It’s quite simple to put the influence of Dinosaur Jr into words. One word in fact. Nirvana. The fact that Seattle’s finest were influenced by J Mascis and the boys is testament enough for anybody. But that doesn’t come anywhere near to telling the whole story. Freakscene, directed by singer J Mascis brother-in-law Phillip Virus, does tell the whole story and beautifully so.
Formed in 1984 and fuelled by a love of The Rolling Stones, The Ramones and hardcore punk, high school friends J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph, originally formed under the moniker of Dinosaur, before some actual rock dinosaurs took them to court and the “Jr” was added, made slow but steady progress, eventually becoming forefathers to the alternative rock scene. But while the trio’s brand of underground rock took a while to make any meaningful impact, impact was nevertheless made, with future grunge and alternative rock bands, Tad, Sonic Youth all citing Dinosaur Jr as inspiration. By the time the 80’s were on their way out, they were one of the big players on the now fully realised, alternative rock scene, leading to tensions within the band and ultimately the departure of Barlow, who in turn went on to form Sebadoh.
For a band that have had its fair share of ups and downs, Freakscene, whilst not ignoring this, chooses to focus on the most important aspect of any band – the music, with archive and rare footage sitting alongside some stellar live performances and music videos and as always in these documentaries, they’ve roped in some famous faces that the band have been affiliated with over the years for comment, including Hank Rollins and Kim Gordon. We can only assume Dave Grohl was not available that day.
Freakscene is the story of what youthful exuberance and ambition is capable of, where it took the band and where they are now, both as people and musicians, as things come full circle with a full-blown reunion at their 30th anniversary. As these high school friends finally find peace with each other in their older years you realise that not unlike most families, there is an element of dysfunctionality but ultimately Freakscene is a love letter for the band and fans to share and something to be savoured… Chris Andrews