photo by Rebecca Smeyne
Superchunk + Oakley Hall
McCarren Pool Park
By Zach Baron
“We’re not good at dramatic entrances,” is Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance’s line when she gets onstage. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s is “In 577 days, Bush goes back to Texas!” and Oakley Hall’s Pat Sullivan goes with “This one goes out to all the chic-ly radical people out in that new high rise over there.” All of them uttered the words “pool party,” which seemed disingenuous given that the only water in sight was the filmy, greasy trickle that coated a nearby slip n’ slide.
Anyway, that new high rise over there was presumably one of the many developments nearing completion on the edges of Greenpoint’s McCarren Park—developments which, if you’re being honest, are probably no more an eyesore than the sybaritic vision of the pool’s thousands of half-naked (tops and bottoms and tattoos all jiggling and distending) young folks, faces et al turning red in the heat. Call the day’s class war a draw.
At county fairs and folk festivals all across this country some version of Oakley Hall is thoroughly comfortable and even accustomed to stages as big as the one erected above McCarren’s empty pool. From the blankets and beachballs, the eyes closed in reverie, it was clear this was an experience people were in fact reliving, Oakley Hall’s particular rural allusions catching fire under the sun and bursting into a real life. They make hippie jokes — like “As if I weren’t enough of a hippie in this hat here, I just pulled out a twelve-string guitar” — but the fact is they make music for America's straight and normals, mom and dad and the kids and the craft fair. Which if you squinted, you could almost see, though not — for literally thousands of reasons — quite.
Superchunk also, as a friend put it, hurtle you back. Their college-rock façade is so intact as to be seamless: Ballance’s Tank Girl chic, her two-footed festival hop; Mac’s self-deprecating, nice guy stage banter (“I just realized something: We have to do that song again because I left my laminate on”); bald heads, Converse, boots and button downs, the slacker remainders of a loyally ‘90s band. They apologized for swearing on “Slack Motherfucker” as if there was someone there to be offended, or maybe just to see who was still in on the joke—after playing the song for 17 years, the only thing Superchunk probably worries about is how many people are going to know the words.
At McCarren, more than a few, and those who didn’t figured them out.
photos by Rebecca Smeyne