Dinosaur Jr. Roars Again on New Album “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”

JAG285Dinosaur Jr.
Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
(Jagjaguwar)
Release date: 8/5/16

Break out the ear plugs. Western Massachusetts’ own alt-rock power trio, Dinosaur Jr., is back.

New album Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not marks the fourth release by the band since the acclaimed 2005 reunion of the group’s original line-up – J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals) and Murph (drums). In fact, this current incarnation of Dinosaur has now actually lasted longer and produced more records than it did in the ‘80s, when Mascis and company turned out such ear-crushing gems as You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. And while the new album bears less resemblance to those early classics than it does to the band’s more recent reunion work, that fact only aids the assertion that the group’s second life is no fluke, it’s a full-on resurgence.

Opening with the one-two punch of singles “Goin Down” and “Tiny,” Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not hits the ground running.

“Are you with me?” Mascis sings on the album opener. “I got more to say.”

Though not normally cited for his loquaciousness, the guitarist lets his axe speak for him with catchy riffing and skittery solos filling up both tracks’ running times. It’s alternative rock with a pop sheen for the ‘90s nostalgia age, and the Murph and Barlow rhythm section keep up a relentless chug.

“Be A Part” slows the tempo with a repeated guitar figure ringing out between lines focusing on being “broken hearted.” But it’s the Barlow penned cut “Love Is…” that marks the first deviation from the band’s trademark crunch. Over acoustic guitar and some lurking fuzz, the Sebadoh founder feels right at home on a song that wears its ‘60s influence on its sleeve. It almost even sounds like another band is playing complete with Mascis’ ragged Neil Young-like solo conjuring a classic rock vibe.

The album’s second half features a return to a heavier sound. “I Walk For Miles” feels like a slow trudge with a bludgeoning grunge riff that stomps along as Mascis’ reach for a higher register accents the weary atmosphere of the track. At nearly six minutes in length, the number also pairs with the five-plus minute “Lost All Day” to hammer out an air of wistfulness that sees lyric subject matter looking backwards at past relationships and the things that went wrong.

“Knocked Around” follows suit. “I miss you all the time and I’m lonely,” Mascis laments on the first half of the number, sounding plaintive and wrung out. Then, strength gathered, the band soars into overdrive for the rest of the track with the furious strumming barely keeping up with the relentless drumming.

Finally, it’s left to Barlow to close out the album with his second contribution. “Left/ Right” again sounds like a song that could come from another band, only this time that band is Barlow’s other group Sebadoh. More acoustic instrumentation rears its head, but where “Love Is…” showed off a wily Mascis guitar solo, here his playing feels restrained, almost terse. There are still textures aplenty, but the idiosyncrasy of the moment leaves question marks on an otherwise strong track.

Overall, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not sees Dinosaur Jr. making subtle tweaks to a tried and true formula. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But the clock is ticking on referring to this phase of the band’s career as post-reunion. When you’ve already outlasted the era of your earliest rumblings and eclipsed a spell spent under a major label banner, those events soon start looking like bumps in the road of a significant career that just needed some time to grow into its current arc.

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.valleyadvocate.com/category/blogs/northeast-underground/

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The top albums of 2012 A-Z part 1

BJM logoWell, it’s that time of year again. It’s time for every music blog, website, and magazine worth its salt to come up with highly divisive best-of lists for readers to argue over, deride, and generally fault for not being the same as their own. Still, with all that being said, the Underground is participating in this year-end tradition anyway. And this year, we’re going alphabetical.

Read below for part one (A-M) of the Northeast Underground’s list of the best albums of 2012, and check back next week for part two (N-Z).

A is for Aufheben by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

This newest album from the BJM is an updated take on the band’s affinity for ‘60s psychedelic revivalism. Frontman Anton Newcombe keeps his vocals to a minimum, but still manages to conjure an eastern-influenced sound merged with an ‘80s dance vibe. “It’s as if the record was conceived during a fantasy trip where during their stay in India the Beatles went out clubbing at night with the members of New Order.” Read more about the album with excerpts from an interview with Newcombe here.

