What happened to swagger? Though I’ve grown to expect more complexity and emotional honesty out of rock stars, rock ‘n’ roll is one more Creed or Train away from losing its evil powers. Even Mick Jagger, old Mr. Reliable, cocksure, sexiness-as-rebellion, never demure, has become a wuss. Impostors abound—rap stars bling-blinging their way up the charts, nu-metal hucksters with “attitude” straight from the football field to your living room care of TRL, and tight-jeaned country “toughs” who aren’t as cool as Johnny Cash’s brow sweat. We either get a tough guy attitude based on titillating 13-year-old boys with homophobia (which ain’t so tough because it gives in to irrational fear rather than achieving bad ass proportion) or formulaic power-chord musical masturbation. Or, we get boring “sophisticated” rock ‘n’ roll meant to seduce aging yuppies who still want an excuse to wear a leather jacket and smoke dope three times a year when they go to the amphitheatre to see a $60 show.
5 Apr 2002: Slim's San Francisco
Stepping from the fray of a dying rock ‘n’ roll landscape, reclaiming rock ‘n’ roll city by city, the Supersuckers are quite possibly the last great rock band from Seattle. And damn if they don’t make everything fun and evil about rock ‘n’ roll fun and evil once more! With talent on loan from Satan, yeah that Satan—and not for shock value, but because Satan is fucking “cool”—the Suckers remind us of what rock ‘n’ roll was like before it grew up, got all serious on us and bought a Ford Taurus. Displaying impeccable chops, synchronized cock-rock gesturing and oh-so-cool style (it takes a lot of balls to pull off cowboy hats, sunglasses and lamb chop sideburns without looking stupid), the Supersuckers proved once again that they are, if not the best, the most enjoyable bitchin’ live band in the known universe.
Rolling through an hour or so set of songs spanning their 12+ year history, Eddie Spaghetti, Dancing Eagle, Dan “Thunder” Boltman and Ron Heathman brought their sacrilegious sound to summon the evil powers of rock ‘n’ roll. A mix of 1970s punk, glam and arena rock mixed with 1950s AM honkytonk, they gesticulated, self-aggrandized and flat-out played their way into our hearts and minds; the audience one big pogoing mess having the time of its life in-between running to the bar for more beer and to the bathroom to make room for more. Classics like “Double-Wide”, “Crazy Jackalope Eye” and “Saddle Tramp” were well balanced by newer stuff such as “The Evil Powers of rock ‘n’ roll” and “Goin’ Back to Tucson”. By the time they “encored” (the boys thankfully don’t leave the stage and announce that there are a few more songs left), with a ridiculously long, complete with elongated solos, drumsticks on bass theatrics and overall strutting, cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song” and their own sing-along “Born with a Tail”, they had destroyed everything in their path and pissed all over it to mark their territory.
Lesser band would never get away with this type of shit, as we’d scoff at them. Whereas today swagger is attempted through unclever homophobia and misogyny, the Supersuckers base theirs in the fact that they flat-out rock and in that they indulge in all of the cheesy potential of rock ‘n’ roll without ever crossing the line into overkill. Or, maybe they gladly cross that line, in some sort of ironic irony, one in which they simultaneously make fun on and yet celebrate all that is simultaneously awful and essential to rock ‘n’ roll. Addicted to the rush of hijinks, they simply have a devil may care attitude, get on stage and do things on their own terms.