Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Something Infinitely Greater"

Slow to Speak - Superdrag (mp3)
Gimme Animosity - Superdrag (mp3)

Here's a cool dream.

You've built this band from scratch. You make kickass power pop with a lot of feedback and lots of "walls of sound" and some occasionally sharp lyrics. You had a brief shining moment in the spotlight in 1996, where MTV loved you and talk circulated that you might be the Next Big Thing. But then you weren't. By 1999 you knew you were only sticking around because you had to, because it would take the jaws of life to remove you from the stage and the recording studio. So you kept making albums, occasionally interchanging some of the band's members. And a core group of your fans stuck with you.

It was clear you were never gonna to fill arenas, never gonna make millions and roll around in it like Demi Moore in "Indecent Proposal," but you could cull together something minorly profitable that bordered on an obsessive hobby. And during this time, most of you got married and settled into some compromise between rock 'n' roll and domestication, which might include a few potholes of substance abuse or life crises along the way. But hey, what's a rock 'n' roll dream without a few potholes?

Anyway, in this dream, 14 years pass. You and your fellow original band members have just paid out of your own pockets to have a new album cut, and you've put your hearts (and plenty of cash) into it. And you plan for a kick-off concert in Knoxville, where your band was born. That night, a crowd of 300-400 people, many of whom had been fans for more than a decade, many of whom had to find babysitters so they could stay out for a late night to watch you, gathered around your small stage and cheered you on.

Pretty cool dream, right? But here's the kicker.

You're singing your heart out to a song you know the crowd loves, and you look over to the left corner of the crowd, and you see two gorgeous women standing up a little above the crowd and dancing with joy and abandon, like characters from one of those Charlie Brown TV specials. They're clearly friends, and they are clearly having the time of their lives. They love your band. They love you. Like, really love you, and not just in that fan-who-wants-to-screw-you-in-the-tour-bus kind of way.

They are your wives. You're married to these adorable women!

The music is in them. It's been in them for a long time, and even while you play and perform and soak up the moment, you feel them over there, and you know you can love music and a person at the same time and not have to lose one for the other. You might even know you can't even love one completely without the other.

This is the dream I imagined last Friday night at Superdrag's first concert in more than a year, a concert to welcome new album Industry Giants into the world. I saw lead singer John Davis' wife Wendy dancing with lead guitarist Brandon Fisher's wife Suzanne. These two women had probably heard these songs in hundreds of different states of being, some of which had to be not-so-great. And they heard them a lot. Like, a lot a lot. They probably heard these songs in their sleep... or maybe they heard their husbands playing these songs while they were trying to sleep. They've taken dumps and plucked eyebrows to these songs. They've managed temper tantrums and changed diapers to these songs. They've screamed and yelled and cried to these songs.

Yet here they were, more than 14 years after the birth of their first child -- Superdrag -- still totally in love with their husbands and the band and the music. Screw the millions of non-existent dollars, and screw the record companies in every orifice. If you've still got your wives on your side, and if they're still dancing to your music like no one's watching, then everything else is a bonus.

Impressing the remaining hundreds of fans out in that crowd is just the proverbial icing, but Superdrag impressed anyway. My neck hurts. My legs are a little weak. These are good signs. I can determine how much fun I had at most bar concerts by how much my head bobbed, how often I hopped up and down or rocked back and forth. By the time Superdrag had kicked into their pseud-encore with "Gimme Animosity," I was just lucky I didn't pull a hammy or anything from a constant pogo-sticking of energy release.

My buddy Andy, who has long run the band's web site, was kind enough to invite me for what became my fourth time at a Superdrag concert. I've always enjoyed their music, and their concerts tend to make even songs I'm not so fond of sound totally compelling. I've never left a Superdrag concert without listening to their albums repeatedly during the subsequent weeks. Their newest one has the flavor of Sugar in one part and of the Foo Fighters in a couple other places. It has more than a few reminders that John, the primary songwriter, is still very much into his own personal Jesus, but he's not going gently into that good Christian night, dammit. He and the band are gonna wrestle with some musical demons before they're done, and they sound heavenly doing it.

So consider paying a few bucks at (available soon!) or at their own web site and buying an album by a band that kicks out the power pop jams just 'cuz they love it. And 'cuz their wives love it, too.

If you want one more taste of their new album's vicious delicious, has their new video for "Aspartame."


Chris Carpenter said...

Superdrag has always been a great live band. I can't count the number of times I've seen them at this point and don't remember ever being disappointed (some favorites include a night at Hawkeye's, the last Blue Cats show before the hiatus and a New Year's Eve show with The Faults).

I got onto the Superdrag bandwagon around my junior year at Tennessee, right around In the Valley of Dying Stars, so this reunion thing doesn't mean quite as much to me. As much as I love Regretfully Yours and Fabulous 8 Track Sounds, my Superdrag has always had Sam Powers on bass. I read the set list of the Knoxville show with a little disappointment - no Staggering Genius or Lighting the Way (I was happy to see Keep it Close). I get it, but it is just a different band from the one I got to know. I wonder how many people have similar feelings about it.

Regardless, I can't wait to hear the new album.

Billy said...

Valley is my favorite album as well, and "Lighting the Way" is definitely my all-time fave 'Drag song. Plus, it was always cool to have an alum in the band. So I get where you're coming from.

But I would recommend giving this new one a few spins... it's definitely growing on me big-time.

troutking said...

Glad you went. Told ya so.