(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Dinosaur Jr, the Amherst, Mass.-based rock trio that in the mid-1980s laid down the format that Pacific Northwest bands including Nirvana would popularize as “grunge-rock,” will drive one hour northwest from their home base to perform in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Saturday, December 10, at 8pm. The group’s innovation was to combine the crunchy, distorted guitar sounds of Sonic Youth and hardcore-punk with catchy melodies by way of the Replacements, sung in a hyper-personal manner by founder and frontman J Mascis. Think Neil Young and Crazy Horse on steroids.
Formed in Amherst in 1984, Dinosaur Jr has maintained its looming presence over its three-plus decades, waxing and waning as genres come and go, but re-emerging in the last few years to assume its proper mantel as elder statesmen of viscerally badass rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s latest record, “Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not,” was released in August.
With an eclectic vibe that stood out amidst the speed of 1980s hard-core punk, Dinosaur Jr pioneered and revolutionized the American alternative rock scene in the early years of its inception. The band’s signature flare of twangy sound, high-volume din, and distortion-saturated performances has maintained a loyal fan base in the 32 years since its beginning.
Following the breakup of his high school band, Deep Wound, in 1984, Mascis entered into a stage of new-wave songwriting and founded a band comprised of himself as songwriter and vocalist, Lou Barlow as lead vocalist and bassist, and Edward Murphy, known as Murph, as drummer. Taking on the name “Dinosaur,” the group released an adrenalized debut album Dinosaur in 1985.
After the release of its second album, the group changed its name to Dinosaur Jr, and within a year, its third album “Bug” (1988) reached number 1 on the UK independent chart and maintained a spot therein for 38 weeks. Creative tension between the members in the late 1980s caused the band to undergo a handful of lineup changes into the ’90s. Although Barlow had left the group to pursue an independent career — founding lo-fi seminal slacker rock band Sebadoh — Dinosaur Jr went on to produce six albums, including Green Mind (1991), Where You Been (1993), and Without a Sound (1994), before disbanding in 1997.
The original trio reunited in 2005, marked by a stunning appearance on The Late Show with Craig Ferguson in April, and kicked off a European tour later that June. Mark Beaumont of The Guardian notes, “It’s remarkable how fresh and visceral Dinosaur Jr. still sounds.” As veteran rockers they have worked on three albums with indie label Jagjaguwar: Farm (2009), I Bet on Sky (2012), and 2016’s highly anticipated Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not.
In 2014, Mascis released a solo effort, the stripped-down and much-lauded Tied to a Star that highlighted his dexterous picking, while securing his status as grunge-rock guitar hero. Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not promises to deliver everything fans love about the band: mind-numbing Mascis guitar solos, Barlow’s heavy fuzz bass, and Murph’s crashing percussion. With a reputation for what Pitchfork describes as “catchy and well-crafted songs that never feel restricted or overly polished,” expect to be bouncing out of your Doc Martens all night.
Dinosaur Jr. hits the stage in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, December 10, at 8pm. Dinner and snacks are available from Lickety Split before the show. A full bar serves Bright Ideas Brewing beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $28 in advance and for students, $36 day of, and $46 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays through September 5. Beginning September 7, the box office is open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. The museum is closed on Tuesday, September 6. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA.