Acoustic Superchunk and a D.O.A. sing-along
A special screening of Canadian writer/director Matt Bissonnette's Passenger Side was held at Toronto's The Royal cinema on Wednesday night.
It was special not only because it's a fine film that I can identify with, but because Bissonnette (who's married to actress Molly Parker) was in attendance. So was the movie's music consultant, Mac McCaughan, the main man for indie rock bands Superchunk and Portastatic and the co-founder of Merge Records. The two men discussed the use of music in Passenger Side with Now magazine editor/publisher Michael Hollett, and then took questions from the audience.
Then came the moment that drew many of the people in the crowd (including Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and Fucked Up's Damian Abraham, who were sitting together) out on a rainy night to spend $20 or $25 for admission and more at the concession stand — which on this occasion was selling Mill Street Organic Lager and wine. I told you it was special.
Oh yeah... back to that moment I mentioned in the last paragraph. What was it? A rare acoustic performance by McCaughan and Superchunk/Portastatic bandmate Jim Wilbur. Well, it wasn't totally acoustic, since Wilbur kept switching between acoustic guitar and electric bass. But it was totally special.
I saw a full-on Superchunk performance at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas last month. It was great, but it was only 25 minutes. We got a full hour on Wednesday.
The set began with a pleasant surprise, and McCaughan's acknowledgment of Canadian content regulations, as the two musicians covered Vancouver power pop/punk band Pointed Sticks' 1979 single, "Out Of Luck."
McCaughan and Wilbur then dug into the Superchunk catalogue for "Cool," "Detroit Has A Skyline," "1000 Pounds" and a new song titled "Everything At Once" that worked really well despite McCaughan's concerns because it was the first time he'd performed it in this format.
The duo then changed gears, and jokingly chided with each other as they did throughout the set, to play two Portastatic tunes: "A Cunning Latch" and "Song For A Clock."
Bissonnette was in the front row, organic lager in hand, leading the cheers as McCaughan and Wilbur offered up more Superchunk songs. The two men seemed to grow more comfortable with each number, and things kept getting better as they blew through "I Guess I Remembered It Wrong" and "Throwing Things," which was probably the most aggressively played song of the night.
It was then cover time again, as McCaughan sang what he said was the first Lemonheads song he ever heard: "Hate Your Friends." Sticking with interpretations, with a sing-along twist, the crowd enthusiastically shouted the title of D.O.A.'s "Fuck You" in all the right places. It was slower than the original, and McCaughan kidded that punk rock was painful to play and listen to without drums, but Joey "Shithead" Keithley probably would have been pleased with the version.
D.O.A. ("Fucked Up Ronnie") and SNFU ("Cannibal Cafe") are both represented in Passenger Side, and McCaughan said that they're two of the best bands he's ever seen. He obviously has a soft spot for Canadian acts, as Asexuals, Leonard Cohen, Islands, The Nils and Chad VanGaalen also have their songs used in the movie.
Portastatic favourites "Noisy Night" and "San Andreas" were meant to close the night, but a standing ovation and crowd calls for more prompted McCaughan and Wilbur to return to the stage for a fine cover of The Go-Betweens' "Rock And Roll Friend" and an energetic, set-ending "Fishing" that featured a surprisingly big bottom end sound from the duelling Gibson guitars.
The gracious Bissonnette, McCaughan and Wilbur spent time talking to audience members (including Drew and Abraham) when everything was over, which capped off a fine evening of triple-headed entertainment.
Passenger Side will open in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on April 23, and will hopefully move into wider Canadian release after that. It was just picked up by a U.S. distributor and will hit American theatres in the fall.
Superchunk should release its first new studio album in nine years in the coming months.