Lung,” with Barlow’s heavy slaps of bass crashing down like his Muppet mop of hair. The new album’s first track, “Goin’ Down,” followed with Mascis providing buzzsaw riffs reminiscent of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” “I don’t think we’ve made it through this song one time,” said Barlow, introducing “Love Is….” And if not for the squelching Mascis guitar solo in the middle of it, the tune could have easily been mistaken for one by Barlow’s other band, Sebadoh.

Mascis’ noodling appeared as effortless as ever—no one shreds as nonchalantly as he does, and it’s not even close. The soloing outro of “I Walk for Miles” was enough to burn down the venue, and even if it had, Mascis would’ve probably just stood there like the This Is Fine dog. The set closed with a tear through the classics, “Start Choppin’,” “Freak Scene” and a massive “Gargoyle” jam, plus a two-song encore of “The Wagon” and “Out There.” Some people believe God scattered dinosaur bones around the planet to confuse us about evolution, to test our faith. Those people are fucking crazy, but not as crazy as the fact that after all these years, Dinosaur Jr. are still together, and not just together but still insanely good. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nricks

Photos courtesy of Pat Tabb | pattabb.com


Steve Gunn Kicks Off Tour at Home at Music Hall of Williamsburg

June 10th, 2016

Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016

Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016
Steve Gunn is a guitarists’ guitarist, much in the same way that there are comedians’ comedians (Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK). He’s earned the respect and admiration of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, Wilco and the guy who I buy strings from in the guitar shop off Carmine St. Gunn falls somewhere on the guitar family tree under John Fahey, the legendary master of Americana ragas, and he certainly shares his ability to hold down meditative rhythms while stringing a different melody through them. That he’s able to sing on top of it all (something Fahey rarely did) makes the skill all the more impressive. Back from a recent European tour, Gunn returned home to Brooklyn—at Music Hall of Williamsburg—last night, kicking off his American tour in promotion of the excellent Eyes on the Lineshis Matador debut.

Gunn began as a guitarist for Kurt Vile’s Violators, and Vile got his own start as a guitarist for the War on Drugs. If this tradition holds up, stay tuned for an amazing debut from Jim Elkington, who embellishes Gunn’s tunes with artful twangs of his slide guitar. Elkington and Gunn proved to be impressively skilled, trading guitar solos in an epic call-and-response session off the jams of “Park Bench Smile.” Both made use of racks of guitars and a healthy number of pedals to bleed just the right sound out of their noodling. “Ancient Jules” showcased some of the finest riffs to have come out thus far in 2016, searing through a steady on-the-road flowing rhythm. Mid-set, the crowd started yelling, “More Steve!” “More Steve?” replied Gunn. “What does that even mean? Oh, turn me up?”

The set wound down with just Elkington and Gunn on acoustic guitars for a stripped-down version of the beautiful “Wildwood.” The full band returned for the encore with “Way Out Weather” with Gunn’s guitar drifting in and out of the song like a gentle breeze.
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See J Mascis on 10/17

October 14th, 2014


Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis is currently touring behind his (mostly) acoustic new album, Tied to a Star, which brings him to The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night. The show is sold out, but The House List just so happens to be giving away two tickets. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (J Mascis, 10/17) and a brief message explaining what you most like about his latest work. Eddie Bruiser, a J Mascis fan since way back, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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Cut Loose with Earthless Tomorrow at Mercury Lounge

August 21st, 2014

Although they’ve each also played in several other bands (including Rocket from the
and Howlin’ Rain), guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba have been making high-quality, jam-heavy instrumental psychedelic
rock together as Earthless since 2001. They’ve released one live album and three studio full-lengths, the most recent of which, From the Ages (stream it below), which also includes vocals, came out last year—and it was so good that even Pitchfork liked it: “This is the atavistic magic of three people locked in a room only with their instruments and each other, eyes closed, and mouths open…. The dudes are once again just riffing here. It’s a trip worth taking, at least a few times.” Earthless also recently released a live LP with Heavy Blanket (which includes J. Mascis), In a Dutch Blanket (stream it below), about which Noisey says, “Get ready to cry because you will never play this well.” They just kicked off a new tour last night, and you can see them play Mercury Lounge tomorrow night.


Built to Spill Unleash Their Guitars at Music Hall of Williamsburg

May 21st, 2014

Built to Spill – Music Hall of Williamsburg – May 20, 2014

Someone casually observing Doug Martsch might find it hard to believe that his voice comes out of him. The bearded, stoic and always somewhat serious looking frontman of Built to Spill is not a person you’d expect to have a fragile tenor voice that comes out gracefully tender. And it comes alongside a trademark wiggle—starting at his leg and up to his head, it runs through him like an electrical current, almost looking unnatural, like his voice is being pulled out of him from the deepest depths of his feels. By contrast, his guitar playing couldn’t look more effortless, pulling out incredibly difficult riffs without seemingly giving them any focus whatsoever. There’s really not a subpar guitarist in Built to Spill, you could pick anyone out of the Brett Netson, Jim Roth, Martsch trifecta and they’d likely crush any other band’s guitarist.

