Music

Dinosaur Jr. to bring Tokyo a glimpse of life in 'ear-bleeding country'

by Cam Lindsay

Special To The Japan Times

Lou Barlow is looking forward to his trip back to Japan. It’s the cuisine, more than anything that has him anticipating his return to the country, but it’s not what you might think.

“I look forward to the egg salad sandwiches at 7-11 or Lawson,” Barlow admits. “They have these American convenience stores everywhere, but the prepared food is great! The egg salad sandwiches are so sinewy and delicious that I really look forward to them.”

Barlow has been to Japan many times over the years with his many bands — Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, the Folk Implosion — and of all the experiences he anticipates upon returning it’s pre-made sandwiches more than anything.

“I mean, I look forward to so many things about going to Japan. The shows are early. It’s great! They’re really early, so it helps make dealing with jetlag a little easier,” he explains. “But there is a beauty to these egg salad sandwiches where they trim the crust off and they come in these plastic wrappers that are just pristine. They are amazing. I think all food except for maybe pizza and Mexican food is better in Japan.”

For this upcoming visit, Barlow will be playing two shows in Tokyo with Dinosaur Jr., the indie rock band he helped found back in 1984 with singer/guitarist J Mascis and drummer Patrick “Murph” Murphy. After nearly two decades apart, the original lineup reformed in 2005 for some shows, and ended up liking each other enough to make four studio albums over the next 11 years, including their brand new one, the very excellent “Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not.”

As a band that has existed for 32 years now, it’s hard not to do the math and recognize that all three members have reached the half-century mark in age. But it’s an easy thing to forget while you watch them up there on stage cranking out their noisy guitar jams they are as adept at the job as ever. Barlow is embracing his newfound 50-something status.

“With every performance I just feel more energized somehow,” he says. “Like, this is how I exercise! This is how I feed my ego, by playing this loud rock music. Because the band has been together for so long and the music is so ingrained in me, it’s one thing in my life that I feel really confident about when I’m doing it, especially live. Every show I play is like a little celebration of something in my life that has gone really well. So I think just turning 50 is a way of telling me, ‘Hey, you’re at least halfway done this journey of yours. So you better start appreciating it and watch what you eat and don’t drink too much.’ “

Of course, being in a band with J Mascis, a guitar hero who likes to keep his amp set firmly to 11, means some extra attention needs to be paid to the concerns of hearing loss. Dinosaur Jr. is easily one of the loudest rock bands ever, and so if you’re attending either of the shows be sure to bring ear plugs for your ear plugs. There is good reason as to why Mascis called the music “ear-bleeding country” from the get-go. But despite years and years of bleeding ears, Barlow says his hearing isn’t too bad for his age.

“I went for a hearing test a couple years ago and remarkably I was above normal hearing loss across the board,” he says with some relief. “Except for there’s a little notch in my hearing that pretty much comprises the frequency range of a lead guitar. That’s been compromised but it’s really not that bad.”

Dinosaur Jr. plays the Hostess Club All Nighter at Makuhari Messe in Chiba on Aug. 20 (11:15 p.m. start; ¥8,500 in advance, free if you have a ticket to Summer Sonic); and Ebisu Liquidroom in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Aug. 22 (7:30 p.m. start, ¥7,000; 03-3499-6669). For more information, visit www.dinosaurjr.com.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.
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