DINOSAUR JR. with the BESNARD LAKES at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday to Wednesday (September 24 -26), doors 8 pm. $34.50-$40. HS, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
Dinosaur Jr.'s ultra-amplified set-up - huge walls of Marshall stacks projecting J Mascis's wailing guitar solos at full volume - has caused many concert promoters to run screaming in the other direction. But in celebration of Lee's Palace's 27th anniversary, Collective Concerts has done the opposite: it's invited the classic power trio for a three-night stand.
Twenty-seven seems like an odd birthday to make a big deal out of, but Jeff Cohen, majority owner of Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe, says he got too caught up in renovations, adding in Big Fat Burrito and replacing the iconic mural (now captured for posterity in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), to properly celebrate 25.
"We're building toward a big celebration for year 30 in 2015, so in passing, I mentioned to the buyers at Collective that if they came across anyone who had played Lee's in the early days and wanted to do a birthday salute multi-date event to go for it," he says. "Honestly, we just got lucky."
"Lucky" isn't the word most promoters would use in relation to Dinosaur Jr. In the band's early years, their unrelenting volume caused audiences to walk out, sound guys to toss bottles at them and bookers to ban or blacklist them.
Guitar hero/frontman Mascis started out as a drummer and developed his loud-as-fuck aesthetic as a way of recreating that instrument's visceral, tactile power on the relatively "wimpy" guitar.
Though the band's underlying melodies are essentially country (or "ear-bleeding country," as Mascis likes to say), the distorted guitars are by far their defining element. Hearing them washed all over the band's newest album, I Bet On Sky (Jagjaguwar), is a source of comfort for fans and critics alike.
"We take pride in being one of the loudest bands out there," says Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph. "It's fun to have a lot of firepower at our disposal, and we definitely use it.
"But we've been wearing earplugs since we were, like, 20," he says with a laugh. "We're not stupid."
Cohen knows about the band's predilection for power. Dinosaur played Lee's on March 31, 1989, at the tail end of bassist Lou Barlow's original tenure with the band. He's since rejoined Murph and Mascis to form the greatest, loudest incarnation yet.
"This is the highest [monetary] guarantee the venue has ever paid out to an artist," says Cohen, "and it's a test for our spanking new Clair Brothers P.A., so we're ready to handle a really loud rocking band like Dino Jr.
"In my mind, Lee's is aesthetically an indie punk rock venue, so the louder the better."