Stranded In Stereo: SiS At The Club: Superdrag

Monday, November 5, 2007

SiS At The Club: Superdrag

In reality, they say that you can only be 12 years old once. In any one person's given span of life, everyone gets to be 12 for 365 days (unless your 12th year happens during leap year, which then gives you that extra day of holding about before officially becoming a teenager.) They say that one can never go back to being 12, and it is true. Unless you suffer from that disease in which you just age in reverse, you only get to be 12 that one and only time.

And then, there comes me and my ability to deny that one can only be so young for so little time. In my lifetime, I had seen Superdrag only once: at the time, it wound up being their second to last show on a rainy September weekend in 2002 when I was 18. It was a great show, and at the end of the night I walked away smiling from ear to ear as they rang incessantly for days on end, and chalked it up as one more of my all time favorite bands I had seen in concert. They would eventually go on sabbatical, leaving hardcore 'Drag fans to wonder what would happen in the future, if there would ever be another Superdrag tour, or another Superdrag album.

This past summer, I went nuts, typing various characters that made no sense when I found out the original line-up of Knoxville's finest power pop was getting together for six shows this fall. (This is the part where this whole 12 year old thesis comes in.) When I had seen them in '02, beyond original members John Davis (vocals/guitar/piano) and Don Coffey Jr. (drums,) the other two spots were filled by long time Knoxville friends, Sam Powers (once of Who Hit John, the band that originally did that song "Stu" that he sings on Superdrag's final album, 2002's
Last Call For Vitriol) and Mic Harrison (of The V-Roys and The Faults fame, the band named check in "I Guess It's American," or as it is now known on this year's Changin' Tires On The Road To Ruin comp, "I Am Incinerator.") Never in a million years did I think I would see Don and John perform alongside Brandon Fisher (guitar/vocals) and Tom Pappas (bass/vocals/afro) ever. It's not like they left on bad terms, they were just fried from all the touring and wanted to stay home, have families, all that stuff. When I was 12, Regretfully Yours was out, "Sucked Out" was getting MTV airplay, and they became one of the first bands that took a hold of me. And then Head Trip In Every Key came out and changed me at 14 forever. I would've killed to see them at 12 years old, touring with label mates Nada Surf and chain smoking throughout the set, but I couldn't because, alas, what parent in their right mind would send a 12 year old to that show. Thanks, mom.

So, they go on this tour, being weekend warriors, playing to packed crowds along the east coast about every other weekend in October and early November. And they finally get here to Boston, to take stage at the Paradise, the home of their last show in September 2003. This isn't like a Pixies reunion show, or The Police. You walk in to this show and find the band manning their own merch booth, talking to every fan. While John and Brandon scribble their names and little messages on their tour only
4-Track Rock!!! / Complete "Bender" Sessions for the fans, Tom writes down on his hand a list of places people had traveled from to see that night's show, to make sure their zip codes get a mention later on.

After pleasant sets from Stewart Pack (Superdrag's go to man for art direction and layout) and Mic Harrison backed by Knoxville's finest in the High Score, the Drag took to the stage and John introduced "Whitey's Theme" to start the show at precisely 10:46 PM EST. The band would go on, plowing through the back catalog for two hours straight, complete with multiple segues from the obvious ("Slot Machine" in to "Phaser," duh,) to the surprises ("Liquor" in to "Nothing Good Is Real." I think I stopped breathing during that song, held back from tearing up for how that song has been so very close to me for a decade, singing along with some guy next to me during the part before the last chorus where it's just John's vocals carrying the tune. Gives me chills still.)

This is what I waited all of my life to see. Seeing them in '02 was just fine, but that night they focused mainly on
Vitriol and 2000's immaculate In The Valley Of Dying Stars, while just hinting at their major label Elektra efforts and EP before it. This night was about celebrating the Superdrag we all grew to love with 1996's Regretfully Yours, an album that they played in its entirety this night, omitting "What If You Don't Fly?" for some unknown reason. While the first half of their set was dominating by the finest moments Yours had to offer, they broke it up a bit by playing the classic single "Senorita," available on 7" and on their Stereo 360 Sound CD, and "Liquor" from their 1995 debut EP, The Fabulous 8-Track Sounds Of Superdrag much to the delight of the crowd. And of course, all went wild during "Sucked Out" when played late in the 4th quarter.

Throughout the show, Davis was as grateful as ever, bowing after songs, thanking the crowd with many pleasantries, professing his admiration and love for the opening acts, and every fan who was there that night. As Davis played his role of leader, Pappas played the role of ringleader, bringing his brand of humor to the crowd by speaking mostly in a voice that would compare to that of a mad scientist. He's the Pete Townsend of bassists, really, jumping up and down doing splits, skipping across the stage afro still in tact to jam out with Fisher during the perfect rendition of "Rocket," save for me yelling '1-2-3-4' way early. Pappas has the genuine vibe that reminds me of Stewart Copeland of The Police: he's the goofball, he's the reason this reunion maybe took place? Looking at him on the stage, screaming like a banshee during the middle of "Cynicality," it was like he never wanted to leave the stage and was so glad to be back and would make a promise to never leave again.
So the night ended with "Rocket" going through multiple false endings before they left the stage. I walk out of the club and find Tom Pappas right back at the merch table, wiping the sweat out of his afro, stating, "Looks like a band just left the stage or something!" They had left the stage, yes, but they were still playing in my mind.

Superdrag Set List:
Whitey's Theme / Slot Machine / Phaser / Carried / Garmonbozia / Truest Love / Senorita / Six-Eight / N.A. Kicker / Liquor / Nothing Good Is Real / Tell Me I'm Not Free / I'm Expanding My Mind / Hellbent / Sold You An Alibi / Do The Vampire / Amphetamine / Pine Away / Unprepared / Keep It Close To Me / Sucked Out / Cynicality / True Believer // H.H.T. / Bloody Hell / Destination: Ursa Major / Rocket

: "Rocket" (from the Bender Sessions, 1995) [mp3]


March to the Sea said...

Great post..great show was my 6th time seeing them..saw them open for Buffalo Tom in the original form and had NO idea who they ever since.(Regfully tour). Saw em open for Green day as well at Lupos..that was an odd bill..Paradise x2, TT's...great band. So glad they played and maybe will do it now and again.


David said...

"What if you don't fly" and "Annetichrist" are the two songs Davis won't play anymore due to the content.

Mandie said...

wish i could've been there.

maybe in ___ years...heh.

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