B is for Bonnie Prince Billy and his album Now Here’s My Plan

Though it consists merely of six tracks that have all been previously recorded by Billy (aka Will Oldham), this release is a compelling reimagining of what each song could’ve sounded like when given an alternate arrangement, and also serves as a precursor to the singer’s recently released autobiography “Will Oldham on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.” Producer Steve Albini contributes to the EP’s overall no-bullshit approach, but it’s guest vocalist Angel Olsen who almost steals the show during the duet “Three Questions.” Read more about Now Here’s My Plan here.

C is for Cat Power and her new album Sun

On her first disc of all-original material since 2006’s The Greatest Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) returns with a record that dabbles in several different genres. For instance, discarding the more soul-influenced sound of her last album, Marshall turns her focus to electronic music for the opener “Cherokee,” which features repetitive samples, a drum machine, and even handclaps. “Silent Machine” is anything but silent, with a catchy guitar intro and pounding beat. But most surprising of all is probably the appearance of veteran rocker Iggy Pop, who duets with Marshall on “Nothin But Time.” Though his vocals don’t spring up until nearly the six minute mark of the almost 11 minute track, Pop doesn’t feel out of place on the number, managing a charming croon alongside Marshall’s plaintive lead.

Watch the video for “Cherokee” by Cat Power here:

D is for The Dandy Warhols and their new album This Machine

Recorded during 2011 at the band’s studio and entertainment complex the Odditorium, this latest from the Portland, Oregon-based Dandys is proclaimed as a return to a more “guitar-centric” sound than the group’s last three records, which featured a more electronic-influenced style. “We’ve been told that it’s our gothiest. I thought it was our grungiest. So I’m really hoping it’s a hit with goths who are, um, really outdoorsy,” says group frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. And he might get his wish. The much-hyped cut “The Autumn Carnival” includes songwriting contributions from David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets), and describes an ethereal journey through what sounds like a funhouse from another dimension. Read more from an interview with Taylor-Taylor here.

E is for EP as in The Secret EP by Sebadoh

While only available online or on the merch tables during the band’s summer tour, this fresh blast of indie rock marks the first new material from Lou Barlow and company in 14 years. New drummer Bob D’Amico (Fiery Furnaces, Circle of Buzzards) adds a propulsive drive to the mix, but the real joy is in hearing Barlow and Jason Lowenstein cut loose on tracks like “Keep the Boy Alive,” “My Drugs” and “All Kinds” just like it’s 1999 all over again. Listen to these tunes and more yourself by visiting the band’s bandcamp page here.

F is for Funeral as in Blues Funeral from the Mark Lanegan Band

Blues Funeral - Mark Lanegan BandOn his seventh studio album, alternative mainstay Lanegan teams with producer Alain Johannes and fellow rockers Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Gutter Twins) and Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) to craft a varied but satisfying disc filled with meditations on boredom and addiction. Opening track and first single “The Gravedigger’s Song” pulls listeners in with lines about “piranha teeth,” and Queen’s of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme shows up to lend guitar flourishes to “Riot in My House.” Strangely, “Ode to Sad Disco” casts Lanegan’s brooding baritone over a synthesizer and drum machine beat, but much like the rest of the album, the track works with surprisingly positive results.

G is for Grass Widow and its new album Internal Logic

This third full-length from a trio of San Franciscan females is a gorgeous slice of indie pop. Opening track “Goldilocks Zone” sets the mood. After a brief bit of sound resembling an outer space transmission, some surf rock guitar emerges with a pleasant twang and three voices begin gliding smoothly over the proceedings. Elsewhere, the majority of numbers fly by in a rush of airy vocals, sometimes making individual words indistinguishable. Still, when everything comes together like on “Milo Minute,” listeners will have a hard time not singing along. Read more here.

