There’s this overriding fear I have whenever I see a band from my alterna-teen days. I like to refer to it as “Foghat Syndrome.” While it’s not a disorder you’ll find in any credible psychology reference, it is real. Simply put, Foghat Syndrome is the inability to discern what rocks from what does not rock. Often shrouded in nostalgia, Foghat Syndrome can strike quickly and deadly, and its victims rarely know what’s hit them. One year, your favorite band is enjoying a late career renaissance, appealing to a wide range of ages, and the next thing you know, you’re in a small club, or a rib fest, or an air show, or a county fair, surrounded by people who haven’t heard a new album in fifteen years. Strangely enough, I first identified Foghat Syndrome while I was heckling Foghat at a rib fest and nearly got my ass kicked by a rowdy gang of bikers and burn-outs. You see, for those bikers and burn-outs, Foghat still represented the best of Rock ‘N’ Roll, and no amount of convincing would have been able to point them to the truth — nostalgia had gotten the best of them and it’s no longer cool to say, “Man, I saw Foghat last weekend, and I gotta tell you, those dudes rocked so f*ckin’ hard.”

Man, I saw Dinosaur, Jr last night, and J Mascis, Murph, and Lou Barlow rocked so f*ckin’ hard. Sure they showed some rust at times. The quick time changes of 1994’s “Feel the Pain,” nearly got the better of them. After the song, Barlow jokingly asked if there was another drummer in the house. He wasn’t being bitter towards Murph. Those bad feelings which broke up the original lineup years ago, have long since passed. A conciliatory Barlow would go on to offer an alternative explanation — it was the whiskey which caused them to crash the last chorus. Fair enough, the booze made my show notes unreadable. It happens to the best of us.

Still, when Dinosaur, Jr, were on, they were f*ckin on. Mascis stood stoically in front of his six-stack of Marshall amps, and he shredded solos which could be heard clearly in the restroom, out on the smoking porch, two blocks down Market Street in Akron, and in all likelihood sent local geologists scrambling in anticipation of an earthquake. The loud, chromatic tones of 2007’s “Pick Me Up,” had so much fuzz and re-verb that they became all-encompassing, eliminating all other senses. When the guitar onslaught ended, it was hard to tell if that buzzing was from the six stack on stage or it was the ringing in my ears. Later, during 1987’s “Sludgefeast,” Mascis’ static slaughter would sound more like a space shuttle lift-off. Stand next to that stack and close your eyes, and you could be CNN’s Miles O’Brien, waxing elegantly about American space power.

Granted, nostalgia was a big part of the draw for many in the audience, but it wasn’t just the old timers shouting between songs for “Start Choppin’, “Freak Scene,” and “Raisans.” A quick scan of the crowd would show that it was a cross section of young and old, those who had seen Dinosaur, Jr in their prime, and those who were hearing cuts from Where You Been, Bug and You’re Living All Over Me live for the first time, who were offering their set list suggestions. The wicked, opening wail of “Out There” had the crowd pressing closer to the stage, and after Dinosaur, Jr honored one such request with bulldozer like force, making “Freak Scene,” bigger, badder, and more brutal than it had ever been on record, you could spot more than a few in the crowd totally losing their sh*t. There was no Foghat Syndrome going on here. Really, it’s hard to imagine a time when busting eardrums with buzzing solos in front of a giant stack of amps will ever go out of style. Yet, if by some strange confluence of cosmic events, shredding goes the way of mullet rock, I’ll be sure to stay clear of the Cuyahoga County Fair.

Set List: Dinosaur Jr @ Musica Akron 04.08.09
1. Bulbs of Passion
2. Been There All the Time
3. Back to Your Heart
4. Crumble
5. Pick Me Up
6. Out There
7. Feel the Pain
8. Freak Scene
9. Little Fury Things
10. Forget the Swan
11. Kracked
12. Sludgefeast

Encore
13. In a Jar
14. The Lung