It’s an ongoing joke that J. Mascis is a man of few words. The mysterious muso stayed true to form at his second Sydney Festival show at The Spiegeltent. Save for a gruff “Hello” and the occasional word of thanks, Mascis left Martin to do all the talking for the two of them.

For those that don’t know, Martin is J’s acoustic guitar. He’s so important that Mascis’ first solo outing from his alt-rock band, Dinosaur Jr. saw Martin virtually get equal billing with the long-haired wizard. The intervening sixteen years has seen an uncannily good reformation, some side projects (including a foray into heavy metal), albums with friends and riding the odd skateboard, which when combined make Mascis akin to God as he’s able to do just about anything. And he achieves all that with his trademark blend of cool and apathy to boot.

With a lyric sheet to his left, Mascis launched into “Listen To Me,” the opener from his recent solo effort, Several Shades Of Why. It was a gorgeous folk tune and it proved as pretty as the insides of The Spiegeltent and this was no mean feat because the surroundings boasted an amazing chandelier, solid wood booths and some stained glass. The aforementioned LP’s title track followed with the kind of chords Lior wished he’d written because it was like sweet moondrops.

A cover of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ “Circles” was then offered. It had also featured on Mascis’ recent effort and all before “Ocean In The Way” AKA the Dinosaur Jr. song they never played but one J wanted to. It saw Mascis’ voice feature the perfect blend of dusty huskiness and velvety syrup and the guitarist did a fine job playing and accompanying himself. Using the kind of loop pedals Liam Finn used to utilise so well to create a full band sound, Mascis used it ramp the guitar work up to eleven and beyond.

The star once said that Dinosaur Jr. songs were just an excuse to play lots of guitar solos and tracks like “Get Me” and “Not The Same” were no exception. After all, like Thurston Moore you could hardly have J appear at a show without some distorted guitar playing. What made it extra-special though were moments like in the former where you had dirty fuzz bouncing off some lush, acoustic riffs.

There were some more solo offerings in “Not Enough” and the yearning, “Can I”. The cut from his work with The Fog, “Ammaring,” made a lasting impression- just as the lyrics had practically dictated. After one very impressive solo, many punters felt the need to clap. Brilliant.

The set was rounded out by the Dinosaur Jr. covers “Flying Cloud,” “Thumb,” “Not You Again” “Alone” and the encore, “The Wagon”. Mascis had thrilled us for a little over an hour, making everyone’s eyes twinkle as they sat back, marveled and at times even levitated due to his astonishing guitar playing. Let’s just say that when Mascis reverted from acoustic to electric there was not one person in the room that would’ve dreamed of yelling, “Judas!” Instead, we got to feel free so free with his stirring works from today and beyond.

Originally published on 13 January 2012 at the following website:

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