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April 17, 2001 at 9:21 pm #43080
April 17, 2001
Punk Rockers Journey Underground to Unearth a Fresh Style
By NEIL STRAUSS
Last week at Wetlands Preserve, three different eras of underground
rock fused into a band that played as one loud, unified mind. The
group was J. Mascis and the Fog, and it featured well-known figures
from prepunk, punk and post-punk music.
The leader was J. Mascis, a master of guitar sonics. His former band,
Dinosaur Jr., helped pave the way for alternative rock with its 1985
debut on Homestead Records, which was sort of the Death Row Records
of the indie rock scene, except that instead of guns, it used
sarcasm. For the touring version of the Fog, (which on recordings is
basically just Mr. Mascis), the bassist was Mike Watt, who earned his
fame in the early 80’s punk band the Minutemen. George Berz, who
played with Dinosaur Jr. in the 90’s, was on drums.
For the first half of the set on Wednesday night, the band played as
a power trio, muscling through songs from Mr. Mascis’s "More Light"
album and a few Dinosaur Jr. fossils, like "The Wagon" and "Thumb,"
as well as a medley of songs by Teenage Fanclub, Pavement and the
Ruts. Afterward, Ron Asheton, the underground guitar hero who played
in the Stooges with Iggy Pop, joined the ensemble and with the former
Lemonheads singer Evan Dando looked back to Detroit, circa 1969.
Unlike more mainstream supergroups, this underground one had nothing
contrived or awkward about it except, perhaps, the bootleg tapes of
Buddy Rich harangues that it played between songs. Mr. Watt, sweat
pouring off his beard, played his bass with the urgency of someone
who hasn’t been to a restroom all day, his legs jittering to the 32nd
note. Mr. Berz offered a smoother variation of manic energy on drums,
puncturing every space with a cymbal crash. And Mr. Asheton choked up
on the guitar for fast, piercing solos, then backed off with a
squealing slide to the top of the neck.
With Mr. Dando appearing as a guest to sing faithful versions of
Stooges songs like "1969" and "No Fun," the Fog sounded like a
masterly tribute band. But when he left the stage, and Mr. Watt began
slurring songs like "I Wanna Be Your Dog," faithfulness went out the
window, and the ad hoc band took the sum of its prodigious experience
somewhere new, loud and magnificent.
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