LIVE REVIEW | Dinosaur Jr. & Mike Watt

Caught Mike Watt + The Missingmen last night (Sat. April 25) with Dinosaur Jr. at the Music Farm. My ears are still ringing (more than usual).

It was a good crowd with lots of old-schoolers who probably saw Watt with the Minutemen or fIREHOSE back in the day, as well as Dino guitarist J Mascis with whichever lineup he had back in the late ’80s and ’90s. Loaded frontman Duff McKagan (the former bassist with Guns N Roses) was there, too.

In front of a very packed house, Dinosaur was about twice as loud as Watt’s band, especially during the big choruses, solos, and transitions, when Mascis hit the pedals and wailed through his trebly triple-stack of Marshall cabinets (plus a Mesa Boogie aimed back at him). Murph and Lou Barlow locked in pretty tightly on the old tunes. A very fast and heavy rendition of “In a Jar,” my favorite track from Youre Living All Over Me , came second in the set, which was an encouraging sign of things to come.

Watt’s opening set was even more engaging and weird, however. While Dinosaur Jr. stuck with their familiarly loose and loud approach, Watt’s band really ventured way out with some of the most inventive and creative new rock songs Ive heard in a while. With guitarist Tom Watson (ex-Slovenly) on guitar and young newcomer Paul Morales on drums, the Missingmen blazed through a wild, jumpy, high-energy set which intensified with every tune.

Watt’s playing style has evolved from his early pick-handling days into an odd mix of two-finger picking, fist-banging, five-finger spanking, and over-the-top left-hand vibrato. Music school students might recoil in horror at such a strange and emphatic technique, but it fits this music.

It only took two songs for Watt to get warmed up proper on his Gibson SG “thunderbroom.” With Morales set up at center stage, facing Watt, the tightly-packed trio kicked off with a dozen new songs from a forthcoming studio album to be titled Ten and Twenty Don’t Make Fifty. The new stuff sounded riffy and tight and not nearly as groovy and progged-out as some of Watt’s previous stuff. Watson laid it on thick with some sonic effects at times, and it worked well. I cant wait to hear to new recordings.

The second half of the opening set gained even more momentum, as they sprinted through four tunes from the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime (“One Reporter’s Opinion,” “Toadies,” “The Glory of Man,” and “Anxious Mo-Fo”), two Wire covers (“Three Girl Rhumba” and “Ex Lion Tamer”), a heavy-duty version of the Stooges’ “Fun House,” and a fiery, Minutemen-style take on Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and the Black.”

Watt looked like he was going to have a heart attack between a few of the closing numbers, staggering back, and grabbing hold of his bass amp while he caught his breath. He was totally fine, though, both physically and in spirit very into what he was singing, hollering, and thumping.

(photos by T. Ballard Lesemann)