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  SUPERCHUNK w/ Matt Suggs  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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I usually start off my Superchunk reviews by stating unequivocally that, historically, Superchunk is one of my favorite live bands. However, looking back, I've also usually stated that the performance I then witnessed didn't live up to my expectations. So, when I heard Superchunk was coming back I was faced with a quandary: did I go out once more and re-live my misspent youth, and risk disappointment? Or should I just stay home, pop in Here's Where the Strings Come In, and not bother with the crowd? Not surprisingly, musical optimism won out over jaded skepticism and I decided to venture over to The Echo Lounge and see what the band had to offer.

Despite the unusually late start (doors were at 11 pm), I was running late. Therefore, when I got to the Echo, Matt Suggs was already well into his set. Best known as part of Butterglory, Suggs has released two solo albums on Merge Records. The first one, Golden Days Before They End, was a bit scattershot, but most characterized by lush melodies, floating keyboards, and slightly loungey vocals. So I was a bit surprised when his live set (backed by a full and quite good band) reminded me a lot of early-70s Neil Young. Perhaps it was the slightly syncopated beats combined some significant guitar twang/distortion. Or maybe it was the way the keyboards underlaid Suggs's drawling vocal, but all I could think of was On The Beach. This isn't a bad thing; however, it did make me wonder what Sugg's second solo CD sounds like. If it's anything like his live performance, I should probably go pick it up.

After a brief change over, Superchunk finally came on stage and began with a rocking version of Florida's on Fire, off their last studio album, Here's to Shutting Up. I'll confess that it's not a song I particularly care for. Still the band was playing harder and more energetically than I'd seen in a long time, so I was encouraged. But then, immediately upon ending the first song, they began to play Her Royal Fisticuffs, a fast-paced number off The Laughter Guns EP. This is one of my favorite Superchunk songs, and as they began to play it, shivers began in my ankles and traveled up my spine. As I stood there, I knew I had made the right decision to come out. At long last, I was going to see the Superchunk show worthy of my admiration and (dare I say it?) fandom.

From that point, the set list traveled pretty much all over the very length Superchunk catalog. They played older material like Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus, For Tension, and Mower mixed in with their more recent releases like Rainy Streets, 1000 Pounds, and Late Century Dream. More importantly, all of these songs were played quickly and forcefully, so that the energy from the stage (and in the somewhat sparse crowd) never dissipated, but rather seemed to grow over time. In fact, even when the band played two new songs, people in the audience continued to dance and bounce like these were Superchunk standards instead of newly written material. This skill at integrating old with new is a Superchunk trademark, and left me with hope regarding any upcoming recordings.

For me, the highlight of the show came at the end. After finishing the regular set with a rousing version of Hyper Enough, the band came back for an encore consisting entirely of old material. Beginning with The Breadman and then continuing on into their biggest standard, Slack Motherfucker, Superchunk reached way back into their catalogue and the crowd reacted accordingly by singing along and dancing. Then, for the final number of that encore, they picked another old song, Throwing Things, which I tend to prefer in the beautiful acoustic form released on Incidental Music as opposed to the harder version on No Pocky for Kitty. However considering the fact that everything on the evening had been upbeat, it seemed somehow appropriate and right that Superchunk played the faster version. Nevertheless, Throwing Things also sent chills up my entire body as the music washed over me and I, too, began to sing along with the band.

Afterwards, the band came back out for one final encore. But for me the show had ended with the final notes of the previous encore. Nothing could top the exhilaration and happiness that I felt having witnessed a sublime live performance of some of my favorite music by one of my long-standing favorite bands. The concert cleared my brain of the pains and disappointments of the previous weeks and left me with the renewed sense that, properly performed, music can be redemption.

Related Links:

Golden Days Before They End, a 2000 album from Matt Suggs.
Superchunk live in Atlanta, about 2 years ago.


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