H is for Hoonah also known as Sarah Smith with her album Sneak

Delicate and powerful – two words to describe both singer/songwriter Sarah Smith (aka Hoonah) and the unique sound found on the PVPA grad’s first full-length release. Though musically the album consists largely of soft finger-picked melodies and playful vocals, tracks like “Primitive Patches” evoke strong emotions amidst ominous piano chords and raw lyrics. Elsewhere, Smith isn’t afraid to put her heart on her sleeve with lines inspired by relationships and nature. “I like stories,” she says. “I like hearing them and telling them. I think that people who like my music like that it’s personal and about me but also something that they can relate to in some way.” Read more here.

I is for I Bet On Sky the new album by the Valley icons of Dinosaur Jr

Since reuniting in 2005, the three original members of Dinosaur Jr. – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph – have been busy. In between tours, side projects and other band-related ventures, the Western Mass natives have also managed to turn out three albums, much to the delight of alternative music fans who clamored for the trio’s resurrection in the first place. On their latest disc, the guys further cement their ongoing partnership with a record that ranks among their best. Read more about the disc in an interview with bassist Barlow here.

Watch the video for the new Dinosaur Jr song “Watch the Corners” here:

J is for John Cale and his new album Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood

On his first studio album since 2005’s blackAcetate, former Velvet Underground member Cale crafts perhaps the most inviting avant-garde record of the year. The opener “I Wanna Talk 2 U” is the result of a spontaneous session between Cale and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) with a solid acoustic strum providing the foundation amidst numerous electronic effects. And “Nookie Wood” is a strutting invitation that beckons listeners with a gratifying yet ominous groove. The track could also be a joke. But at 70 years old, Cale is the one getting the last laugh. He’s still breaking new ground, and doesn’t show signs of stopping.

K is for Kelly Hogan and her new album I Like To Keep Myself in Pain

Stepping back into the spotlight after years spent serving as a popular back-up singer for artists like Neko Case and Jakob Dylan amongst others, Hogan charms listeners on her latest solo release. Displaying the stamp she’s put on a collection of tracks written by the likes of such indie faves as Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Robyn Hitchcock and more, the singer exudes confidence and even shares her own ability as a songwriter with “Golden,” a song she wrote in tribute to friend and frequent collaborator Case. Much like the rest of the disc, the song goes down smooth and provides inspiration for others in the background to step forward and take their moment in the sun. Listen to a stream of I Like To Keep Myself in Pain here.

L is for Lion the new double-album by comedian Stephen Lynch

Lion - Stephen Lynch1Easily the most ambitious and lushly recorded project of his career, the new album from comedian Lynch is two treats in one. The first disc features 13 tracks of risqué humor played mostly to the sound of acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica, while the second disc consists of live versions of each song played with the help of collaborators Rod Cone, Courtney Jaye and David Josefsberg. Longtime fans will note a more refined style, but the subject matter is still classic Lynch. Juggalos, genitalia, and even the state of Tennessee all become fodder for ridicule. But even after all these years the singer’s wit is as sharp as ever, and despite all the easy jokes his talent has become undeniable.

M is for Magic Castles the double-album by the Minnesota-based group of the same name

Hand-picked and released on the record label run by Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe, this self-titled disc is an entrancing nod to the summer of love and all things psychedelic. Created by six guys with a love for farfisa organ, atonal guitar leads and hypnosis-inducing chord patterns, the album is also a return to days when listeners treated the idea of listening to records as an experience, not just as a means to kill time on the way to work. “I believe in [the Magic Castles] project enough to release it with my own money as a document,” says Newcombe. “Actions speak louder than words. Music is meant to be heard more than talked about. I love the way some of their songs make me feel.” Find the band on Facebook here.

Come back next week for part two of this alphabetical best-of featuring letters N-Z.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Album review – Dinosaur Jr “I Bet On Sky” – November 29, 2012

Album review – Dinosaur Jr “I Bet On Sky” – November 29, 2012

Lou Barlow talks Dinosaur Jr, making a new album, and what it’s like to return to Western Mass

Dinosaur Jr (Brantley Gutierrez) 2

Dinosaur Jr (Photo credit: Brantley Gutierrez)

Back in March of 2011, I sat down for a conversation with alternative musician Lou Barlow (see photo, middle) prior to an appearance by his group Sebadoh at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton.

