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When Dinosaur Jr. reunited in 2005 after an eight-year hiatus, the members intended to play together for a little while and again head their separate ways.

More than a decade later, Dinosaur Jr. remains together. The band will be appearing at the Desert Stars Festival at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24.

Dinosaur Jr. released its first album, Dinosaur, in 1985, and all of the band’s albums since—including Green Mind, Where You Been and Without a Sound, which were recorded with limited or no involvement from Lou Barlow and/or Murph—have received some degree of critical acclaim.

In 1997, frontman J. Mascis decided to retire Dinosaur Jr. However, in 2005, Mascis acquired the rights for the band’s first three releases from SST Records so he could re-release them on Merge Records. That process began a dialogue between the three original members—and sparked the reunion.

Eleven years have passed since that reunion, and to nobody’s surprise, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, released by Dinosaur Jr. on Aug. 5, is receiving praise from critics and fans alike. During a recent phone interview with drummer Murph, he said he remains shocked by the acclaim the band seemingly always receives.

“I’m really surprised,” Murph said. “We just keep refining our sound, and J’s getting better and better at songwriting. Everybody is honing their craft. We’ve gotten better playing together, I’m getting better as a drummer, and I think everything is subtly improving over time.”

Even though the band’s 2005 reunion was welcomed with open arms by critics and fans, it wasn’t easy at first for the three members to play together again.

“The first couple of records we did, it was really stressful,” Murph remembered. “We didn’t really plan on doing this. J was going to re-release three records; we were going to tour for a year and a half behind those records and call it a day. We didn’t really plan on going for this long and doing all of these records.

“When we started recording, there was a lot of pressure to make it good and succeed at it. If our relationships weren’t better today, we wouldn’t be able to do this. There would be no way. If we had the old baggage—the tension that we used to have—it would be unbearable, and we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Murph elaborated on that previous “baggage.”

“It was all personality quirks,” he said. “We’re all really different people, and we’re all strong egos. We have different ways we live, and it was hard when we’d travel. It’s still hard. When you’re getting in each other’s space, it can be really hard—especially when people aren’t willing to compromise, and you want to stay the way you are. When you travel together, you have to be able to compromise on different things. You can’t live like you’re at home all the time.”

The members of Dinosaur Jr. particularly enjoy performing at festivals.

“I think festivals are great, because you get to go to different places, and you have a mass audience,” Murph said. “There are a lot of people there who are there for other bands, so you can walk away with new fans. I think it’s all an upside, and it’s a great thing.”

That’s not to say that Dinosaur Jr. doesn’t ever feel out of place.

“The only time when I feel it’s odd is when we play an extreme emo festival, where it’s all, like, 20-year-olds and emo bands, and we’re obviously like the grandfathers showing up,” Murph said. “That’s awkward, but it’s still fun, and the kids are still psyched to see the show.”

While Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not is receiving positive feedback, Murph said the process of creating the album was a bit unorthodox.

“This album was weird, because we didn’t really have any material,” he said. “I was kind of freaking out, because J was like, ‘I don’t have any songs.’ We actually started reworking a song from J’s other band that he had written. He had half a song, and we started with that, and it got the ball rolling. As soon as the process started, it just started churning out like a factory. Once that happened, J was recording demos in one room, and Lou and I were trying to keep up and learn them in another room. We were tracking in the morning, and it was crazy—but it was great. It opened up the floodgates, and then the record was done.”

Murph explained why every Dinosaur Jr. album ends up being a surprise to him.

“I didn’t hear any lyrics or anything, so I didn’t get a sense of what the songs are going to sound like,” he said of Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not. “It was even more of a surprise when I heard the finished product. Me and Lou aren’t there when J does vocals. We’ve already left at that point, and we’re not there, and he’s recording the vocals by himself. We don’t really know how it’s going to sound until we hear the finished product. He and Lou both are pretty self-conscious and don’t want people around when they’re doing vocals. It’s usually just them and the engineer on the days that they do vocals. It’s always been like that.”

Murph admitted that there is one Dinosaur Jr. album that is a personal favorite.

“I really like Where You Been, even though Lou isn’t on that one,” he said. “That was when things were really tight, and we had this amazing studio called Dreamland in Woodstock, N.Y., which is an old massive church with this wooden room. The drums sounded insane. Production-wise, that record is one of my overall favorites.”

Dinosaur Jr. will perform as part of the Desert Stars Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Weekend passes are $125. For tickets or more information, visit www.desertstarsfestival.com.

Published in Previews

Lou Barlow is best known as the bassist of Dinosaur Jr.—but his solo work is gaining more attention.

He’ll be playing solo at the Desert Stars Festival at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, Sept. 25, following up on the Sept. 4 release of his new solo album, Brace the Wave.