One of the best things about Built to Spill is that they’ll hide just a short couple of lines within a song that you’d love to last forever. Playing live, if you’re lucky, they’ll find that part and stretch it out into an epic jam, which has everything to do with their collective guitar mastery. All three guitarists soloed at the end of “Conventional Wisdom,” each relying heavily on the whammy bar, the wavering guitar tones leaving the song feeling almost like a living, breathing thing. They’d trade off, with one covering the beauty of the main riff, the other two mudding it up with equally beautiful noise jams. The climax in crowd-favorite “Carry the Zero” also stretched out into a swirling guitar jam. The prolonged intensity of its dizzying denouement almost felt exhausting to endure (in a good way, of course). For most Built to Spill fans, this is the first show with Jason Albertini on bass and Steve Gere on drums. The two fit right into the fold, pretty impressive considering they had 21 years of Built to Spill to catch up on.

The band’s cover choices were like a cherry on top of a sundae, beginning with the Dinosaur Jr. classic  “Sludgefeast,” perhaps in honor of J. Mascisweeklong residency on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Then came Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” quickly becoming a live go-to for the band. They were generous enough to let everyone get in their “more cowbell” jokes before the second half of the song, when someone came out with one. The encore ended with an epic jam of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” with some singing help from two guests, Erin and Peter, who pulled fans onstage, the show finally ending with a solid half of the crowd dancing alongside the band, with Music Hall of Williamsburg’s disco ball turned up to 11. —Dan Rickershauser

(Tonight’s Built to Spill show at The Bowery Ballroom is sold out.)




MGMT Entertain Fans of All Ages

December 16th, 2013

MGMT/Dinosaur Jr. – Barclays Center – December 13, 2013


Underage was the word that occurred to me as I watched fans stream into Barclays Center on Friday night: goofy-looking dudes with skinny necks and hats on sideways, girls covered in colorful crop tops and fluorescent face paint. So when I got to my seat and saw a woman older than my mom sitting nearby, I had to talk to her. Good-natured ushers rebuffed my first two attempts, though, and I enjoyed the openers, Kuroma and Dinosaur Jr., from the comfort of my own section. Kuroma delivered excellent, jangly rock tunes and with three MGMT members gave an exciting preview of the show to come. Dinosaur Jr., playing mostly to teens who weren’t born when they first broke up, didn’t disappoint either. J Mascis ripped off a succession beautiful, frenetic solos as they barged through deceptively simple rockers, highlights being “Feel the Pain” and a thunderous cover of “Just Like Heaven,” which brought their set to a sing-along close.

Finally, I made my way over to the white-haired woman and was astounded to learn she was bass player Matt Asti’s mom. After trading memories of past shows, I asked if she ever thought her son would be a rock star. “When he was three months old, I took him to an astrologist who said he’d make his living onstage. So I guess I should have known,” she replied. And with that, the lights began to dim, so I said a quick goodbye and good luck. The latter, as it turned out, was completely unnecessary. Opening with “Flash Delirium” followed by “Time to Pretend,” Asti and his bandmates had the crowd standing and screaming right away.

MGMT’s set was a rousing blend of Oracular Spectacular’s catchy tunes and their other albums’ more psychedelic fare. The show also featured trippy, Spirographic projections, a remote-controlled flying saucer and surprise guests—little known 1960s psych rocker Faine Jade, who came out to sing his “Introspection” (which MGMT covered on their eponymous new album), and Gibby Haynes, of Butthole Surfers, who joined them to sporadically bang on an massive cowbell and jump into the crowd during “Your Life Is a Lie” and “Kids.” MGMT then treated fans to two of the new album’s best songs (“Alien Days” and “Cool Song No. 2”), plus an epic encore of “Congratulations.” And if everyone else was as lucky as I was, they got to see Ms. Asti dancing in the aisle all show long. —Mickey Novak

Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com


One Not to Miss: Kurt Vile Tonight at Terminal 5

October 25th, 2013

Lo-fi singer-songwriter-guitarist Kurt Vile cares a lot about his sound. This could be said of most musicians, of course, but anyone familiar with Vile’s work knows that it’s all those little details that make his music so remarkable. All those guitar ditties that weasel their way into your head and never leave end up defining his songs as a whole. A lot of bands tend to leave these nuanced details out of their live show—or bury them sonically so that they’re hardly audible under everything else. But with Kurt Vile, he ensures that all those nuances are accounted for. And with the help of his backing band, the Violators, and a stage littered with effects pedals and guitars of every stripe, there’s an impressive depth to his live sound that’s easy on the ears. Behind swaths of hair and layers of distortion, it becomes noticeable that he comes from the J Mascis school of “let me throw down a huge and searing guitar riff without making it look like it takes any effort at all.” Kurt Vile (above, doing “Wakin on a Pretty Daze” live in studio for KEXP FM) is currently touring behind his fifth full-length, the superb Wakin on a Pretty Daze (stream it below), which NME calls “slacker pop perfection.” And if you don’t see him tonight at Terminal 5, well, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. —Dan Rickershauser


Fully Reunited, Come Play The Bowery Ballroom Tonight

June 28th, 2013

Way back in 1990, Thalia Zedek (vocals and guitar), Chris Brokaw (guitar and vocals), Arthur Johnson (drums) and Sean O’Brien (bass) were all playing in different bands when they met through a mutual acquaintance in Boston. They began jamming together and formed the dark blues-rock outfit Come. Two years later, their acclaimed debut, Eleven: Eleven, was recorded in little more than a week and released on Matador Records. Entertainment Weekly glowingly referred to it as “a captivating blast of ennui and feedback that may be Matador’s finest moment yet.” Not only did the album receive some serious media love, big-time musicians like Kurt Cobain, Bob Mould and J Mascis all publicly praised it. Three more excellent—and almost as equally dark—albums followed: After Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell came out in 1994, Johnson and O’Brien left the band. Several musicians filled in on 1996’s Near-Life Experience, before Winston Bramen (bass) and Daniel Coughlin (drums) joined Come for their fourth full-length, Gently, Down the Stream, which came out in 1998. But then other than a few reunions over the years, that was pretty much it … until recently. On the heals of its 20th anniversary, Eleven: Eleven, which had long been out of print and much sought after, has been reissued, and the original lineup of Come (above, doing “Dead Molly,” “Submerge,” “Bell” and “William” in France) is back together. And now, after all these years, you can finally see them onstage again tonight at The Bowery Ballroom.




Kurt Vile’s Picking Up Steam

May 17th, 2013

Kurt Vile and the Violators – The Bowery Ballroom – May 16, 2013

Kurt Vile cares a lot about his sound. This could be said of most musicians, of course, but anyone familiar with Vile’s work knows that it’s all those little details that make his music so remarkable. All those guitar ditties that weasel their way into your head and never leave end up defining his songs as a whole. A lot of bands tend to leave these nuanced details out of their live show—or bury them sonically so that they’re hardly audible under everything else. But with Kurt Vile, he ensures that all those nuances are accounted for. And with the help of his backing band, the Violators, and a stage littered with effects pedals and guitars of every stripe, there’s an impressive depth to his live sound that’s easy on the ears.

Vile kicked off his show last night at The Bowery Ballroom with the title track to his latest album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. He came out wearing a white denim jacket, white denim jeans and white Converse. All this white made his iconic gnarled mop of hair all the more noticeable. And when the jacket came off by the second song, you could see that it was lined with leopard print. For such an unassuming fellow, Vile’s got some subtle swag. While watching his guitar skills on “Jesus Fever,” it became noticeable that he comes from the J Mascis school of “let me throw down a huge and searing guitar riff without making it look like it takes any effort at all.”

Vile’s guitar playing is fun to watch, in part for how unconventional it is. At times during “Was All Talk,” he bent his thumb over his guitar neck to assist his other fingers. Toward the middle of the set, the Violators left Vile behind with just an acoustic guitar to play softer renditions of “Snowflakes Are Dancing” and “Peeping Tomboy.” The band returned for the loudest moment of the set, “Freak Train,” played with such krautrock momentum that the song seemed unstoppable. It eventually wound down out to an end, as did the show, but for the Kurt Vile train, this thing’s just starting to pick up steam. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com


A Dinosaur Jr. Celebration

November 30th, 2012

The three guys in the massively influential band Dinosaur Jr.—singer-guitarist J. Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph—have played together since the early ’80s. Well, that’s not exactly true. That’s when they began making music together. Barlow actually left the band following the release of Bug in 1988. Fortunately, he returned to the fold in 2005. The trio has since released three more albums, including this year’s well-received I Bet on Sky. But back in 1987, they put out their seminal album, the grunge masterpiece You’re Living All Over Me, filled with stellar songwriting, loud guitars and a healthy dose of feedback. And to celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary, Dinosaur Jr. (above, doing “Little Fury Things,” for KEXP FM) will play two sets tomorrow night at Terminal 5: one with the LP done in its entirety and a second with a group of special guests—including Kim Gordon, Johnny Marr, Al Cisneros and Kurt Vile. This is one you won’t want to miss.


