Superchunk Pummells Sold-out Crowd

Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan’s convulsed with dizzying recklessness Tuesday night as Chapel Hill’s reigning hook-monger pummelled the sold-out crowd with seething bursts of guitar noise.

Spinning and faltering like a Tazmanian across Irving Plaza’s stage, McCaughan came perilously close to knocking pogoing uber-bassist (and former girlfriend) Laura Ballance into the wings. But Ballance and drummer John Wurster grounded McCaughan’s madness, their driving low-end all but saving the gaunt singer from careening into the fist-pumping mosh pit.

Marauding through much of their latest Merge release, Here’s Where the Strings Come In, the indie-gurus also pulled from their archives, ripping through “Waterwings” from their Foolish LP and infusing No Pocket For Kitty’s “Punch Me Harder” with full-tilt punk angst. Wurster slammed madly like the Muppet’s Animal as Jim Wilbur’s chunky rhythm chops propelled McCaughan screaming and squealing through “Hyper Enough” and “Sunshine State.”

With gnashed teeth and glazed eyes, McCaughan looked dazed and stressed, mindlessly but emphatically spewing his lyrical celebrations of the mundane like “Iron On” and “Yeah, It’s Beautiful Here Too.” Off-kilter as he seemed, McCaughan salvaged the otherwise banal performance.

Emerging from a mist of Star Trek-like ambient sounds and dim, obscured lighting, Cornershop’s Tjinder Singh was equally enigmatic. Hiding expressionless behind his tousled black hair, Singh repeatedly turned his back on the audience. Still, Cornershop’s Indo-Anglo hybrid was a fascinating diversion from the evening’s stateside fare, melding droning sitars with jarring samples, cloudy keyboards and trance-inducing polyrhythms.

“6 AM Jullandar Shere,” from the band’s Luka Bop/Warner Brothers debut, Woman’s Gotta Have It, grew from a dull whisper into a dense, mesmerizing dirge, proving that melodic hooks are equally infectious in Singh’s native Punjabi. Mixing Indian and indie rock, “My Dancing Days Are Done” blurred all the boundaries in between and left the gape-jawed punksters stunned.

Tacoma’s Seaweed shook the throngs from their stupor, tearing through their twelve song set in just over forty minutes. Fronted by Christopher Barron look-alike Aaron Stauffer, Seaweed’s hardcore barrage — borrowing largely from their recent Hollywood release Spanaway — was ceaseless. With obvious deferencee to Zeppelin and Sabbath alike, dual guitarists Wade Neal and Clint Werner tore through pit faves “Crush Us All,” “Free Drug Zone” and the apocolyptic “Last Humans” with ferocious zeal.

This review first appeared on Rolling Stone Online

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