Noise Pop 2012: Mac McCaughan at Swedish American Hall 2/23/12

I probably don’t even need to say how cool it was to see Mac McCaughan — leader of indie rock legends Superchunk and Portastatic, co-founder of Merge Records — in the intimate setting of the Swedish American Hall.

McCaughan definitely played to the audience and the setting. He told us he was going to “try not to fuck it all up” before he got started, and was warm and friendly between songs, even taking some requests (though he did reply “Not gonna happen” when someone shouted out a tune that, well, wasn’t going to happen, apparently). It was just Mac up there on a beautiful semi-hollow Gibson plugged into a Fender half-stack.

If you’re a fan of McCaughan’s catalog and you weren’t there, then you definitely missed out. He played Superchunk songs new and old, including “Driveway to Driveway” off of Foolish (my personal fav Superchunk song), “Digging For Something” off of 2010’s Majesty Shredding, and “Learned To Surf” off the new 7″ just released late last year. There were some Portastatic songs, like “Drill Me” and “Spying on the Spys,” and a cover of the Misfits song “Children In Heat” (fucking dope choice, imho). At one point he played a new song about the parade of ships in NYC on the 4th of July. Before playing that particular number, McCaughan asked if anyone had ever seen the parade of ships. When no one admitted to having seen it, he replied, “Good, then I won’t be ruining any fond memories.” I seriously doubt that was what anyone took away from the evening.

The openers were mostly solid too. Sasha Bell (of The Essex Green) played first, and I honestly could have listened to her bright, clear vocals all night long, even if her piano-driven rock isn’t normally my jam. Rachel Haden‘s dark, slow-building tunes were more what I’m into, and I really dug that even though it kinda reminded me of post-rock, all the songs were about pop-length. The crowd was really into both of them, too, but Sun Foot was a bit more divisive.

There was a girl sitting in the front row who laughed her ass off at every quirky, minimalist, experimental song the band played, but I also overheard a dude asking his friend if “these guys are Emperor-Wears-No-Clothes, laughably bad”. So, yeah, I guess that’s what you call a mixed bag right there. I thought they were doing some interesting stuff, using hand drums and digital drum triggers instead of a drum kit, for instance. Though I’ll admit, they did make for an odd transition to Mac McCaughan’s set. But that’s not always a bad thing, in and of itself.

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