Superchunk Revisits Foolish for a 25th Anniversary Celebration

Durham band Superchunk launched a mini tour at Motorco with an acoustic set of a much-loved album.
Words and photographs by Shelbi Polk

North Carolina’s music scene would be a very different place without Superchunk. Sure, someone else could have stepped up to build both a cult following for their own band and a label that supports other artists. But Superchunk’s existence could almost make me believe this is the best of all possible worlds. 

In 1989, Superchunk came together as an indie rock band and released their first single. Lead singer Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance founded a label, Merge Records, the same year. 

Founding a label ensured that McCaughan and Ballance could use their own success to make opportunities for other artists. Merge initially focused on local artists, but now releases music from musicians all over the world. 

This weekend’s shows kicked off a quick East coast tour of acoustic sets, where the band is playing Foolish, the band’s fourth album, in its entirety. Foolish was released in 1994, and the record’s staying power was evidenced by the audience on Saturday. A fan who was definitely younger than the album quietly headbanged in the second row of the seated show, behind a row of men who were at least 25 when Foolish came out 25 years ago. By the end of the set, it seemed like they’d all become friends, dancing in their seats together.

One fun new touch to the album on this tour is the addition of Matt Douglas, who plays keys and saxophone. The woodwind adds an unexpected degree of polish, especially on songs with titles or themes that are explicit or subversive. 

A few of the dedicated fans at the later show on Saturday had apparently missed the fact that this tour would be an acoustic play-through of Foolish. They expressed so much delight and surprise at every song that McCaughan took a moment to remind them that this set was just the full album, start to finish. 

Mackenzie Scott, who performs as TORRES, opened the show. Merge is releasing Silver Tongues, the fourth TORRES album, in 2020.