Live: Mamma Mia! Superchunk Bring The Heat To Times Square


Superchunk, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, Upper West, Zulu Wave
Times Square
Saturday, July 7

Better than: The matinee showing of Sister Act.

Originally slated to play a headlining gig at Beekman Beer Garden as part of the CBGB Festival, word went out early last week that Superchunk instead would play in Times Square as part of a free afternoon show the festival had planned. It was set up to be a nightmare gig: Record high temperatures, tourists posing in front of the stages like they were the Statue of Liberty, and an unenviable early-afternoon start time.

I arrived in time to watch openers Upper West, a rap duo (plus a DJ) who delivered rhymes about living on (duh) the Upper West Side without a hint of irony. I have no idea who booked them to play this gig, but it says something about the state of the CBGB brand that Upper West were on this bill. The dudes handing out flyers for Caroline’s had more street cred than these two. They didn’t have aspirational-rich-guy swagger; they were privileged rich kids who came off like a less tough LFO. (It didn’t help that one of their moms was going around asking everyone what they thought of their set.)

Onstage Shorts Count: 2.

Next up was Duff McKagan’s Loaded, which has to be one of the most awkward band names on record and which was made up of guys who’ve played big stages before. Duff worked the crowd, and even attempted some call-and-response with the sun-baked onlookers. D M’s L (I made up that acronym) may be a little unaccustomed to playing at 1:00 in the afternoon; they started to flag as their set carried on. They finished with a limp cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, continuing the myth that Iggy Pop and CBGB are somehow synonymous.

Onstage Shorts Count: 0. (Bonus points: Black jeans on every band member.)

A loyal group of indie-rock nerds collected to watch Superchunk on the North Stage during Duff’s set. Sirius DJ/internet funnyman Jake Fogelnest introduced the band with a nod to “Mayor Roy Ziegler,” one of Jon Wurster’s characters on The Best Show on WFMU. When they hit the stage, bassist Laura Ballance thanked the the crowd for figuring out when they were playing, something those without a press schedule told me they struggled with. ‘Chunk opened with their new (appropriately titled) single “This Summer,” which set the tone for a fun and energetic—if somewhat sloppy—set. Classics like “Detroit Has A Skyline” and “Slack Motherfucker” elicited solid singalongs, but they hit their stride on “Crossed Wires” (dedicated to Matt Pinfield, who was smiling ear-to-ear during the set) and “Digging For Something.” The latter is about a raucous summer party, and that ended up being exactly what Superchunk delivered; Saturday’s show felt like seeing a great band playing a backyard barbecue, if the backyard in question happened to feature a T.G.I. Friday’s. Frontman Mac McCaughan, who was battling tuning issues caused by the extreme heat, took a moment to note the absurdity of playing 15 feet from the Winter Garden marquee. By the time they wrapped up their set with 1995’s “Hyper Enough,” they looked worn-out but happy, as did the weird mix of tourists and indie kids who’d gathered to watch them.

Onstage Shorts Count: 0. (Mac was wearing a long-sleeved shirt too!)

Critical bias: I host a show with Tom Scharpling, who is the comedy partner of Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster.

Overheard: “What did you think of that? It rocked, huh?”—One of the dudes in Upper West’s mom, during Upper West’s set.

Random notebook dump: This German lady on the side of the stage is arranging her kids so she can get a picture with Superchunk in the background, and angrily telling them to air guitar.

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