Live Show Review: Superchunk and Swearin' at Union Transfer in Philly
April 9, 2018 | by Jocelyn Hoppa
I missed seeing Superchunk live back in the salad days of indie rock, and so, was fairly excited for their show at Philly’s Union Transfer last Wednesday night (especially given how much I also like their latest release What a Time to Be Alive).
Everything with their performance was near-perfection, incredibly on point, Mack hitting all those high Mack notes with so much ease. Songs sounding so connected it could’ve been a recording. They were full of energy, playing hard. (Bassist Laura Ballance no longer tours due to a health issue, and I did miss seeing her.) Drummer Jon Wurster is a thing to behold, and most of my attention hung onto his ominous, mercurial, hard-hitting presence behind the kit, which by no means translates into him taking a backseat to the rest of the band. Quite the opposite.
As far as the setlist goes, they played a heavy dose of tracks from their latest record, all songs that blended seamlessly into older ones like “Art Class,” “Driveway to Driveway,” and “Seed Toss.”
And yet, for all of Superchunk’s flawless delivery, vigor, and guitar hero animation, the set as a whole felt fairly paint by numbers (and yes, I get they're one of the bands who created the picture we're even looking at). Perhaps they’ve been doing what they do for so long, they make it look too easy? That's obviously a shitty, weird thing to complain about, but as is often the case when indie sanitizes punk, things tend to get a little ho-hum in dullsville. Thirty some odd years of hindsight and herds of stiff-neck indie rockers will do that to a show goer.
Notable: They played “Slack Motherfucker” — probably their most well known song — as the last song of the set before an inevitable encore. That was decent of them to not hold out, some of their original fans now have jobs and kids to deal with in the morning. Of course, not staying meant missing them do a cover of Sebadoh’s “Brand New Love.”
Opening band Swearin’, which features singers/guitarists Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride, and drummer Jeff Bolt, are officially back together after a few years apart, and they played a bunch of new songs suggesting a new album is forthcoming. And almost by stark contrast to Superchunk's pristine performance, even though Swearin' were a little rough around their bright pop punk edges and angry, charming ballads, a bit unhinged and unfussy (ie., possibly frequently out of tune) seems to serve their sound just fine.
Since the show, I’ve been digging back into Swearin’ and look forward to the next record they put out.