Indie diety J Mascis plays an understated set at World Cafe Live
If intentionally underachieving, blasé, slacker indie rock is your thing, J Mascis is your guy. I don’t mean to say that the man Spin ranked 5th on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time doesn’t care about his art – quite the contrary. His croaky drone of a voice is, in its own weird way, quite expressive, and the dude shreds on 6 strings like no other. But if you expect this god of the indie-est of rock to put on a mind-blowing performance (as I unknowingly did), you are in for a world of disappointment.
As roaring applause dissipated into a blanket of hush murmurs, the ever-laconic Mascis took the stage, played with some nobs on his amp, tuned his guitar and remarked, “It got real quiet in here”, before strumming the jangly chords of “Listen To Me”. If anything, it was an ironic opener lyrically, seeing as the one thing I couldn’t hear was Mascis’ voice. Mix-wise, things only got better, that definitive Mascis sound beginning to take form on “Me Again”, the leading track off of his new solo-acoustic record, Tied to a Star.
Once I got used to the abrupt endings, the rushed pace and the frequent pauses (even in the middle of songs) to take sips of coconut water, I got around to appreciating the mastery in Mascis’ guitar playing, because damn, he made that thing (an acoustic, no less) sing on “Every Morning”. For the first (and for all intents and purposes, last) time in the less than 90-minute set, I felt truly happy I made the trip. “Fade Into You”, a Mazzy Star track, was a nice break from the shredding, and because the first song I will always play for an aspiring Dinosaur Jr. listener is “Get Me”, I was pretty stoked that it made it into Mascis’ set.
Nearly as surprising as how apathetic J Mascis’ set ended up being was how killin’ Purling Hiss’ set turned out. Prior to the show, I had only heard a few songs by the Philly natives, and was entirely prepared to not like them, but with bone-crushing drums, crunchy bass lines and sweet guitar licks like theirs, not liking them proved an impossible task. I guess a guy can be wrong once in a while, can’t he?