Would Dinosaur Jr. have reformed if The Pixies had not already done so? Possibly, but they surely would not have chosen for their comeback show a $40 ticket gig at the 5,000 capacity Central Park Summerstage unless Black Francis had shown them the money.
But that’s the thing about comebacks: they’re contagious. The Village Voice previewed the reunion of J. Mascis, Murph and Lou Barlow with a generous full-colour full page, stating of what they called the ‘alt-rock pioneers’ that “If you’re unable to score tickets to their sure to be sold-out show at Central Park, don’t worry – anyone within a 5-mile radius should have no trouble hearing them.” This turned out to be hyperbolic on two fronts: the venue was barely half full, and the volume was fixed at a disappointingly double digit 95 decibels. The sound barely made it out of the park.
Still, for the couple of thousand in attendance, there was not a bad word could be said for a trio known, in their late 80s heyday, for fixing the intensity of hardcore punk with the virtuosity of heavy metal and, occasionally, the sensitivity of the acoustic singer-songwriter. (Along with infighting on a scale to match The Who.) Personally, I’ve never fully understood the act’s attraction: maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up on Zeppelin, maybe because I was too late understanding the American punk rock underground, maybe just ’cause I don’t like long hair. Hell, maybe I’m just too much of a pop-head at heart. Which is, ultimately, the difference between The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., for all their regular comparisons. I recently witnessed ‘This Monkey’s Gone To Heaven’ get the studious laptop caffeine hounds singing along at Gorilla Coffee; I can’t imagine ‘Sludgefeast’ having quite the same effect. Some would say, Nor should it. And they’d be right.
Broken Social Scene brought some eleven people up on stage with them. This was at least two less than made the trip down from Canada: apparently, a pair of their crew were dumb enough to try scoring weed in Washington Square Park, which ended the same way it once did for David Van Roth – with a night in The Tombs. No matter: there was enough soul on stage to hopefully permeate the darkest prison cell. Close your eyes, imagine a more organic, less bombastic version of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev and, if you were lucky like me, you could open them again to find Broken Social Scene in front of you.
Radio 4 I can’t offer an unbiased opinion on any more, as I’ve started working with them professionally. If you’re a regular reader of the site, you’ll know it’s a while since I offered an unbiased opinion anyway, as I’ve long been such good friends with them. Somewhere further from opinion and closer to fact: new guitarist Dave Milone looks like he was born to the band.
As for Magik Markers, whoever thought the riot grrrl movement was dead must think The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. have yet to reunite. During her twenty minutes on stage, Elisa Ambroglio did everything with her guitar in every possible position except play a riff; the audience was transfixed and barely had time to focus on the coarse dynamics of rhythm section Leah Quimby and Pete Nolan. (Typically, Ambrogilo turned out to be the sweetest, softest-spoken girl you could imagine, while Quimby can dance like you’ve never seen.) No surprise that the Markers had done the whole east coast stint with Dinosaur Jr., nor that Thurston Moore put out their first record, or that Lee Renaldo is credited with taking pictures at their web site: though the trio are only in their mid-twenties, Magik Markers appear born to the noise-rock movement of the late 1980s. Where, Dinosaur Jr. may have been asking themselves as they roared into the sunset, did the last fifteen years go?
Being the pop-head and gig-addict I am, I no sooner came home to Brooklyn and had a bite to eat than I popped back out, round the corner to Southpaw and in to see The Caesars. During the thirty minutes I survived their set, I also took some wonderful pictures, especially of carnival-barking, acrobatic-performing, haed-noodling guitarist Joakim Ahlund. Sadly, I deleted them off the camera before downloading them to the computer. It was bound to happen some day.
I love The Caesars’ music. And contrary to many reviewers, I rate Paper Tigers as highly as I do any of their previous releases. But this is the second time I’ve seen them now (at Southpaw) and something isn’t clicking. Frustratingly, it’s front man, vocalist-guitarist César Vidal. He’s surrounded himself with four of the wildest performers even the famously out-going rock musicians of Sweden can muster – and yet there he stands, stage-center, dead cool, barely breaking a sweat. I don’t think it’s even a purposeful cool: I’m sure it’s just his nature. But it’s so at odds with the rest of the band that it ruins the presentation. Close your eyes, imagine John Entwistle fronting The Who – or worse, Peter Noone – and if you’re unlucky enough, you’ll open them again to find yourself in front of The Caesars.
I’m probably not the only one left on the fence, as, successful iPod shuffle anthem ‘Jerk It Out’ notwithstanding, the room was less than half full. And it was a damn sight smaller a place to fill than Summerstage, too. Any band that can get such permanently sweet sounds out of a Farfisa organ remains alright by me. In future, though, I’ll just stick with the Caesars’ CDs.