“This is the first time Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh have shared a stage. Thanks to everyone who made this possible because this night is special to me,” said Lou Barlow while on stage with Sebadoh. Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh have been sister bands since the 80’s, often sharing members and fans. Red Bull Common Thread, a concert series dedicated to putting on events featuring bands with crossovers and associated acts, sponsored tonight’s unique show. In this case the Portland crowd is treated to an event of everything Dinosaur Jr: pure alternative rock, heavy guitars and long time fans.
Solo J. Mascis opened the night, the front man of Dinosaur Jr. playing songs from his mostly acoustic side project. He sat on a stool reading his music from a lighted stand. He looked like a faded hippie with his long slick grey hair pulled back and glasses but when he broke into his guitar all signs of age disappeared. Mascis is a wizard on the guitar. He picks the strings with a magnificent touch. He opened with “Listen to me,” a peaceful yet catchy number from his album Several Shades of Why. As his set went on he started using pedals to loop his acoustic chords while swiftly hitting the distortion pedal to rock some hot solos. A key moment was when he tore into “Not Enough” using his pedals with subtle brilliance while showing off dirty guitar solos. The crowd ate up the distortion and Mascis smiled hinting at what would come the rest of the night.
Sebadoh rocked a range of powerful indie music. Formed back in 1986, Sebadoh became invested in the development of the early 90’s lo-fi sound. Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein share songwriting duties and switched guitar and bass a few times during their set. Their energy level never subsided, inciting playful mosh pits with melodic hits, hard rock and roaring punk. Sebadoh played like a band thankful to still be around and the crowd ate up their earnest attitude.
There is always a lot of history and nostalgia when watching Dinosaur Jr. You know they pioneered alternative rock since the early 80’s. They are survivors of a style where there isn’t really anyone who makes music like them anymore. They harness that groundbreaking style of heavy distortion, static feedback and pounding rock. Needless to say they are loud. J. Mascis absolutely tears up his guitar with unstoppable shredding on classics like “Feel the Pain” and “Sludgefeast.” Barlow pounds his bass creating an enormous billowing commotion. The crowd feeds off their energy getting wild and forming a stiff mosh pit. Dinosaur Jr. exited with their potentially best song “Freak Scene,” which really showcases Mascis’ mesmerizing guitar/melodic drowning vocal combo.
In the spirit of all the surrounding history of the night they played “Train Ground” a song Barlow wrote in 1982 for their original band Deep Wound. They finished out with an encore of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” a satisfied aurora filled the room. With all of the history surrounding this show it felt like we were seeing something special: a night of appreciation for living legends. The alternative rock scene may have diminished but it is great having bands like Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh alive and reminding us what it is really like to rock.