Mascis not ‘stuck in the past’ as a solo performer

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

It can be hard to escape a legacy sometimes.

Artists who have performed for decades often fall into a consistent routine, a routine which fans then expect every time they hit the stage. Whether it is fan-favorite songs or popular stage antics, artists become trapped by the weight of their pasts. When these artists go out on solo tours and record albums outside of the bands they have been playing in for long periods of times, sometimes the transition doesn’t work in their favor.

J Mascis, however, is an example of an artist having a success solo career.

Best known as the seminal guitarist in Dinosaur Jr., Mascis has achieved a legendary status as one of the most influential guitarists in the alternative rock movement. Recognized for his signature electric sound, J Mascis has proven with his solo albums, his most recent being 2014’s Tied to a Star, that he is not limited to one style of music. His solo career is acoustic-driven, featuring him alone and his guitar.

His ability to deliver as a solo performer was evident at Starlight on June 2. Playing to a sold-out crowd at the Waterloo venue, Mascis administered a stellar performance, proving his ability to craft music with melody.

Not known as someone to amp up a crowd, Mascis stuck to what he knows best: playing music. His interaction with the crowd was limited to a “hey” opening his set and a “thanks” to close it off, something most people would expect from the guitarist.

His unobtrusive stature on stage was not misplaced at all. His isolation as the only performer on stage felt natural. He was comfortable being the only one on stage, with just his own instrument to back up the quality of his performance.

What really propelled his performance was Mascis’ musicianship. Known as an incredible guitar player, Mascis showcased awe-inspiring guitar work as he worked through his hour-and-a-half set, guided by songs from his solo albums and the occasional Dinosaur Jr. song. In many ways his persona as an artist is kept fairly simple: he sat on stage and played guitar. His eyes were constantly locked on the fret board as he maneuvered up and down the neck with ease.

As much as Mascis was able to show he can stand on his own as a solo artist, he still wasn’t able to escape his past as a performer. This came forth with his approach to playing on an acoustic guitar, as he still layered many of his songs with his pedal board, transforming acoustic into distorted and effect-laden works reminiscent of his work in Dinosaur Jr.

His performance at Starlight affirmed Mascis is not stuck in the past. His ability to perform on his own, without the help of Dinosaur Jr. band mates Lou Barlow and Emmett Joseph “Murph” Murphy III, shows as an artist Mascis has the ability to grow and conquer new musical terrain. With hints of his past shining through the cracks, his ability to sit on stage and play his music proves versatility. J Mascis live is an experience to be enjoyed and appreciated outside the legacy he has built for himself.

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