J Mascis, Mike Watt and Ron Asheton Play the Real Rock


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Waiting in line in the rain at Wetlands, ticket in hand, wasn't too enjoyable, but the crowd was all right. There seemed to be a lot of people hardly old enough to remember Dinosaur Jr., let alone Mike Watt, but then a fragment of conversation floated back from ahead of me in line: "So did you ever get to see Naked Raygun?" "Oh, sure, I think it was in 1989..." I felt at home.

Inside the doors it was impossible to feel at home. It was so crowded that it was almost impossible to breathe, and getting a drink looked like an ordeal best left to the heroic and/or alcoholic. I was too hyped up for a drink anyway, what with the speedy cold medicine and the anticipation of seeing Ron Asheton live, something I'd never even really thought was possible, and then there was the fact that my boyfriend was somewhere in this mass of bodies and my ex-boyfriend would soon be picking up the ticket I left for him at will-call, and this would be the first meeting for the two of them.

Suddenly I was assaulted by a wave of guitar sound so heavy, so massive, it drove all other thoughts from my mind?and Asheton wasn't even onstage yet. Mascis, his long graying hair flopping over his guitar, and the mighty Mike Watt, burly and bearded, and George Berz on drums were rocking out with a tremendous and rare passion. Hard-driving and possessed of amazing technique, yet never descending into wankery for more than a moment or two, they were a little nexus of kinetic energy that never flagged. This was the real rock, all right. It showed up all the boys who take the Stones and the Kinks as their models as the effete pretenders they are. There was nothing to do but grin in happy astonishment at Mascis' guitar pyrotechnics and Watt's staggering bass runs, and laugh at the sweat he kept shaking off himself like a dog. Every now and then Mascis would throw out a sloppy version of a Dinosaur Jr. song, immediately recognizable as being more dreamy and morose than the others, and my attention would flag a little. There was an indie-medley, including a few bars of Pavement's "Range Life," that nodded to the iconic nature of the event. But mostly there was just big, beautiful noise, aggressive as hell, but channeled and precise?aggression with finesse. Heads were nodding and hips were shaking and the fists and devil signs were bobbing in rhythm above the crowd.

When Asheton finally got onstage he was looking even stockier than he used to, and there was no Iron Cross. But it didn't matter. Mike Watt called Evan Dando up on stage and the latter acquitted himself much better than he had at the Frogs show in December. Asheton was magnificent, and it was simply heavenly to hear "TV Eye" and "1969" and, when Dando had had enough, Mike Watt growling out "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

After it was over, they put "I Walked With Jesus" on the sound system as we all filed out and for the first time that song sounded kind of weak to me. It couldn't measure up to what we had just seen and heard.





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