J Mascis and the Fog :: 11.17.04 :: North Star :: Philadelphia, PA
The North Star is hidden away on the corner of 27th and Poplar street. It sits between the growing yuppie population of the Art Museum area and the old ghetto of North Philadelphia. A giant neon "Levi's" hotdog sign rests on its roof. It sets the bar apart from the adjacent decay. This is just the place you would expect to catch J Mascis and the Fog. J probably felt at home on the stage as its dimly lit surroundings sucked away the faces of the crowd. The chilly night was held outside as the building crowd fogged up the windows.
J was flanked on stage by two southern rockers. To his left stood Dave Schools, chain smoking Marlboro Mediums with a red Rickenbacker bass duct taped to his shoulder. Dave was on hiatus from Athens's own Widespread Panic. On J's backside sat Kyle Spence, behind a dinosaur green drum set. He too is from Georgia, playing in Atlanta's heavy, The Tom Collins.
J Mascis and the Fog :: 11.17
J's long gray hair swayed as he played. His purple and green striped Adidas kept time as his fingers traversed the guitar his hands barely held. The whole evening was a mix of J's past projects with seminal, ground-breaking indie-noise band Dinosaur Jr. and his ongoing collaboration the Fog. The balcony directly over the power trio's heads shook as the band found their aggressive attack. J had two purple Marshall stacks cranked; it was loud but not unbearable. He tore that guitar like a redheaded step child one moment then smacked its ass and made it cry like a baby the next.
Dinosaur Jr.'s Where You Been was one of the first CD's that graced many collections during the grunge-fest in the early to mid-90s. People stood in the North Star taking in the music wondering what they would remember. "The Lung" and "Everybody Lets Me Down" flew by. J sang in his anguished whine that suggested someone was twisting a knife in his back. He kept the guitar screaming through one of the only recognizable songs of the evening. "Get Me," (off Where You Been) proved to be equally amazing today as ever. It began with slight guitar strumming, then built into a massive riff, finally peaking with solo after solo that said more than all the words on any Dinosaur Jr. album. His trademark hyper-distorted guitar tone blew through our ear-plugs. Fascination in his intricate little melodies lost their spot to the thrashing Kyle Spence laid down on the green drum kit. Kyle was the original "Animal" on the drums. It's no wonder when folks describe The Tom Collins band they say they rocks harder in the first 30 minutes then most bands do in two hours.
J Mascis :: 11.17
Dave Schools watched J all night waiting for what was next. Most shows Dave is a part of he leads; here he was balancing leading and being led. He elevated J's playing and in doing so J elevated Dave's. "Freedom" began with a beautiful bass solo by Dave. As Schools took the helm he was clearly in touch with his inner head-banging self as sweat and flying hair cut the stale North Star air. "Out There" was another Where You Been tune to pop out. J's guitar prowess reappeared as he poured his heart into the solos, over-bending and twisting notes to create strange groupings of melody, pain, and noise. The live performances of these songs were a force to be reckoned with.
"Thumb" was an honest song aided by J's fragile, straining vocal. Its subtle warmth slowly penetrated our hearts and glued us to the sound of J's focused, passionate and heartfelt delivery. The sweaty, eclectic crowd was treated to two more spirited numbers "Sludge Fest" and "Freak Scene." An hour and a half had slipped by bringing with it a rediscovery of rock.
Dave Schools :: 11.17
When you look at the poor state of rock these days, J Mascis continues to truly shine, especially to those of us who haven't heard much of his music the past few years. The North Star show left us nostalgic for the bygone 90's and some obscure guitar-driven rock that still holds up more than ten years after it was released.
All Words & Images: Jake Krolick
JamBase | Philly
Go See Live Music!
[Published on: 12/1/04]