Sub Pop Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 20, 2011

October 21st, 2011

J. Mascis

Photos courtesy of Ahron R. Foster | www.ahronfoster.com


CMJ Music Marathon Starts Today

October 18th, 2011

It’s that time of year again: 20-minute sets; in midtown one minute, the Lower East Side the next; scarfing down food with minutes to spare before the next show. From Mercury Lounge to The Bowery Ballroom and beyond, the CMJ Music Marathon is upon us. Here’re which bands we’re specifically looking forward to seeing play live. New York City quintet Caveman transfers any pop sensibilities into a dreamy landscape of lush indie harmonies through love, nostalgia and other sentiments. In support of their debut, CoCo Beware, Caveman will play 10 shows during CMJ, including the Bowery Presents showcase on 10/22 at Pianos. —Tina Benitez

The CMJ Music Marathon, now in its 31st year, is back to make five days in October seem impossible to navigate. Expect packed lineups at each venue because every band you ever wanted to see is in town. The supergroup Wild Flag, featuring Mary Timony, from Helium, and Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater Kinney among others, kicks off things tonight at The Bowery Ballroom. And at the same time Afro-punk Presents Death to Hip-Hop, featuring technical death-metal pioneers Death and Brooklyn’s own skate-pizza punk, Cerebral Ballzy, whose name really says it all. Wednesday’s pick has to be the ever-controversial indie rap group Odd Future at Terminal 5. Then on Thursday try to get into the sold-out lineup at Mercury Lounge, with garage-rock Xray Eyeballs and Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys, followed by Memoryhouse’s atmospheric shoegaze and finally, J. Mascis. You will show up at 6:30 and stay the entire night. Friday has more fuzzed-out pop with Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles at The Bowery Ballroom, and if you sleep over, on Saturday, Gang Gang Dance’s experimental electronic beats just might give you a chance to recover. And then sleep on Sunday for 24 hours before work. That’s your CMJ. —Jason Dean

Last year I spent the majority of CMJ camped out at Terminal 5 for My Morning Jacket. But this year I plan to get around. Not everyone has an abundance of free time, so if you can only hit one show, my money’s on the High Road Touring showcase at The Bowery Ballroom on 10/20. And despite it being a stellar lineup from top to bottom, for me the No. 1 band to check out during the whole festival is Alabama Shakes (above, playing “I Found You” for Live from the Shoals). The quartet, out of small-town Athens, Ala., has a four-song EP and an incredible bluesy-soul sound. You won’t want to miss Brittany Howard’s voice. Sure, she’s a postal worker by day, but she’s a bona fide rock star by night. Don’t miss this. You’ll be able to tell your friends you saw this band at the very beginning. —R. Zizmor


A Night of Stellar Lo-Fi Rock

March 25th, 2011

J Mascis/Kurt Vile and the Violators – Mercury Lounge – March 24, 2011

J Mascis (Photo: Jared Levy)

J Mascis (Photo: Jared Levy)

Midway through J Mascis’ set, the seasoned headliner invited Kurt Vile, opener and contributor to the former’s most recent acoustic album, Several Shades of Why, to accompany on the song “Make it Right.” As they shared the stage, a sense of mutual respect pervaded the room. Earlier, Vile, along with his touring band, the Violators, tore through his collection of guitar-based indie rock, dividing his focus between songs from earlier albums and his new one, Smoke Ring for My Halo. “Hunchback,” a selection from Childish Prodigy, brought muscle, showcasing Vile and the Violators bent for deeply affected grooves. But armed with a simple, elegant acoustic guitar, Vile also found balance on Smoke Ring for My Halo’s “Jesus Fever” and “Ghost Town,” deftly matching his voice and guitar with the band’s tremendous sound.

Mascis, best known as the guitarist, singer and songwriter of Dinosaur Jr., followed Vile’s lead, intertwining his band’s recent work with quieter, introspective songs from Several Shades of Why. From a seated position, he occasionally glanced at a music stand holding a lyric book, but, most often, known guitar riffs took precedence over words. The live performance combined elements of Dinosaur Jr.’s sound, grungy distortion and piercing solos, parsed out of Several Shades of Why. But, with Vile’s help, Mascis colored the solo work, exploring the depths of each other’s songwriting and talent. —Jared Levy


Scenes from the IFC Crossroads House

March 17th, 2011

Portugal. The Man - IFC Crossroads House - March 16, 2011

Photos Courtesy of Chris Reddish