Since that time, Barlow has returned to the Pioneer Valley on several occasions, including an appearance at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton with Dinosaur Jr for a concert benefitting the Whole Children organization of Hadley, and a second appearance at Pearl Street with Sebadoh in August featuring the group touring behind its first newly recorded music in 14 years.

Now fresh off the release of Dinosaur’s newest album, I Bet On Sky, the third record since the original line-up’s reunion in 2005, I caught up again with Barlow as the bassist prepares to join guitarist J Mascis and drummer Murph on stage Wednesday for another show at Pearl Street with a portion of proceeds going to The Common School in Belchertown.

“I love Western Mass,” Barlow said during his call in from Los Angeles. “Every time I return there, the drive up from Westfield, I take [Route] 10 to Northampton. It’s just a lovely ride through the rolling hills to Easthampton and into Northampton. I love the Valley.”

And the Valley has proven to be a fruitful location for Barlow. I Bet On Sky was recorded at Mascis’ home studio in Amherst, and Barlow contributed two songs to the release – the up-tempo rocker “Rude” and the more riff-orientated “Recognition.”

“I’ve always wanted to do a Ramones-style song with Dinosaur,” Barlow says. “A simple song that could’ve also possibly been a Sebadoh song, but I just wanted to do it with Dinosaur and have a J Mascis lead in there. So my song ‘Rude’ I kind of had this idea of a Ramones-style song with a real country melody to it, and I picked together a song on acoustic guitar that seemed to fit that pretty well. I demoed the song here in LA with my friend Dale Crover from the Melvins.”

ibetonsky.textoptions2He adds, “‘Recognition’” was another one that’s on the record that I did. I’m a semi-closeted Queens of the Stone Age fan. I think they’re just a great hard rock band, one of the best modern rock bands, if not the best, and I had a riff that reminded me of Queens of the Stone Age. So I thought that would be really interesting to see if Dinosaur could pull that off.”

If early audience reactions to Dinosaur’s new material are any indication, the band seems to have risen to the challenge. According to Barlow, the group has been playing more new songs on tour than ever before. And set lists have been well-received, with a few surprises from throughout Dinosaur Jr’s career and beyond being played live on stage.

“We’re playing probably the best cross-section of songs from all the different eras of the band,” says Barlow. “We’ve been playing ‘Start Choppin’,’ a big kind of hit from the band in the ‘90s. We’re also doing a Deep Wound song from the very first band J and I had together. We’re spanning the band’s career I think.”

Another treat for fans has been a music video Dinosaur Jr completed for the new track “Watch the Corners.” The treatment for the video was written by the comedy website Funny or Die, and features an appearance by actor Tim Heidecker, who is known for his work on such Adult Swim shows as “Tom Goes to the Mayor” and “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”

“If you want to make a video where no one knows how old and ugly the band is, that was the way to do it,” Barlow laughs. “Just throw a bunch of good-looking teenagers in the video, a sort of well-known comedian [Heidecker], and keep the band as low-profile as possible. In that way I think it achieved its goal.”

Watch the video for the new Dinosaur Jr song “Watch the Corners” here:

Still, despite all this focus on new material, Barlow notes that there’s another event on Dinosaur’s calendar that will see the band looking back into its past instead of towards the future. On December 1st, the band will be playing a special show at Terminal 5 in New York City to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its 1987 album You’re Living All Over Me. Special guests like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and guitarist Johnny Marr have already been announced as participants in the concert, and Barlow is excited to revisit one of his favorite records.

He says, “It’s going to be cool. It’s my favorite Dinosaur record. Everything really came together for us sound-wise. We’re rehearsing [for the show] in Easthampton, and we’ll throw together some ideas and see how we can make it something unique and special.”

