Once, when speaking of The Velvet Underground, Brian Eno said, "Only 5,000 people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them started a band." The same thing can probably be said of Tennessee power-pop forebears Big Star. While their brief tenure was filled with self-sabotage and commercial failure, the band—who combined a proclivity for pop songwriting, a la The Beatles, with the ferocious R&B attack of Led Zeppelin and added some Southern-rock swagger—wrote the book on a sub-genre that would come to define bands such as Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements and The Knack.
Among some of the finest sugar-toothed rockers to rise from the ashes of Big Star's ill-fated existence were '70s stadium-gladiators Cheap Trick, who proved their allegiance to Big Star with a cover of "In the Street"—used as the theme to That '70s Show—and '90s buzz-bin rulers Superdrag, who wear the influence of both bands proudly on their sleeves. Cheap Trick and Superdrag are bands that, while from different decades, each capitalized on the blueprint of fusing catchy melodies with Herculean riffs and economical arrangements. So it comes as no surprise that Knoxville's favorite sons have been tapped to open for Rockford, Ill.'s greatest pop-rock dynasty. For any fan of the power-pop continuum, this pairing is a match made in rock 'n' roll heaven.
While Cheap Trick are not the inventors of the power-pop idiom, they are undoubtedly the band that ushered it onto the world stage. Their hits of the '70s, such as "I Want You to Want Me," "Surrender" and "Dream Police" are radio staples to this day, while the lesser transgressions and dark corners of their canon—i.e. the 1988 monster-ballad "The Flame"—are mercifully ignored. Despite turning a blind eye toward their '80s output, the band were as much of an influence on Poison and Def Leppard—who they toured in support of earlier this year—as they were on bands like Guided by Voices, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins and, of course, Superdrag. That's what makes them such a key link in the rock 'n' roll chain. The quintessential American rock band, Cheap Trick are—through the use of power chords, propulsive back-beats, stadium-sized melodies and little else—the common denominator between all meat-and-potatoes genres, from hair metal to punk. Few bands have managed to achieve such a widespread influence through such simple means. True to their Midwestern roots, Cheap Trick have sustained a 30-plus year career through hard work—constantly touring and recording for the generations of fans who want to hear them. The fact that they have not yet been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a goddamn travesty.
Like Cheap Trick, Superdrag are a band who, as of late, have proven that they're in it for the long haul. With their original lineup in tow, the band returned in 2007 to reclaim, or simply relive, their glory days of mid-'90s success, when songs with guitars—like their fantastic "Sucked Out"—still dominated the airwaves. This, of course, is nothing new to Nashville's Superdrag faithful. Between having members take up residence here, a slew of local appearances—including one at 2008's installment of Next Big Nashville—and recording portions of their 2009 release Industry Giants at Music Row's Lake Fever Productions, Superdrag have made Nashville their de facto headquarters. Since Music City has happily adopted these Tennessee titans of power-pop, it's all the more exciting to see them take the stage in support of such an obvious influence, and at the great state's most hallowed venue to boot.
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