Supersuckers, Eddie Spaghetti, Jordan Shapiro, Mike D and The Loyal Bastards, Moonshine Hangover
Mt. Tabor Theater, Portland, Oregon, Friday, July 13th 2007
For the longest time I have been hearing about the Supersuckers. But I always got mixed impressions on what to expect. People could never really explain to me exactly what this band sounded like. Were they punk rock? Country? Pop? They have toured with Bad Religion, The Ramones, the Dwarves, and even White Zombie! So to see this band playing the Hootenanny, and then touring with Reverend Horton Heat makes you really scratch your head. But the general consensus amongst anyone that has ever seen this band is that they blow the roof off of any house they step into. So after ten years of hearing about a band that’s almost at their twentieth anniversary, I decided to give them a shot.
These types of shows start late. As this was the first time I was going to see, I was overzealous…and got there two hours early. The great thing about the Mt. Tabor Theater is that they have their own lounge, with food and pinball! Only problem was that it was ninety degrees outside, and there was no airflow in the building. So my entourage and myself hopped next door to Bar of the Gods, and spent a good amount of time looking at the faux rockabilly kids try and look cool while the pomade was dripping down their faces. Unfortunately, by the time we came off our cloud, we realized that it was almost ten-thirty and we had all but missed a good chunk of the show. Leaving the bar, we tipped a dollar to the…umm…Elvis “Impersonator” (don’t ask), and made our way in to the club.
As we walked into the Mt. Tabor, it was like walking into “Bob’s Country Bunker” from the Blues Brothers’ movie: Eddie Spaghetti and Jordan Shapiro on stage, playing a soft country melody while the audience yelped and hollered in front of them. Playing songs off of SAUCE and OLD NO. 2, Spaghetti and Shapiro delighted the crowd…but stunned me. At the time I didn’t know that Shapiro was actually a member of Bob Dylan’s touring band, and an extremely accomplished musician in his own right. Jumping from a lap steel, to an acoustic, to a Fender Tele, if I wasn’t actually watching him play the instruments- I would’ve thought it was three different people.
Usually you can tell one guitar player on ANY instrument they play: Mike Ness has a definitive style, Buckethead, J. Yeunger, Adam Dutkiewicz, if any of these musicians went from their signature axe to some other permutation, you would still know it was them. This may be hard to understand from a layman-standpoint, but believe me it is something to take note of. Shapiro was able to go from chicken-pickin’ a la Junior Brown, to Robert Randolph-style lapsteel, and then smooth it out into a soft country ballad that reminded me of Richard Lloyd’s work Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend.” Then to top all this off with the brash but subtle troubadouring of Eddie Spaghetti, singing songs about alcohol, drugs, and lost loves, akin to the great Mr. Hank Williams Jr., I was rather upset with myself for not getting all of his records the moment they came out. It truly captivated me.
Then you have the rest of the audience, they were more so captivated by the lyrical content than the musicianship. Never more apparent than when Spaghetti would end each song with “Cha Cha Cha”, you could hear the crowd suddenly give a shit and round-in as loud as they could. This was my first indication that the Supersuckers were not going to sound as polished and deliciously twangy, as Eddie’s solo work. I think I could of, in a way, tell that Eddie wanted a bit more out of his crowd –but was still content with the roar of applause he received upon his exit.
By the time the Supersuckers hit the stage, the crowd was pretty much inebriated. People were stumbling and puking, fighting and cursing, and ready to rock and/or roll. Comprised of a surprising large group of Abercrombie rejects, and neavou-rockabilly kids, mixed with a humble bunch of older punks- the type that you would see at a Throw Rag, Orange Blossom Special, or Dickies show, I was quite surprised that the groups inter-mingled so well and didn’t heckle or fight each other. Chalk that up to the bands all encompassing sound, and the Portland “live and let live” attitude, definitely not something I would see in Orange County.
Amongst my observations, and quiet judging, the lights went out and the band took the stage. With everything turned up to eleven, screeching vocals, pounding basslines, and booming drums; it was quite clear that this band earned their Gibson endorsement. From the get-go the entire audience was up on their feet, ears peaked, yelling nonsensical gibberish along with Spaghetti. The crowd didn’t know the lyrics (most of them hardly knew where they were) but they sang with such conviction and candor that it didn’t matter. The band had their fumbles, and they weren’t always “on”, but then I realized that THAT is not what matters. The band was having fun, entertaining the crowd, and putting on a Rock show. That’s what the people came to see: not an intricate solo, or well placed vocal harmony; they wanted to get piss-drunk and listen to loud music. And brother, that’s exactly what the Supersuckers deliver – loud, beer drinking, body-shaking music. Song after song, the band pummeled the audience, and they loved every minute of it. By the end of the set, I didn’t know the name of a single song they played, or how any of them went. It seemed like one long song, but I am in NO way complaining.
It is obvious to see why the Supersuckers have never achieved international superstardom- their songs are not incredibly memorable, and the members are not particularly picturesque. But it is abundantly obvious as to the staying power of this band. They know their purpose, and they fulfill everyone’s expectations of them in spades. They are only here to rock, they travel the world giving people a butt load of rock, a hint of country, and one hell of a good time.