Typically when you mention J. Mascis your mind immediately goes to ear-drum busting guitar work. However, Friday night at the Tractor Tavern Mascis debuted his most ear-drum friendly work to date. With Several Shades Of Why, Mascis trades out his Marshall stacks for an acoustic guitar. Walking into a sold out show at the Tractor can be a mixed crowd, but it turned out to be made of die-hard Mascis fans. Seeing a crowd much like this during Mascis previous outing at the Tractor as a drummer for Sweet Apples, these fans were mostly a polite group. Mascis walked out with his trademark long silver hair and matching silver tennis shoes. Playing with his amplifier right in front of him, Mascis had the crowd eating out of his hand.
Mascis played most of Several Shades Of Why in sequential order, while also putting in random Dinosaur Jr. cuts and choice covers. This included a version of Edie Brickells, “Circle” which elicited shouts of laughter and accolades. Using a music stand for his massive lyric sheets, Mascis could have come off as a coffee shop act. However, instead of paying much attention to the audience Mascis seemed intent on performing his new songs. Using a guitar-looping pedal Mascis created delicate bass lines, then he would switch into intricate lead guitar work over it making it sound as if there were was almost a full band on stage. Nearly every time Mascis turned it up a notch and wailed out a few numbers at tremendous volume, the crowd seemed to go crazy. However for someone who has a reputation for loud music, Mascis was intent on keeping it a mellow affair. His nasal croon over finger-picked guitar was a big hit with this Ballard crowd.
The ominous sounding piano-driven Black Heart Procession preceded Mascis. Touring as a duo consisting of vocalist Pall Jenkins and pianist Tobias Nathaniel, Black Heart Procession started things out on a softer note. With a set consisting of mostly baroque ballads, Jenkins alternated between newer material off the bands latest release Blood Bunny/Black Rabbit and older cuts off Amore Del Tropico. Singing of love, loss and everything in between Jenkins would sometimes start off with a soft and sparse guitar and then would switch mid song to a warbling saw. Displaying a skilled ability to mimic the notes of the piano with his saw and bow, Jenkins added an almost spooky atmosphere to the evenings proceedings. The Black Heart Procession provided a very suitable and earnest compliment for what was soon to follow.