superchunk - rough trade instore 29/11/11, london scala 01/11/11

i dont really keep up with how big bands are or how successful they are perceived to be any more (it was a teenage pursuit), i just know that by my standards superchunk are one of the best, most successful bands in the world. they occupy a piece of my heart that holds bands like replacements, galaxie 500, afghan whigs, slint and red house painters - bands that mean the absolute world to me, bands that soundtrack my days and punctuate my nights, that inform my writing and playing, that feed my thinking about music, that are perennial, lasting and ever-bright. these bands dont necessarily mean much to the general music listener but, while i believe each of those bands - and superchunk in particular - deserve all the fame and hard-earned dollars they can lay their hands on - it's always been a tiny pleasure to know that these groups are still, to a certain extent, a special and carefully shared secret.
this past week i had my heart filled with the kind of vivid, full colour joy you only get from seeing one of 'your' bands. in this instance i saw them twice, acoustic and full band, performing their first uk shows in a decade.

mac and jim's rough trade instore was a ramshackle little event from the borrowed, barely-in-tune acoustic guitars to the photocopied sheet marked up in pink highlighter advertising the show in the window - at one point mac even took a delivery of vinyl from a parcelforce guy. their humility, charm and no-fucking-around great songwriting shone as they strolled through a set that ranged from the new and exciting (learned to surf) to well-aged classics (skip steps 1 and 3) via fan-requested delights (animated airplanes over germany). it was a powerful experience to see one of the great songwriters of the last 25 years strumming away at those tunes 5 feet away, unamplified, unfettered and generally unfazed at the strangeness of the experience. The crowd grew from around 16 at the front of the set to nearly 30  7 songs later. so, these are my sharers of the superchunk secret? and i dont even know any of them...
jim and mac were obliging enough to sign their new 7" for us (alongside a fan who had flown in from japan that very day) and even took the time to discuss the very first time i'd met them - 16 years old at cardiff university - superchunk alongside posies and teenage fanclub at what would become the defining show of my youth - and yes, they remembered the show. only good one on the tour apparently. neat-o.
superchunk's first full-band show in the uk for ten years took place at the scala two nights later and  they just barely missed out (by a handful of tickets) on completely filling it. despite my apprehensions about any kind of london show being a warm, beautiful event this one managed to overcome the odds.
playing to a crowd of loving, hardcore fans ranging from wide-eyed first-time-drunk kids in their mid-teens in the pit (yes, there was a pit!) to nodding, balding, widening musos in their late 50s supping an ale at the back they tore out a classic set of cherished treasures in as kinetic and rambunctious a way as they used to 'back in the day' - but of course now they have a whole heap of tremendous new songs from their last and possibly best album 'majesty shredding' to tickle our spines and tease our hands into the air with.

as the ultimate heads down, no-frills, zero-pretension, high-tension, bullet-paced anti-rock band superchunk they could do nothing more than play their excellent songs with sad aggression (throwing things), empowering self-awareness (crossed wires), sublime surrealism (watery hands - my my, when that one goes off, hold your skin on) and, finally, in a truly unexpected move, true, sad, romantic perfection with their cover of sebadoh's immaculate 'brand new love'.

surprised by the warmth of response the band were energised the whole night - laura grinning and shrugging off screamed compliments, mac soloing whilst crowdsurfing and townshend windmilling, jim cracking the *occasional* sly smile, tossing out the *odd* sardonic comment and jon wurster, the drummer of drummers, the drummer of dreams throwing out those perfect beats with a look on his face that, as ever, understands the silliness and greatness of rock and roll simultaneously. alongs were sung, goes were po'd and it seemed that both a band and an audience came away delighted.
their evocative, charging music has always reduced me and my secret-holding compadres to rubble - tonight london played host to some rare live secret sharing that only served to amplify just how unique and appealing this legendary band really are.
one of those shows where you feel like you wrote the setlist yourself but surprised yourself? one of them that's in full-lit colour in your head when you close your eyes? check and check.
best in the world and largest in my heart.