Epilogue: Harlow’s 4/30/01

Well, it happened again—shattered eardrums. When I left the small room at Harlow’s nightclub on J Street in Sacramento, it was like a million chalkboards were screeching in my head. And when I put head to pillow back home in Chico, it sounded like a buzz saw. That’s what I get for not keeping my earplugs in the whole time.

Monday night’s show was pretty good, though not quite a “punk rock summit.” It was largely undersold, with only a hundred or so people in attendance in the pseudo-art-deco room (with a dress code, including no tattered clothes or tank tops).

The opening duo of Love as Laughter played a quick set of acoustic numbers including Neil Young’s “Cripple Creek Ferry” and were joined later by Watt and Mascis on a rousing electric version of Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” as a closer.

Next up was Imperial Teen, who seemed to get the small crowd motivated with a mixture of Stereolab-like vocal repetitions and pop-punk tunes. The band members, two men and two women, had an interesting twist, as they often changed instruments among themselves for different songs.

Finally, around 11 p.m., the crowd moved up close to the small stage and the PA began to burst with pre-recorded slang rants (that sounded like excerpts from an old ‘70s flick, Petey Wheatstraw maybe). The gray-haired Mascis, sporting a purple Seva T-shirt, wandered onstage, flanked by a disheveled looking Watt in his trademark flannel carrying his Gibson SG bass. The room quickly exploded with volume as several Marshall stacks proceeded to blow people’s hair back in the front row.

The band tore through a 90-minute set featuring several new songs, as well as classic Dinosaur Jr. numbers like “Budge,” “The Wagon,” and “Repulsion.” Unfortunately, the vocals were a little buried in the mix; but Mascis’ guitar pyrotechnics were in full force (plenty of wanking tonight). Love as Laughter frontman Sam Jayne joined the group for an encore version of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” then Mascis ripped through his version of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” with a roadie in a Ramones t-shirt screaming out “You!” at the end.

I think I now know why Mascis mumbles in interviews. His brain has to be damaged from playing that loud for years. I could barely take it for one night. I need to go lie down again right now, actually.