Dinosaur Jr, Webster Hall, New York, September 3, 2007

Report by Sandra Hurley
Photos by Micilin

Part II of the Lou Barlow themed weekend continues with Dinosaur Jr at the more salubrious Webster Hall. But other than the twinkly light show behind him, J Mascis certainly takes a no-frills approach to live gigs, thrashing through the songs with little in the way of stage chat or showmanship.

Of course, that never was the point of Dinosaur Jr. Another proponent of the loud, quiet, loud school of rock, J wrote some great songs in his time. Most of these are in evidence tonight – among them Feel the Pain, Out There and the Wagon.

His guitar-playing is perfect, wringing out power chords and solos and yet … there’s something missing here, just an absence of any real passion which maybe is to be expected of someone whose heyday was more than ten years ago. Harsh? Yes but in this show, he was just going through the motions. The finale is Freakscene and it still gets the crowd going singing along until the end.

But it's not enough for Lou, who possibly realising that this show never actually took off, blames the crowd.

Have a look at this video on You Tube.

Sebadoh, Europa Club, Brooklyn, September 2, 2007

Report by Sandra Hurley
Photos by Micilin

With two New York shows crammed into one weekend for Lou Barlow, many fans went to both for a taste of 90s rock nostalgia which is what both shows turn out to be. The first is with his own band Sebadoh followed the next night by Dinosaur Jr. It seems the Sebadoh gig was hastily scrambled together to tie in with the bigger one and it shows – lots of equipment problems and tuning issues hamper an otherwise not bad set.

With Lou back together with original members Jason Lowenstein and Eric Gaffney, it’s a show of instrument swapping which allows everyone their turn to lead the group. First up, it’s Eric on guitar backed by Lou on bass and Jason on drums. Here we go right back to the beginnings of Sebadoh with Freed Pig and actually, they sound great, really tight.

Then Lou takes charge and these songs are my favourites including some of the standout stuff from Harmacy like Beauty of the Ride and On Fire.

But when Jason takes his turn on guitar, he fumbles with the tuning leaving huge gaps between songs. Not the best way to keep the momentum of a rock concert going.

Battles & Deerhunter, South Street Seaport, NYC, August 31, 2007

Report by Sandra Hurley
Photos by Micilin

Battles don’t sound like anybody else. Sure there are shades of the post-rock of Godspeed and the squelching sounds of other Warp labelmates, but the purveyors of so-called Math Rock are truly in a class of their own as they showed at the final Friday night River to River show. It was a fitting end to a surprisingly alternative season of bands including the National and Spoon who all brightened up the touristy Seaport playing under the stars and skyscrapers.

A clear, beautiful night created the perfect atmosphere for the hometown band who told the capacity crowd they were happy to be back after the relentless round of the European festival circuit. Unlike other bands who skirt the electronic / rock axis, Battles shine live by refusing to hide behind the gadgetry of their sound. It’s a rampant, energetic show as they jump around while programming the distorted vocals and looped samples which mellow the hard rock edge of the songs on their album Mirrored.

That’s not to say a Battles gig isn’t all about those pounding drums beaten by ex-Helmet member John Stanier. He sits centre-stage, occasionally reaching up to hit an extremely high hi-hat. Around the drums, sit the guitar swirls of Ian Williams, Dave Konopka and Tyondi Braxton.

Inevitably, the highlight is Atlas, the monumental 6 minute single. And when it came towards the end of the set, the crowd surged forward nearly toppling over the barriers at the front.

In amongst those album and ep tracks, there were some new songs all boding well for the next Battles record – due by the end of the year. And hopefully, next year’s River to River schedule will be as good.

Deerhunter opened but their take on early 90s shoegazing rarely lifted beyond the ordinary. Lots of people love them because they’re on Kranky records but it paled next to the inventiveness of Battles.

But it seems Deerhunter don’t take kindly to bad reviews, check out this exchange on the band’s website with an unfortunate writer for LA Weekly:

Deerhunter Blog