Let’s be frank, Nashville: You haven’t always been the kindest to touring acts on Monday nights. We’ve seen all too many road-weary indie upstarts and hard-working semi-legends strut their stuff to a near-empty room on nights nearly identical to last (Dinosaur Jr. is of course both an indie upstart, or at least re-upstart, and a band of hard-working indie legends). Well, except last night, you proved our expectations wrong by showing up in droves. We arrived to find the place surprisingly packed as openers Shearwater were midway through their set.
The Spin was already a few beers deep as we climbed Mercy’s majestic stairway, and Shearwater seemed at the time simply an obstacle whose function was to make us drink more beer before Dino took the stage. Since then, we’ve learned that this Austin outfit has been at it for more than a decade and features at least one former member of Okkervil River. Singer Jonathan Meiburg’s bellowing choir-boy croon echoes the gloomy overtones of Bauhaus riding over the pop sensibilities of Echo and the Bunnymen, and sprinklings of arty electronics bring to mind Talk Talk. And that's all well and good, as The Spin does enjoy any and all homage to '80s art rock. But it wasn’t the decibel-bursting guitargasm in which we came to bathe.
After half an hour or so of watching guitar techs adjust and tweak the cocoon of amplifiers lining the stage, the ever-bald Murph, a grizzled Lou Barlow (who’d graced this very stage just six weeks ago with Sebadoh) and the white wizard guitar god himself, J Mascis, walked out and graced us with an epic slow jam off their latest, I Bet on Sky. Were that to test the patience of an older fan, he or she was instantly rewarded with the subsequent shredded of 1987’s “In a Jar.” The rest of the show essentially followed the same pattern: The band would play a new or newer track from its latest reincarnation, sandwiched between classics like “Freak Scene,” “Feel the Pain” and “The Wagon.” Hell, they even threw in a tune from the original Barlow/Mascis collaboration, '80s hardcore act Deep Wound, for ultimate throwback cred.
The biggest appeal of new Dino Jr. songs is that they basically sound like old Dino Jr. songs. So while they’re less familiar than the hits, they still burst with all the same ear-bleeding squeals and thundering sludge — they’re just a hell of a lot longer. Even on a few of the oldies, Mascis, Murph and Lou stretched the jams to almost twice their length in a relentless, full-blast instrumental onslaught over which Mascis effortlessly shredded with the same nonchalance Wolfgang Puck uses to slice a tomato. We couldn’t help but think maybe we’d like to have heard just a handful more numbers, new or old, as opposed to this series of ambling jam sessions lacking any form of dynamic diversity. Our complaints were, however, undermined when Dino's two-song encore included “The Lung” and “Sludgefeast” — two standouts from the flawless 1987 landmark You’re Living All Over Me.