OPEN FOR QUESTIONS Dinosaur Jr.
It's always exciting when an iconic band play Portland, but Dinosaur Jr.'s Port City Music Hall show Monday night brings some additional curiosities. First, they're expected to play their third LP, Bug, in its entirety. Of course, Bug is as gloriously noisy and melancholic as its predecessor, You're Living All Over Me (which the band played in toto at an All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in 2006), but it's also a tick more ruminative and aloof, perhaps illustrating the well-documented tumult between band leader J Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow, who left the band shortly after Bug's 1988 release. Mascis himself has since remarked that it's his least favorite of the band's records, and drummer Emmett "Murph" Murphy told the Phoenix in a phone interview that he was "surprised" at Mascis's decision to revisit it.
In addition to being a compelling backstory for one of the era's most influential bands, all of this is likely additional fodder for Henry Rollins, a man who has risen above his former status as a punk singer and spoken-word artist to become a distinctly American celebrity: someone who can slide in and out of endeavors of any artistic medium on the strength of his former work. Rollins has sold out Portland venues in spoken-word tours as recently as last year; on Monday night he takes second stage, aiming to interview the band before their set.
With any other band, you'd be forgiven if you think all of this sounds a little canned. Rock reunions are ipso facto suspect, and especially awkward for punk bands born during the Reagan years. In this case, rather ironically, the band's personal trials have been so well documented that the success of their reunion — now going on five years — carries more emotional undertones than commercial ones. Conquering Bug and letting Rollins, a lifelong provocateur, grill the trio without scripts is a major cornerstone for a band that spent 20 years passive-aggressively slandering one another in songs and interviews.
"Those guys wouldn't talk at all," says Murph. "It was like a sketch where three people are sitting on the couch and the middle guy has to turn back and forth because the two on the ends won't talk to each other."
Monday night's interview with Rollins is a trial run. "We've never done this before," says Murph, who lived in South Berwick in the early 2000s, during the band's hiatus. "Portland is a good starting point for us. It's not quite like a hometown gig but it's close enough to feel relaxed." After Monday's show, the band tours the Bug-and-interview itinerary for two weeks through the US and London. Lucky for fans new and old (who may remember the band's preposterously loud 1993 show at the old State Theatre), we get the first peek.
Dinosaur Jr. + Henry Rollins + MV & EE | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St, Portland | $25-30 | 207.899.4990 | portcitymusichall.com