In addition to his upcoming plans with Dinosaur, Barlow also can’t wait to get back into the studio with his other band Sebadoh to follow-up on the material the group recorded for its “Secret EP,” which was sold during stops on its recent summer tour, as well as possibly work on some songs for a solo release.

“[Sebadoh] has a bunch of material that we’re working on,” he says. “We put out an EP earlier this year, and we’re going to do an LP for next year. Solo stuff, I don’t know. It depends. I always have stuff. I just have to sit down and finish it.”

As for any final thoughts he’d like to leave with fans in Western Mass who are thinking about attending the Wednesday show at Pearl Street, Barlow wants to give a shout out to one special person in particular who’s been there from the very beginning.

“I just want to say hi to my mom,” he says. “Hi mom Barlow.”

Dinosaur Jr with opener Hush Arbors, Nov. 28, 8 p.m. $25, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584-7771, http://www.iheg.com/pearl_street_main.asp.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Lou Barlow keeps Valentine’s Day indie with “Brand New Love” and more

Lou Barlow (Jens Jurgensen)

Lou Barlow, circa 1987 (Photo credit: Jens Jurgensen)

Saint Valentine can smash his head on some punk rock this holiday.

Instead of cute candy hearts, boxes of chocolate or a bouquet of flowers, Western Massachusetts native Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, etc.) is giving his fans a real gift for February 14 – a deluxe re-issue of the classic lo-fi Sentridoh album Weed Forestin’.

Originally self-released by Barlow on cassette in 1987, the record was also previously made available on the Homestead Records compilation The Freed Weed, which included a selection of material from Barlow’s Sebadoh debut The Freed Man.

However, technology appears to have finally caught up with such a DIY touchstone. And as part of the complete re-issue and restoration treatment, Weed Forestin’ is now being made available to audiences in a multitude of formats including vinyl and high-quality digital downloads via www.sentridoh.bandcamp.com.

Additionally, to accompany the Weed Forestin’ re-issue a second batch of material recorded during the same era and featuring unreleased songs, early versions and extended tape collages is being made available under the title Child of the Apocalypse. While even hardcore Barlow junkies will likely be shocked by the surprises in store on this disc’s track listing, the collection also includes the original version of the song “Poledo,” which many fans might recognize from the 1987 Dinosaur Jr LP You’re Living All Over Me.

Watch the video for the Sentridoh track “Brand New Love” from the album “Weed Forestin’” here:

Plus if all this good news wasn’t enough, rumor has it that Sebadoh may be hitting the studio to work on its first new record since 1999 this spring. Of course, Barlow has to finish recording with the boys of Dinosaur Jr first. J Mascis and company are currently ensconced in the hills of Massachusetts cutting new tracks for their third album since reuniting with the original line-up in 2005. And though all this playing means a heavier than normal workload for Lou, indie audiences couldn’t be happier.

Your move cupid.

For more information on Lou Barlow’s “Weed Forestin” reissue, additional Sentridoh material and more please visit www.sentridoh.bandcamp.com.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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US women reach World Cup final and Weezer go nautical

Hope Solo

US goalie Hope Solo (Photo credit: John Mena)

Every once in a while a sports moment comes along that unifies the public consciousness through a display of heartfelt emotion and patriotic pride.

For example, there was the “Miracle on Ice” with the U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey team triumphing over the Soviet Union in 1980. There was the exploits of the “Dream Team” in ’92, which took the reputation of American basketball to new heights.

And now, after an exciting 3-1 victory over France on Wednesday, the members of the United States Women’s Soccer team (including goalie Hope Solo, see photo) are headed for a moment of their own as they approach the 2011 World Cup final, where they will play Japan for the championship on Sunday.

Though both teams have inspired their countries with spirited play and defeats of much more heralded opponents in the tournament’s quarterfinals (Brazil for the U.S. and Germany for Japan respectively), the one area where the Americans appear to have a definite advantage over their Asian counterparts is in their choice of soundtrack.

