J Mascis is known for blowing the doors off the place with the aptly named Dinosaur Jr.
On Wednesday night at Club Cafe, it was a more intimate evening with the 48-year-old singer-guitarist, but it was certainly no coffeehouse set.
Mascis is taking a short break from his beloved noise-rock trio with solo sets supporting a new album, “Tied to a Star,” that leans more on his acoustic finger-picking. So the hour-long set obviously more had of those delicate moments, like “Me Again,” but he also came with distortion pedals and a loop machine to crank it up and play the kind of solos he would do with Lou and Murph at Mr. Smalls. (Basically, some form of ear protection was still a good move.)
Actually seeing him to do it was only possible for the people standing in the first few rows, as Mascis was sitting on what must have been a toddler chair behind a music stand. It’s not a workable situation in a venue without an elevated stage.
Of course, the ever-mopey Mascis doesn’t provide much to look at, as he goes through the songs sullenly and without expression.
Despite the close quarters, his between-song interactions with the crowd consisted of a few coughs, a song introduction (“here’s another song from the new album”), a half-hearted query for a request and a funny/awkward moment after the main set closer when he didn’t feel like walking back through the crowd (“I guess there’s nowhere to go,” he mumbled, “so I’ll just stay here and do an encore”).
The music itself? Typically divine, with his sleepy, wounded vocals and emotionally charged guitar work on new songs like “Stumble” and “Drifter” and such Dino favorites as “Little Fury Things,” “Not the Same” and “Out There.” The switching back and forth between acoustic and distortion within the songs was jarring at times, but it was the price to pay for some blasts of Dino noise.
A cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” was a natural for him, as was the echoey encore of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” A late-set standout was “Alone,” during which he manage to create a cathedral-like wall of sound in the tiny room.
J Mascis Set List
(not 100 percent on this, so open to correction)
Listen to Me
Little Fury Things
Heal the Star
Not the Same
Fade Into You (Mazzy Star)
Just Like Heaven (The Cure)