As we reminded you last week, it’s been about 13 years since indie icons Superchunk, led by frontman and Merge Records founder Mac McCaughan, have played a Nashville show. On Friday night, the North Carolinians were greeted with a Music City crowd that was, thank God, much stronger than the one at their criminally under-attended 328 Performance Hall show in 2001. This go-round, we rolled into Mercy Lounge shortly after 9 p.m. to find the room about half-full with Gen X’ers, music snobs and, seriously, just about everyone who was at the aforementioned 328 show.
Opening Friday night's show were locals Bully, an absolutely fitting appetizer for the power-pop main course we were about to consume. Of course, we'd seen Bully on the very same stage just four days earlier, where they'd competed in the final installment of this year's Road to Bonnaroo series. Friday night's performance, however, was their first non-truncated set with brand-new members Clayton Parker and Ben Moore — the boys done all right. A set highlight was the jumpy, power chord- and cowbell-rife punk-pop jam "Milkman," which the band will release on 7-inch later this month.
Superchunk took the stage around 10 p.m., though official bassist and Merge Records co-founder Laura Ballance was noticeably absent from the lineup. Ballance of course opted out of the tour altogether, citing a hearing condition known as hyperacusis. In her stead was Verbow’s Jason Narducy, who — along with Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster — has been backing Bob Mould for several years and who dutifully handled the low-end groin-punch for the Chunk’s inimitable proto-Weezer indie punk.
The set itself clocked in around an hour-and-a-half, with Superchunk’s bite-size, high-speed and catchy anthems whizzing by all too quickly. It can’t be easy for a band to please a crowd pining for any number of songs from their 25-year, 10-album catalog. But even with half the set culled from the band’s latest, I Hate Music, and 2010’s post-hiatus comeback Majesty Shredding, there wasn't a lull. Fortunately, unlike many bands their age, Superchunk still makes amazing records. Fists still pumped and lyrics were shouted along to newer songs like “FOH” and “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo,” with McCaughan bopping and bouncing and jumping around through all of it like a goddamn live wire. The man has the energy of a 19-year-old.
Naturally, classic anthems like the insubordinate “Slack Motherfucker,” the post-hardcore pop burner “Precision Auto” and No Pocky for Kitty’s “Punch Me Harder” saw more knuckle-thrusting from the crowd than any of the newer numbers. Then there was the inclusion of “Mower,” a gem from 1993’s On the Mouth that couldn’t possibly be anyone’s favorite Superchunk song, and yet here we were surrounded by a mob of folks who all seemed to know the words. Even after an encore, there were probably a dozen or so tunes to which The Spin was aching to rock — we wanted to watch more of Wurster's mutant-level loose-limbed drumming and hear more of Mac's impossibly rafter-reaching rock 'n' roll howl. But how much more would have been enough? Another hour? Two hours? None of the above, friends.
The band name-dropped Merge labelmates/signees Lambchop (some of whom were in attendance) amid other Music City allies in a brief but heartfelt spiel about the band’s strong Nashville connections. We were happy to hear they still have a fondness for Music City, even after we let them down last time. So, will we see Superchunk sooner than we think, or will The Spin have to wait another 13 years and three albums before our next fix of rootsy power indie rock?