“I recorded it in six days,” Barlow said about the new album during a recent telephone interview. “… My life is moving along, and it’s sort of a reflection of what’s going on.”

Barlow was fired from Dinosaur Jr. in the late 1980s, but returned in 2005 when frontman J Mascis reunited the band. During those intervening years, Barlow remained busy with Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion.

Before Dinosaur Jr. formed, both Mascis and Barlow were part of a group called Deep Wound.

“It was a hardcore punk band, and we just naturally got a bit older, and our tastes became a little more sophisticated, so we both evolved to Dinosaur Jr.,” he explained.

While Sebadoh is still active, the Folk Implosion is not. The Folk Implosion is remembered most for its contributions to the Kids soundtrack in 1995, including the song “Natural One,” which reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“The last record I did with Folk Implosion was in 2004, and I don’t imagine I’ll ever do that again,” Barlow said. “… Folk Implosion was gradually becoming a solo project for me.”

I asked him what makes Brace the Wave stand out from his previous solo albums, Emoh (2005) and Goodnight Unknown (2009).

“I think this one is more basic than those records,” he said. “I don’t really have any guest musicians on this record. It’s just me, and it’s a little less polished than the other records, and it’s a little more raw overall.”

Barlow said he’ll stay busy for the rest of the year.

“The next thing I have on the line is Dinosaur Jr. and recording another record with them in the fall. I’m also doing shows with Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr., and my solo stuff,” he explained. “It’s playing a lot of different shows at once. It’s not really difficult for me; it’s more difficult for the people I work with, which can make it difficult for me, too, I guess. It’s almost like every band I have is a side project. It’s hard for me to determine what the main focus is, and it can be frustrating for people who work with me.”

Barlow was touring with Dinosaur Jr. when I spoke to him.

“At the last show I played, two days ago, we had a guest vocalist, John Brannon from Negative Approach,” Barlow said. “He’s really influential, and Negative Approach is one of J Mascis’ favorite bands. He came up and sang a song with us, and it was pretty awesome.”

Barlow said festivals such as Desert Stars fascinate him.

“They’re a real challenge,” he said. “If I play festivals with Sebadoh, it’s difficult, because it’s more of a club-sized band, and to get out there on a bigger-sized stage, it’s hard to pull it off if you’re not gearing your music to a festival vibe. With a band like Dinosaur Jr., it’s a lot easier, because we have big amplifiers, and it’s more of a rock band.

“I haven’t played very many festivals as a solo act, so I can’t really make any generalizations there.”

The Desert Stars Festival starts at 1 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $55 for a one-day pass, or $85 for a weekend pass. For passes or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

They saved the best for last.

Day 3 of Coachella 2013’s second weekend started off with blistering temperatures, but attendees came prepared. While a windstorm put a damper on the closing events of Coachella’s first weekend, the winds on the second Sunday remained relatively calm.

While Saturday’s schedule was heavy on the EDM, on Sunday, it was mostly about the rock. Throughout the Coachella’s history, Day 3 has always seemed to feature the biggest acts.

The Gaslight Anthem took to the main stage at 3:30 p.m. One figures the New Jersey punk outfit would attract a sizable crowd, but the attendance was quite thin.

The band walked onstage and began performing without an intro and without addressing the crowd—and they suffered through technical difficulties throughout the set. Guitarist and lead vocalist Brian Fallon’s microphone didn’t appear to be loud enough; the guitar solos were low volume and barely present. Overall, the band’s performance seemed … dull. The band—notable for being the closest thing to Bruce Springsteen within modern music—decided for some reason to cover Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song” toward the end; they closed with “The Backseat,” which was probably the best song of their set.

Too little, too late.

“I like them; they were on my list of bands that I wanted to see,” said Karen, who came all the way from Toronto.

However, she was honest about the band’s performance.

“I enjoyed them, even though the sound wasn’t perfect. It was still worth seeing.”

The eccentric and renowned Dinosaur Jr. performed on the Outdoor Theater stage at 5:10. The Massachusetts band—known for lead guitarist and vocalist J Mascis’ perfection of the art of feedback—offered a variety of songs from throughout their career. The band’s sound—which could be described as a combination of hardcore-punk, metal and psychedelic rock—made them a perfect act to follow Kurt Vile and the Violators. Mascis’ Marshall stack amps were arranged in a feedback zone that he moved in and out of between vocals; on couple of songs, he ceded lead vocals to drummer Murph and bassist Lou Barlow. Toward the end of their set, Dinosaur Jr. played a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” in their own unique sound.

