Superchunk and Bat Fangs Live @ Neumos
February 27, 2018, Seattle, Wash.
By Todd Terry
This was the first time I had seen a show at Neumos since their 2017 remodel. From my perspective near the stage house left, new Neumos looked pretty similar to old Neumos, but is still very different than Moe’s Mo’Roc’N Café.
Opening the show was Bat Fangs, a duo composed of singer / guitarist Betsy Wright, who played bass in Ex Hex, and Laura King from Flesh Wounds. Their set was filled with short blasts of garage rock, with pounding translucent orange drums, heavy riffs, and occasional guitar theatrics. Betsy was dressed in an MIA inspired mix of patterns and colors, and they ended their set with a no nonsense version of “Talk Dirty to Me” by Poison, so needless to say it was very enjoyable.
I have been a Superchunk fan since the first time I saw the video for “Throwing Things” late on a Sunday night on MTV’s 120 Minutes. Oh how young we all were.
All these years later, they were touring in support of their eleventh (11? Really?) full length studio album, the stripped down and politically charged What a Time to Be Alive, which lead singer / guitarist Mac McCaughan wrote in response to the 2016 US Presidential election and the state of turmoil that has enveloped the country ever since. Early in the set they played the title track from the album, which provides a fitting mantra for these dark times:
“The scum, the shame, the fucking lies, Oh what a time to be alive.”
From the stage, McCaughan echoed these sentiments, explaining that there are “Negative vibes are all around. That shit is all around.” In addition to these words of wisdom, he and his band brought their music of protest to the people of Seattle, blazing through nine songs from the new album during their 21 song set.
The aggression of the new songs were invigorating and provided solace, but the true catharsis came from screaming along at the top of my lungs to some of my favorite songs of all times. “Slack Motherfucker,” “Driveway to Driveway,” and “Hyper Enough” were all epic and glorious. (“I’m working, but I’m not working for you!“)
At one point, guitarist Jim Wilbur started saying something about “Thunder in the East” by Japanese heavy metal band Loudness. In that moment I realized that he bared a striking resemblance to KVWN channel 4 sportscaster Champ Kind. Then I entered a dreamlike state where I started to see all of the possible connections between Superchunk and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Mac, as the lead anchor of the band, would obviously be Ron Burgundy; and touring bassist Jason Narducy, of Split Single and Bob Mould’s band, had the swagger of lead field reporter Brian Fantana. That left drummer extraordinaire Jon Wurster, also of Bob Mould’s band, Mountain Goats, and apparently almost every other band (https://soundcloud.com/kexp/jon-wursters-longest-kexp-station-id-ever), in the role of chief meteorologist Brick Tamland. If you don’t think about it too much, it totally works. “Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina.”
Drink of Choice:
Whisky ginger ales at the Cha Cha and PBR Tall Boys at Neumos.
It was a fairly subdued crowd considering the band’s energy. There were a lot of head noddin’ Seattleites. As she was making her way closer to the stage, one young woman pondered aloud “How close is close enough?” and I thought, “that really is the eternal question when going to shows.”
At the end of the show I looked around and noticed I was standing right next to the sullen leather jacketed Workaholics guy from the Slim Cessna show a couple of weeks ago. He seemed to be having a slightly better time at Superchunk. It’s nice to know that you can still have an occasional Mayberry moment in Seattle.
Most Valuable Player:
In the past, my MVP for any Superchunk show would have always been bassist Laura Balance, the Veronica Corningstone of the band. With her distorted bass parts and near constant pogoing, she was the epitome of badass cool. She still records with the band, but unfortunately in 2013 she announced that she would no longer be touring due to hyperacusis, a hearing disorder characterized by oversensitivity to certain frequencies and volume ranges of sound. Since then, Jason Narducy has held down the low end for their live shows and I have to say that he is a goddamn professional. Every rocking pose, every bass swing, and every walk back to the amp to return to the mic just in time for his background vocals was expertly executed. It all seemed completely organic and perfectly choreographed at the same time. I realize that this is kind of like choosing Kelly Leak, who was totally a ringer, as MVP of the Bad News Bears, but you can’t argue with the airtight logic of my completely subjective selection process.