True, the unofficial anthem “Represent,” which was written by Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo, was first used to honor the U.S. Men’s World Cup team from a year ago. But the song still holds up, and remains miles ahead of Shakira’s official tune from last year’s event. Sure, Shakira is better to look at than Rivers, but her song’s title makes me think of Fozzie Bear every time I hear it.

Watch the video for “Represent” the unofficial U.S. Soccer anthem written by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo for the men’s team in 2010 here:

Song or no you can bet I will be watching on Sunday. You should too.

And speaking of Weezer

According to a report on BackstageRider.com, Rivers Cuomo and company will be taking to the high seas this January as part of a “floating festival” cruise, which will also feature appearances by Western Mass. faves Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh as well as Gene Ween, Yuck, the Antlers, Wavves, and The Nervous Wreckords.

In between trips to the buffet, Lou Barlow and J Mascis will also turn in solo sets during the four-day trip. However, no word yet on who’s more likely to break into a cover of “I’m On A Boat.”

My money’s on Barlow.

Don’t miss the action this Sunday (July 17) as the U.S. Women’s Soccer team takes on Japan at 2:45 p.m. EST on ESPN. For more information please visit www.espn.com.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter @NE_Underground. Plus, check out concert footage featuring artists like Dinosaur Jr., Garland Jeffreys, and more on the Underground’s official YouTube page.

Keith Wood and Hush Arbors: a secret it’s hard to keep quiet about

Keith Wood (Andrew Kesin)

Keith Wood (Photo credit: Andrew Kesin)

One of the many highlights of the Whole Children benefit concert held at the Calvin Theatre on June 21 was the appearance of area resident and Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore.

Performing with his band Demolished Thoughts (titled after his recent solo album of the same name), Moore treated those in attendance to a festive set full of psychedelic folk jams, which frequently featured thrilling crescendos and heroic displays of acoustic guitar prowess.

However, perhaps lost in the shuffle of a night that also included appearances by fellow indie stars – Henry Rollins, Lou Barlow, and J Mascis – was the on-stage presence of musician and Demolished Thoughts band member Keith Wood (see photo).

As the primary force behind indie rock act Hush Arbors, Wood is more than just your average sideman. And after witnessing him play live, I was given new reason to revisit his most recent studio album Yankee Reality, which was released by Thurston Moore’s Easthampton-based Ecstatic Peace record label in 2009.

While I admit that I was none too blown away by the record as a whole during my first listening, I still feel now, as I did then, that many of the tracks manage to reside in a realm far above the usual dreck that typically lands on my desk next to my morning coffee (which, by the way, is far from dreck, and absolutely delicious).

For example, the song “Coming Home” ambles along nicely as a country rocker with a slight ‘60s tinge and “For While You Slept” (featuring guitar courtesy of record producer J Mascis) begins briefly with the opening riff from Tom Petty’s “American Girl” before evolving into a strident march.

“Hold out / your lovely hands/ Take this weary man,” Wood sings. And upon hearing the words it’s not difficult to picture a pair of lovers walking arm-in-arm towards the sunset.

Watch the video for Yankee Reality track “Coming Home” here:

Elsewhere, album opener “Day Before” ably sets the stage for what follows. Namely, Wood’s voice remains in the spotlight as acoustic guitars strum around him and cymbal crashes drive the tune home.

Though overall there doesn’t seem to be enough material that truly grabs a listener’s attention, as a testament to the single-minded creativity of an artist who’s not afraid to follow his own course, Yankee Reality is that rare work that manages to create a world all of its own.

Or, according to fellow musician and label mate James Jackson Toth (of Wooden Wand fame):

Yankee Reality is a credit to Keith Wood’s vast talent as a songwriter and performer, but also, stands as a shining example of his breadth of focus and versatility. How many fools out there love Merle Haggard, The Dead and Dinosaur Jr equally? I know one.”

For more information on Hush Arbors or to see future tour dates please visit www.husharbors.co.uk.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter @NE_Underground. Plus, check out concert footage featuring artists like Dinosaur Jr., Garland Jeffreys, and more on the Underground’s official YouTube page.