The ATP festivals, aside from being a rollicking weekend of top notch music, bring some rarely seen bands to the UK. Most make full use of their time on these Great British isles, embarking on mini tours which afford their die-hard fan bases an uncommon opportunity to catch them live. Bands like Loop, Slint, Shellac, Television and Low have all made extracurricular appearances outside of their festival commitments recently, and Superchunk are no exception. But with the most recent ATP Festivals closing out an End Of An Era (both nominally and quite literally), it’s unlikely the cold early December weekends will ever be as full of off-kilter musical greatness again…
“We play the UK very rarely, and when we do we’re like ‘don’t make us play outside of London where it’s cold!’ Well… colder…” muses front man Mac McCaughan as he fondles his guitar’s tuning pegs between songs. It brings jeers from an otherwise enthusiastic Leeds crowd, a tongue-in-cheek North/South resentment bubbling to the fore. It raises an interesting point: just how the heck is Superchunk’s often sunny indie-rock so remarkably beloved in the inclement UK?
‘Me & You & Jackie Mittoo’ talks of “sweet summer breeze” and sounds like it was written to soundtrack the very cross country road trip that inspired it, and even ‘Driveway To Driveway’ – about the damages of rampant college-life bingeing – is so steeped in North Carolina sunshine it’s hard for it not to raise a smile.
It’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t work in a working men’s club in Leeds, but Superchunk’s first appearance in the city feels well overdue.
McCaughan bounds around the stage like a teenager playing along with the greats in his bedroom, busting out windmills and noodling his solos into the faces of the front row. Songs from this year’s I Hate Music prove Superchunk are much capable of defying their years too; veritable DC-punk slammer ‘Staying Home’ races by at such a speed that by the time it’s off-kilter rhythm has been sussed the track has ended entirely, and latest single ‘Void’ is as melodically sound as anything off fan favourite LPs Foolish and Come Pick Me Up.
It all builds to the fist pumping finale of ‘Slack Motherfucker’, McCaughan and the rest of the band leaping about the stage while the Brudenell shouts back the song’s obscenity laced main hook, hands aloft.
“Our booking agent said “trust me” [about playing the Brudenell]” admits McCaughan, “so thanks for playing your part and making this a great night”. Hopefully the demise of ATP won’t mean the end for these kinds of seasonal mini-tours, and bands will still want to reap the sense of occasion that sporadic UK shows bring.