Featured Dinosaur Jr. photo by Ben Stas for Vanyaland.
If all the regular folk from high schools across New England congregate the night before Thanksgiving at the local bar on Main Street, then Friday night’s Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom show at the House of Blues was a way for those raised on Massachusetts rock and roll to come together with their own. Repping each end of the Bay State, Dinosaur Jr. and Buffalo Tom took over Lansdowne Street for a night of unbridled riffs and emphatic volumes, each bringing their A-game as all sorts of characters ventured out to see a stacked night of amplified rock.
With a mountain of amps behind them, Buffalo Tom started the night off with a classic in “Sunflower Suit.” Frontman Bill Janovitz had a stunning amount of feedback and reverb coming out of his guitar playing, and the crowd caught on to it right from the get go. Hilken Mancini (Fuzzy, Girls Rock Campaign Boston) came out to join the band on harmonica for the performance of “Kitchen Door,” with bassist Chris Colburn taking the lead on vocals. During “Tree House,” Janovitz got a bit flashy on guitar and started busting a few moves, and it was clear he was excited to be a part of such a stellar evening. After a few thank yous, Colburn once again sang on another classic off of the band’s 1998 gem Smitten with “Rachael”. The trio then performed a new track in “Freckles,” and announced they were currently working on a new album. They immediately went into “Taillights Fade,” much to the delight of the audience.
From there, J Mascis went on stage and things got a bit interesting. Buffalo Tom and Mascis paid tribute to Boston comrades Galaxie 500 with a cover of “Tugboat,” while concluding the song in atmospheric fashion with Colburn singing “I don’t wanna vote for your President,” which amounted to the extent of any political statements of the night. Mascis shredded a magnificent solo during the performance of another vintage classic “The Bus” while Janovitz, Colburn, and drummer Tom Maginnis finished of their set with the energetic “Tangerine”. What really stood out was how Janovitz’s guitar sounded, maybe he got some new pedals but he definitely brought a few different things to the table for a refreshing experience.
After a brief intermission — where this writer was mistaken for someone’s drug dealer and the smell of marijuana filled the air of the downstairs men’s room — Dinosaur Jr. kicked off their set with “The Lung” — and from there everything had all the makings of a typically awesome Dinosaur Jr. set. After a few new ones with “Goin Down,” “I Told Everyone,” and “Love Is…” off August’s Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not, the trio went into “The Wagon” and people started going a little crazy. The ante got upped when another musical jewel in “Feel The Pain” got an older gentleman to the right of me to rediscover his youth and he started pogo’ing up and down like he was at a punk rock show back in the late ’70s. During “Start Choppin'”, Murph’s flurry of beats raised the bar even higher and at this point people were moshing and bumping into each other up front while everyone else was going insane. The initial finale consisted of “Freak Scene” resonating a contagious wave that had the attendees singing every lyric and Barlow getting on the mic for the old school song “Gargoyle” that had a bunch of solos from Mascis.
There was the ever so awkward moment when people were either leaving to beat the traffic while most of the audience moved closer to the stage. They waited feverishly to see if the band was coming out for an encore and after a few moments Dinosaur Jr. delivered. Barlow unleashed some angst on a rendition of Deep Wound’s “Training Ground” then the well known cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” took things over with the audience shouting the chorus. To conclude a magnificent night, the trio went back to the old school with “Mountain Man” of off their 1985 debut Dinosaur.
It was a show that lived up to the billing and beyond, a rare opportunity to see two of Massachusetts’ musical giants complement each other immensely well on a night that felt like a homecoming for not just the bands, but those in the room as well.