Saturday April 7th, 2018
New York City
At New York’s Bowery Ballroom, middle aged men in button up shirts filled up the bar in droves, accompanied by the occasional wife and almost always a few cups of beer. In what almost looked like a time machine of hipsters--Superchunk’s fanbase was strong and vibrant. The cult-favorite alternative band of the 90s was able to sell out the massive venue for two nights in a row.
What A Time to be Alive is Superchunk’s first album in five years since 2013’s I Hate Music. It seems fitting that their opener, Philly alt punks Swearin’, agreed to go on tour for the first time since their 2015 split. Allison Crutchfield slammed through an energetic set of the happy pop infused garage punk complimented by her graceful voice which enunciates each word like a sharp knife. Playing off of their beloved self titled and Surfin’ Strange, the band picked up right where they left off on their hiatus, proving that Crutchfield’s masterful songwriting and infectious riffs stand the test of time.
Superchunk was not much different. Mac McCaughan’s distinct voice ripped through the crowd during the opening song “What a Time to Be Alive” off of their latest release of the same title. McCaughan’s lyrics and intonation have a sense of earnest and trust with a tinge of pain and wonder. That is what Superchunk is all about. “Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus” was simply exhilarating, with the crowd joining in like a hungry choir during the chorus which started with a loud “Level that house!”. The diehard fans began shoving, seasoned drummer extraordinaire Jon Wurster began to pick up speed, and McCaughan yelped and squealed in a way that made Superchunk one of the most distinct 90's bands. My favorite part of the night was their performance of “Iron On” off of their 1995 album Here’s Where the Strings Come In, which was more than magical and captured the raw essence of that album which made me fall in love with Superchunk in the first place.
The chemistry between the band was apparent, even with Jason Narducy filling in on bass for Laura Ballance, who had to cease touring with the band due to increased sound sensitivity. Jim Wilbur and McCaughan traded guitar riffs and Wurster pounded away. At the end of the night, the band was joined by Swearin’, and the audience was treated to McCaughan on drums as Wurster assumed his position as temporary lead singer for their cover of Black Flag’s classic “My War”. The crowded stage was reflective of the joyful crowd full of shiny eyed die hard fans of what Wilbur jokingly referred to as “#90sBandWhoNeverBecamePopular”. In the packed floor of the Bowery Ballroom, it was a testament to how obscurity is not always a bad thing, and Superchunk will continue on as a timeless punk rock band.
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