The Spin 

It’s been four years since SUPERDRAG played Nashville and gave up the ghost of rock, and even longer since they graced the airwaves or occupied a slot on MTV with their druggy, fuzzy power-pop and mod haircuts.
It’s been four years since SUPERDRAG played Nashville and gave up the ghost of rock, and even longer since they graced the airwaves or occupied a slot on MTV with their druggy, fuzzy power-pop and mod haircuts. So we expected to see a crowd of somewhat older fans (and by older, we mean 30-plus) waxing nostalgic about the days when this Knoxville power-pop quartet’s CDs occupied their car stereos. Loose-fit jeans were easy enough to spot, but we were surprised to see younger folks—kids who’d loved the band when they were 13, and latecomers who discovered the band on later records and were curious to see their original incarnation. Either way, the fans emerged, and the buzz of excitement was evident as soon as we entered City Hall Friday night to find a long line snaking around the merch booth, where singer/guitarist JOHN DAVIS and his band members were shaking hands and signing autographs for a slew of gushy fans. (He and drummer DON COFFEY JR. stayed there nearly all the way up to showtime to work the old-school meet-and-greet. Bassist and Nashvillian TOM PAPPAS was seen milling around the crowd chatting people up, a reminder that, for all their brush-with-fame iconic rock cliché, Superdrag is so anti-rock-star pose.) We spied a few local rock bands, and some were overheard telling Davis what an influence he’d had on their work. Then it was time for locals THE LONELY HEARTS, who played a tight, swaggery set of twangy rock songs that, every so often, felt like they could veer off and become Tom Petty. Not just any old Tom Petty, but specifically “Last Dance With Mary Jane.” It’s weird when bands sound like songs instead of other bands, but this was kinda like that. It wasn’t exactly the opener we’d imagined in terms of compatibility, but then we remembered Davis had temporarily played drums for the band and was a personal fan of their aesthetic. And about the venue: City Hall was an odd choice for this show, mainly because we couldn’t remember ever seeing Superdrag play a bigger venue than the likes of the much-smaller capacity Exit/In. It makes sense though, given that Hall owner RICK WHETSEL was largely responsible for getting the reunion ball rolling when he offered the group a gig earlier this year. But it never quite filled to capacity, hovering around half-full for the duration of the evening, making the show feel less urgent than it should have, given the excitement of this reunion. Then mid-liner STEWART PACK was up, a more fitting choice on the bill. He’s a fellow Knoxvillian and power-pop devotee, though we found his particular brand of the sweet stuff a little more formulaic than we like. Eventually it was time for the ’Drag, who reminded us what pros they’d always been with a muscular set of infectious pop, though the show’s distinctive looseness was proof this band had learned a thing or two about the hard-driving perils of band life and had decided to kick it fun-times instead. There’s nothing less pretentious or unassuming than Superdrag, and they harvest the riffs like rock ’n’ roll farmers, and all with such an incredibly polite, good vibe. Songs such as “Do the Vampire” (off Head Trip in Every Key) were exhilarating to hear live again, and “Phaser” (off Regretfully Yours) had all the love-obsessed, achy fuzz we’d missed all these years. But it was a different experience in the warehouse-venue, and staking out various positions around the venue to see the band was nothing like being pressed up against the sweaty masses at a smaller club and feeling the scorching heat this band can put off. It almost had the effect of watching the band through a plate glass window: pristinely preserved but obscured by distance.

Dick crunk

You might not see them passing the offertory plate at your church, but even the most dedicated rockers tend to observe the Sabbath in their own way on Sunday—it’s a time to finally empty the ashtrays, gather up the crushed beer cans on the front porch and pass out on the couch while watching Robocop 2. So it was not without some hesitation that we broke with tradition to catch what promised to be the most debauched and decadent lineup of the weekend at the Mercy Lounge—a show packed from top to bottom with bands advertising lifestyles of waste and wantonness. When we arrived, BEARDO was just wrapping up a performance of pudgy, mustachioed, coke-nosed rock ’n’ roll fury. The flamboyant Memphis hip-hop outfit LORD T AND ELOISE followed. The inventors and sole purveyors of a subgenre known as “Aristocrunk,” Lord T and Eloise posture themselves as privileged members of the WASP leisure class who just might pour champagne down your evening gown at the country club New Year’s soiree. Their set was an intoxicating spectacle of fake jewelry, powdered wigs, glittery gold face paint and, somewhat incongruently, a broomstick pony. This is the group that the Burger King should book for his bachelor party. After Lord T bade farewell to their adoring crowd, the stage was dressed with a section of chain-linked fence, a graffiti-covered bus stop bench and some beat-up trashcans. You know, so you could feel the realness of the next two acts’ street-level rhymes. Clothed only in black T-shirts and sunglasses, ANDRE LEGACY and DIRT NASTY may have been the outfit most comfortable with being a white rap duo (well, Legacy is half-Russian, half-Armenian, for those keeping score at home), but they were also the least compelling act of the night with their increasingly tired dick-touting rhymes. Thank God headliner MICKEY AVALON emerged quickly and glamorously—we were starting to think ahead to our Monday morning hangovers. Avalon didn’t have to introduce himself or offer up a backstory—his heroin-skinny limbs, smeared eyeliner and deliciously tousled hair all served as indicators of his days selling sex for dope on the streets of Beverly Hills. His set was electrifying from start to finish—as skinny Jewish rappers go, he’s happy to play the winking, virile devil to Matisyahu’s neutered holy man, even employing a pair of girls in skimpy black outfits to bolster his pansexual seductions. By the time he re-took the stage with Nasty and Legacy to perform a song composed entirely of dick boasts, we were glad we left the Sunday Times on the bed and got out for a while—at least, until the thought of Monday morning rolled around again.

Here’s an idea for a joke band: your face. Send your slammin’ promo pics to thespin@nashvillescene.com.

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