J Mascis with Steve Gunn + James Elkington at Neumos
I've always benefitted from having friends with great taste in music. I'll let them remain fairly anonymous, but Drew, Greg, Rick, and JP pointed me to the likes of Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Wilco, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, and Dinosaur Jr. So I was pretty stoked when I got an unexpected free ticket to the J Mascis show at Neumos in Seattle on 4 August 2017.
A couple of months ago I saw a Travis Trautt exhibit of his live music shots at Capitol Hill's Everyday Music. I've been following Travis' work on Instagram, so I got in touch about buying a photo. We're both busy, so we kept missing one another. On Friday he sent a note to let me know he'd be at Everyday Music before heading over to the J Mascis show. I hurried over there, and he offered me an extra ticket. I told him I was excited to see Mascis because of Dinosaur Jr., but Travis suggested that I be sure to get there in time for Steve Gunn. That was some good advice.
Busy night on Pike / Pine. It's always busy on weekends, but there were long lines at the clubs, the sidewalks were packed with people, and the bars all looked busy. I ducked into Paseo for some black beans and rice and then went into Neumos. As soon as I walked in I realized that I had, yet again, forgotten earplugs.
I've been to Neumos a few times in the year I've lived in Seattle. I can see why it has earned its place in the pantheon of Seattle music venues. It reminds me of the 9:30 Club in DC. Simple, no frills space for great music.
Steve Gunn was on stage when I got there. Everything was bathed in deep blue light, with a lot of smoke and haze, which seemed appropriate given the smoke hanging over Seattle from the fires in British Columbia. Given that a door or two was open, I wasn't entirely sure whether it was a stage effect or smoke pouring in from outside. (It seemed much clearer for Mascis' show.)
My Rain City partner Tony is much better at writing about music. Sometimes I have to settle with extreme simplicity. I liked the Steve Gunn + James Elkington show a lot, but I'd be lying if I said I could tell you in great detail what they played. That's not a bad thing. I can get lost behind the camera, but never if the music isn't doing it for me. On Friday I got lost, enjoying the music while trying to capture the way the two lead guitarists worked off one another. It was also just a good vibe in general, an oasis of people taking in the music, safely removed from the madding crowds
J Mascis was up next, and it was incredible. He sat down and then powered through a nearly non-stop hour of awesome music, which included his solo material, a few Dinosaur Jr. songs, and even a Cure cover. Mid-way through his set it hit me that he sounds like Neil Young sometimes. I really thought I was onto something with that. And then I read an interview today in which he's asked if he ever gets annoyed by the comparisons to Neil Young. He does. I don't know how he does it. I think I'd have passed out if I played an intense set straight through like that (not that I can play guitar or sing). I think he was drinking water and coconut water on stage. If he has a favorite brand, they'd do well to get in touch with Mr. Mascis for some advertising.