By: Andy Tennille
Band of Horses/Dinosaur Jr. :: 09.09.07 :: Mezzanine :: San Francisco, CA
"I decide to quit smoking and we get on a tour sponsored by Camel. Talk about perfect timing. Why couldn't we get Maker's Mark?"
Ben Bridwell shakes his head as he pours himself a tall glass of whiskey. From his perch on a stool on the backstage balcony, the bearded, lanky frontman of Band of Horses surveys the scene at Mezzanine, a South-of-Market club that tonight has been transformed by the marketing people at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company into a psychedelic pep rally for nicotine.
| Ben Bridwell :: Band of Horses|
Trippy videos and computerized graphics swirl on flat-screen TVs throughout the club alongside signs advertising Camel's new flavored cigarettes. Cancer pimps work the crowd, handing out free smokes and VIP badges for a special tent where gleeful smokers sample the fresh goods. With no access to television, radio or billboard advertising anymore, Joe Camel is desperately seeking new ways to sink his claws into the uninitiated. What better way to reach the desirable 18-35-year-old target market than by sponsoring a six-date, cross-country U.S. tour featuring reunited alt-rock forefathers Dinosaur Jr. supported by hip indie rockers Dr. Dog on the East Coast and Band of Horses out West ?!?
With their new album, Cease to Begin, slated for release on October 9 on Sub Pop Records, Bridwell and his Horsemen are in town pedaling their own wares. Opening the show with the new single, "Is There a Ghost," the band tore through a few choice cuts off their flawless debut, Everything All the Time ("Weed Party," "Great Salt Lake," "Our Swords" and "The Funeral," to name a few) before tossing some new numbers into the mix.
"Ode to the LRC" is a sprawling tour-de-force, shifting from a crunchy, Crazy Horse feel on the verses to a beautiful, airy melody for the chorus and la-di-da outro. Sonically speaking, it may be the song off Cease to Begin most like "The Funeral" in the way in which Bridwell employs dynamic tempo shifts to create a distinct, memorable melody.
Whacking a tambourine with a drum stick, Bridwell kicked off the start to "The General Specific," the song off Cease to Begin that seems most overtly influenced by the band's recent return to the South. It's a feel-good acoustic guitar-driven sing-a-long aided by a little barrelhouse piano from new Horseman Ryan Monroe and a thundering beat from drummer Creighton Barrett.
| Ben Bridwell :: Band of Horses|
The surprise of the night was "Marry Song," a quiet, simple tune that features Bridwell's lonely vocals backed by sparse drums, bass and a haunting melody played by Monroe on the Wurlitzer. It's music to drink whiskey to, late, late at night.
Dinosaur Jr.'s headlining set was remarkable, both in its performance and decibel level. Nothing in rock music truly compares to the sonic maelstrom blasted from the towering Marshall stacks of J Mascis. Dino's silver-maned guitarist brings the thunder and tonight was no exception. The reunited trio rocked songs from throughout their 20-year career, from 1985's Dinosaur ("Bulbs of Passion," "Forget the Swan") to 2007's Beyond ("Been There All the Time," "Back to Your Heart," "Crumble," "Pick Me Up," "This is All I Came to Do").
Leaving the stage to thunderous applause after a "Kracked," "Sludge" and "Chunks" encore, Mascis and bandmates Lou Barlow (bass) and Murph (drums) proved without a doubt that despite a more than decade-long absence, Dinosaur Jr. is far from extinct.
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