Superchunk Fitzgerald's February 7, 2014
As nations united in Sochi Friday to celebrate an age-old Olympic tradition, Houston Gen-Xers skipped the Opening Ceremonies and gathered at Fitzgerald's instead, to celebrate another timeless wonder: '90s rock powerhouse Superchunk.
While the crowd at Fitz wasn't particularly full as the indie-rock vets and DIY pioneers took the stage, quality certainly outweighed quantity; those in attendance were Superchunk superfans, which made the show -- and general experience -- that much more worthwhile.
The Chapel Hill-based quartet, which formed in 1989, took the stage right on time -- early, even -- after all, this wasn't their first rodeo. Front man Mac McCaughan nostalgically acknowledged the first time they played Fitz (in 1991) before even playing the first song.
"It's good to be back," McCaughan said warmly. "Houston doesn't look much different!"
He was clearly in good spirits, also informing us that Superchunk actually wrote the No Pocky For Kitty track "Skip Steps 1 & 3" in Fitz' green room decades earlier, an inside scoop the crowd just ate up.
Energy was high as the band kicked off the set with "Out of the Sun" from their most recent album, last year's wittily titled I Hate Music, as front-row fans bopped along with drummer Jon Wurster's every beat. Not surprisingly, the set list was heavy on newer tunes, though several older gems like "Cast Iron," "Detroit Has a Skyline" and "The Majestic" were included, too.
Noticeably absent from the Superchunk lineup was beloved bassist Laura Ballance, who has evidently been battling the hearing-related ailment hyperacusis, and was replaced with touring bassist Jason Narducy (Verbow, Bob Mould, Split Single). While Ballance was missed, Narducy's energy meshed flawlessly with the rest of Superchunk.
Fans were optimistically persistent with requests throughout the show, including shouts for "Precision Auto," among others.
"There are no bad ideas," McCaughan joked, politely dodging some particular requests.
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McCaughan and guitarist Jim Wilbur tuned their guitars after every single song, a clear illustration of how frenetically they play their instruments.
"We tune because we love," McCaughan joked.
As the set progressed, the crowd thickened as energy levels remained high among both fans and band. McCaughan was relentless in his stage energy, his once-crisp button-down shirt now sodden with sweat.
"About five songs ago," he said, midway through the set, "I started thinking, 'Maybe I shouldn't have eaten that queso!'"
But McCaughan and his full belly endured, unfazed. Majesty Shredding song "Digging For Something" closed the first set; the band quickly returned to the stage for a four-song encore that included their common cover of Magnetic Fields' "100,000 Fireflies," and Superchunk's most lauded single, "Slack Motherfucker" from the band's 1990 debut. "Throwing Things" ultimately closed the set, as fans sang along to every word.
McCaughan didn't take his devoted crowd for granted, sounding genuine -- sentimental, even -- as he thanked fans before leaving the stage. "Thanks for making 1991 memorable," he said, "and thanks for making tonight memorable, too."
For Superchunk fans, the feeling was clearly mutual.
Personal Bias: I'm not necessarily a Superchunk superfan, so the crowd really made this show for me; seeing such genuine appreciation makes me, in turn, appreciate artists much more.
The Crowd:: As if you couldn't already tell - longtime Superchunk fans. And as far as show crowds go, a really respectful and spirited bunch.
Overheard In the Crowd "The 40-year-old crowd is having a field day!"
Random Notebook Dump:: Let us revisit Superchunk's "Watery Hands" video featuring Janeane Garofalo and David Cross, just because:
SET LIST Out of the Sun FOH Learned to Surf The Majestic Cast Iron Detroit Has a Skyline Mower Void Low F Watery Hands 1000 Pounds Punch Me Harder Driveway to Driveway The First Part Me & You & Jackie Mittoo Digging For Something
ENCORE Crossed Wires 100,000 Fireflies (Magnetic Fields cover) Slack Motherfucker Throwing Things
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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