Concert review 

Superdrag, America Owns the Moon

Superdrag, America Owns the Moon
Superdrag, America Owns the Moon Birdy"s Thursday, Nov. 7 Knoxville, Tenn."s Superdrag made their second appearance in the calendar year at the big shed known as Birdy"s, bringing their Cheap Trick-meets-The Replacements brand of power-pop to a receptive crowd of about 150. Since being released from their major label deal that spawned 1996"s alterna-radio hit "Sucked Out," and the industry standard second-album-that-goes-nowhere-due-to-lack-of-support, they have released two albums on indie Arena Rock Records (most notably, the phenomenal In the Valley of Dying Stars), and have been doing it the old fashioned way by living in a van and playing everywhere under the sun Ö twice. Now out stumping for their most recent release, Last Call for Vitriol, the band made the most of a Thursday night with shamelessly big rock guitars and a slew of completely un-ironic "Yeahs" as lyrics. As much as they favor predictable, inoffensive, straightforward rock songs, there is something inherently likeable about a band that so obviously enjoys what they do. Personable onstage, with his "Aw, c"mon now" responses to drunken hecklers, singer/guitarist John Davis showed his sincerity with the autobiographical "Feeling Like I Do," written about his battle with alcoholism. Even singing about such weighty topics, the band kept things lighthearted, eschewing the country-flavored ballads present on their records for the bigger chord-oriented rock like the maddeningly memorable "Lighting the Way." While making sure to plug their new album and their recent tour with Guided by Voices, Superdrag put on a show for their fans with a good mix of material from all four records. For 90 minutes, it was OK to forget about worldly woes and the Republican-controlled government and just soak up some beer and well-placed power chords. Local openers America Owns the Moon managed to make their tight, up-tempo Elvis Costello/dBs/Big Star power-pop sound crisp despite the questionable sound in the barn. Mixing new songs with those more familiar, they exhibited an unpretentiousness missing from most modern pop music. Songs like "One in a Billion" highlighted their increasingly strong vocal harmonies (was that really four-part harmony at a rock show?!), but it was "If I Could Give You Mine" that showed the band"s rock radio savior potential. Complex and subtle rhythms and songwriting, mixed with an affable persona, are their strongest features. Guitarist/singer Taylor pulls it all off with one of those truly great, slightly tortured rock singing voices, and manages to look like he"s sharing the fun and immediacy of a basement show with his bandmates. Their well-paced set seemed to catch the ears of the headliners, who made several references to their local compatriots, even to the point of changing lyrics in their songs to match those of AOtM song titles. Hopefully other bands aren"t the only ones listening to this Indy gem.

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