Live Review: J Mascis, Betsy Blue

25 February 2015 | 1:53 pm | Chloe Mayne

Contemporary guitarist J Masics delivers jaw dropping solos sure to make your hairs stand on end.

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Almost five years since his last visit, beloved Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis returned to the little island over the weekend.

This time he brought along his solo incarnation and took to the stage at North Hobart's Republic Bar, playing to a tight-knit Sunday evening crowd. Local supports Betsy Blue kicked off the evening with their subtly sun-drenched acoustic harmonies. By the end of their set shoulders were well and truly packed in, wrapping around the bar and into each available pocket of space in earnest anticipation of J Mascis' appearance. As always, he kept things low-key. Partially hidden beneath his long silver hair and a baseball cap, it was a little disorienting to see him perched alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar after the many years he spent howling with his prehistoric grunge counterpart, and curiosity was clearly high.

The set was a unique and engaging affair. Overall the sound was incredibly stripped back, almost washed underwater with reverb and gentle acoustic strums. The crowd were kept on their toes, however, by the blaring intermissions of fuzz that blasted in the windows between verses. The sound at these moments was colossal, a wall of feedback powerful enough to make your hair stand on end. Mascis was unfazed by his aural assault, entirely silent between tracks as though walking away from an explosion with his back turned. 

Perhaps the most notable component of the performance was the technical proficiency that dripped from the stage. Mascis unveiled his looping prowess to an extent that defied reasonable perception; an immensely full-bodied sound for a single person to orchestrate. Most impressive of all were his jaw-dropping guitar solos, which had the capacity to fill stadiums and pressed out to the very walls of the bar, shaking the windows. Fingers busied themselves with the frets as though weaving tapestries with ease, Mascis' face unchanged and almost unmoving. It was these moments of intensity that balanced out what was otherwise quite an understated affair.

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The set included a number of classic Dinosaur Jr numbers such as Little Fury Things as well as some impressive and welcome covers. Mazzy Star's Fade Into You made a late appearance and, though Hope Sandoval's buttery voice is almost impossible to match, his rendition was a fresh one. The encore for the evening was The Cure's Just Like Heaven; a delightfully upbeat note to end a night of sonic delight from one of today's most exciting contemporary guitarists.