it close to me: John Davis and Brandon Fisher of Superdrag.
by Joe Putrock
of Dying Stars
By Kirsten Ferguson
Superdrag, Hellmagnet, the Sixfifteens
like to dedicate this song to the dude from Phantom Planet
who had to go to the hospital yesterday,” Superdrag singer
John Davis said, sympathetically, about midway through his
band’s set at Valentine’s on Friday night. Davis’ dedication
was intended for Phantom Planet’s ailing singer Alex Greenwald,
who—it turns out—was suffering from a less-than-fatal case
of laryngitis. Still, the singer’s throat trouble was serious
enough to warrant, earlier in the day, the cancellation of
the band’s headlining appearance at Valentine’s.
Prior to the news that the star- studded L.A. band would not
be playing, Phantom Planet’s Valentine’s show reportedly was
sold out—owing much to the celebrity appeal of the band’s
members. Drummer Jason Schwartzman, a nephew of film director
Francis Ford Coppola, held the lead role in the movie Rushmore,
while Greenwald has his own modeling and movie career (he
acted in the recent cult flick Donnie Darko).
Although there would be no movie stars in the house on this
night, even Superdrag had their high-profile reasons for nearly
missing the Valentine’s gig: They taped a performance for
Late Night With Conan O’Brien earlier in the evening.
If Superdrag deserved props for hustling up to Albany to honor
their Valentine’s show—despite the cancellation by Phantom
Planet and the opener OK Go—they were rewarded when a fairly
large and adoring crowd turned out to see them anyway, cheering
their nearly every move.
do our best to honor your requests, ’cause Superdrag likes
Albany,” Davis announced after being bombarded by a chorus
of shout-outs for favorite songs. From their first song, the
shaggy-haired members of Superdrag had the sweaty glow of
an especially hard-working rock band. After years of touring
together, the Knoxville, Tenn., band have their tightly constructed,
hook-filled, juggernaut-of-rock sound down cold. In fact,
the mid-set song that Davis dedicated to the Phantom Planet
singer—the appropriately titled and somewhat morose “Ambulance
Driver”—marked the first time that the band had slowed their
tempo all night, after pumping out a number of their most
The boyish-looking Davis, with his slight Southern drawl and
unassuming manner, made for an appealing frontman. Aside from
an occasional leap into the air, a triumphantly raised index
finger, or a lit cigarette balanced precariously from his
lips, Davis had none of the put-on affectations that other
rock frontmen wear on their sleeves. Still, as Superdrag unleashed
their dense sonic attack on anthemic songs such as “Keep It
Close to Me,” “Phaser” and “Destination Ursa Major,” the dynamic
Davis, underneath the stage lights, virtually appeared to
vibrate along with the music.
Although they achieved major radio success in 1996 with their
hit song “Sucked Out” (which the band played as their final
encore at Valentine’s, despite the fact that they rarely play
the song live anymore), Superdrag have yet to achieve anywhere
near the fame accorded to similar, though less talented, pop
bands. The band’s Valentine’s performance truly begged the
question: Why aren’t these guys famous?
Two local bands, Hellmagnet and the Sixfifteens, answered
the last-minute call to round out this bill. Featuring former
members of One King Down and Stigmata, Hellmagnet reportedly
were playing their debut show. If this really was their first
time playing out, the four-piece band were impressive together.
With vitriolic vocals, a propulsive beat and a heavy-as-hell
guitar sound, Hellmagnet have a lot going for them already;
their set was undermined only by the ear-shattering decibel
count of their stage sound (a plus for some, maybe).
As the opener, the Sixfifteens also had a great deal to add
to this show: They had a straight-up melodic punch that was
infectious and airy on songs like guitarist Bob Carlton’s
“Since Yesterday” and bassist Gene Davenport’s creative “Joe
Jackson Meets T. Rex” reinterpretation of “Bang a Gong (Get
It On).” The band seemed at their best, however, when they
let loose and riffed out a dense cacophony that filled any
of the spaces left by Joel Lilley’s frenzied drumming.