Rodriguez—the subject of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, which won Best Documentary Feature honors at this year’s Academy Awards—took the stage in the Gobi tent at 6:35 p.m. to an audience of die-hards excited to hear the newly famous Detroit musician, whose music became the soundtrack for the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, unbeknownst to Rodriguez. Rodriguez’ folk sound, however, presented a problem: At the same time, Social Distortion was blasting throughout the entire festival; Tame Impala was performing in the nearby Outdoor Theater; and James Blake was performing in the neighboring Mojave tent (with Rza of Wu-Tang Clan making a special appearance during Blake’s set).

When Rodriguez walked on to the stage, he was guided on each arm to his guitar and microphone due to the inoperable glaucoma that’s causing him to go blind. When Rodriguez began his performance, the other bands easily drowned him out. Still, his fans got as close as they could to try to hear him. His performance of “I Wonder” early in his set led to loud applause when fans heard the opening bass line.

Despite all of the noise, Rodriguez and his backing band were on the ball. Fans began to trickle in after James Blake and Social Distortion were finished, just as Rodriguez began “Sugar Man,” which sent smartphones up into the air to capture video or shoot photos. After a folk-sounding cover of Little Richard’s “Lucille,” Rodriguez began to lose a portion of the audience to some of the other performers about to go on stage, but nonetheless, Rodriguez delivered a strong performance until the very end.

Regarding the art exhibits of Coachella: When the sun sets, the night time is the right time, because many of the exhibits have lighting that makes them visually stunning. On Sunday night as Vampire Weekend played on the main stage, the exhibits in the areas closest to the main stage came alive for one last night.

The Balloon Chain looks more impressive at night as it moves through the festival with balloons lit and streaming across the night sky. Mirage lights up at night, putting an impressive accent on the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired structure. The Do LaB’s teepee-style tents glow at night, bringing out the different shades of the fabric.

One exhibit that grabbed attention throughout the weekend was the Poetic Kinetics’ PK-107 Mantis. A cherry-picker-like structure with wings that look like they came off a jet fighter, Mantis moves up and down, looking like a giant, robotic praying mantis.

Lindsay, attending the festival all the way from Ireland, stood and watched it with curiosity

“It’s quite spectacular. It really stands out at night time,” he said.

Another attraction that could be seen moving around the festival at night were the Electric Butterfly Effect butterflies. They were illuminated in neon colors and looked like they were really moving.

In the evening, nothing is better than a ride on the Ferris wheel—one of the festival’s most popular attractions. Despite an $8 ticket price, there was a long line on Sunday night.

A couple offered a very sentimental take on their Ferris wheel experience, stating that from up above, you can see the diversity of the festival. “You can see music bringing everyone together,” said Karen from Pasadena.

Her friend, Matt from Palm Desert, agreed.

“It’s such a great thing to get all these people together. It was kind of epic seeing everything up there going on at once,” he said.

When it came to the last of the musical performances, the main stage seemed to lose a large percentage of the attendees’ interest.

After the sun went down, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took the stage, at 8:40 p.m. Cave’s dark songwriting—referencing the Old and New Testament, plagued characters, and sometimes heartfelt sentiments—make him an unusual performer, and several people didn’t know what to make of him. As he walked onto the stage—backed by a children’s choir and with a woman doing sign language in front of the video monitor on the right side of the stage—he didn’t have much of a crowd. As he started his first song, “From Her to Eternity,” the choir provided a drone to Nick Cave’s howling of the lyrics.

While performing “Deanna,” the crowd sang along to the chorus of “Oh, Deanna, D-e-anna,” giving Cave the crowd participation he deserved, before a good chunk of his audience moved over to the Outdoor Theater to wait for Wu-Tang Clan.

If there was one important lesson to be learned during Coachella 2013, it’s this: Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to … mess with.

Wu-Tang attracted an audience at the Outdoor Theater that went into to the Main Stage area, around The Do LaB, and near the Gobi tent. Wu-Tang, backed by a large orchestra, rocked the audience with their hard-core hip-hop anthems from their legendary Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album. Wu-Tang’s energetic set ran into the end of Nick Cave’s set and into the beginning of Red Hot Chili Peppers set, holding the audience even as the Peppers took the stage. After Wu-Tang finished their set and wished the fans a happy late 4/20, the crowd at the quickly moved to the main stage area.

Last week’s performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was plagued by a windstorm, and it seems that last week’s attendees didn’t get to see the full stage show by Hall of Fame inductees. The band’s full stage show, with video monitors and much more colorful lighting, seemed to help the band perform a little better. Unfortunately, the set list didn’t offer much of their early ’90s classics other than “Give It Away.”

While the Coachella 2013 lineup seemed a little lackluster, and too many performances were plagued by technical problems, scheduling problems, and various other problems, the event was nonetheless solid and a full experience for those in attendance.

Published in Reviews