The Supersuckers set the bar high by proclaiming itself "The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World." I don't care whether frontman Eddie Spaghetti is being facetious when he says it (he is), it's still a risk to be that cocky, even as a gimmick. But in my opinion—and thousands of other fans—that outlandish attitude has always worked for the band. At any given show, Spaghetti summits the stage with his shitkickers, cowboy hat and sunglasses, and he and the band deliver some of the most straight-up, searingly good rock there is, with the kind of professional efficiency that could be bottled and sold on a late-night infomercial.
Last time I saw the Seattle band was in 2006 at Missoula's The Other Side (now the Sunrise Saloon), where they played to at least 300 rabid fans. And when they opened for Nashville Pussy at the Wilma a few years ago, it was a similarly strong turnout. But last week, for a show at Stage 112, I walked in to find the opening bands playing to a mere 12 people. The empty space was glaringly painful to behold. People lounged around sipping beer like they were hanging out in someone's basement. I was worried the low turnout would ruin the night. I'd seen bands cut sets short on better audiences, and here was the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World, preparing to play to almost no one.
The Supersuckers started its set without a word. The band kicked off with a few songs from the 2003 Motherfuckers Be Trippin' and the 1994 La Mano Cornuda. They sounded tight, loud and confident from the get-go. In between songs, several of us cheered as loud as we could, as if we could create the illusion of a crowd tripled in size. Even so, it was hard not to go back to sort of bobbing our heads like we were watching Bob Dylan at Ogren Park. We had no momentum. By this time, another 20 people had filtered in—still not enough to make it a party. I kept looking around thinking, "Why is nobody here?"
The thing is, The Supersuckers have been around since 1988. Members have quit—Spaghetti and guitarist Dan "Thunder" Bolton are the only originals—and the band has gone on hiatus. Its golden years were in the mid- and late-1990s. Maybe it's the band, not us, who had lost momentum, I thought.
- photo by Erika Fredrickson
- The Supersuckers at Stage 112
But then, not long into the set, the band began to really ramp up its stage antics. Bolton and "Metal" Marty Chandler put one foot each on the monitors in unison and then turned their guitar necks toward the ceiling, exchanging over-the-top solos. Spaghetti and Chandler did some simultaneous and impeccable rock kicks. After each song, the musicians raised their fists and made rock horns in the air. It was gratuitous and even canned, but it was also all so remarkably executed. "Hello, Missoula!" Spaghetti yelled, finally addressing the crowd. "Looks like there's at least a few people with good taste in this town. We're The Supersuckers—the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World!" I couldn't see his eyes behind the sunglasses, but his smirk told me he knew just how ludicrous it sounded to such an empty room. And he didn't care.
"Here's the thing," he said. "We've been bringing it up here on stage. You guys need to bring it, too."
After a while people crammed sardine-style to the stage, as if the empty space around us was full of phantom fans. The rest of the show felt like a flame caught up by wind. We were raging, singing along with every line we knew. Spaghetti called out for requests, which the band played effortlessly one after the other. Mid-show, the band played Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning" as Bolton introduced the band members. He drew out Eddie Spaghetti's name like a circus announcer hamming it up. Until then, I'd forgotten how funny The Supersuckers are, with songs about jackalopes and smoking "non-addictive" marijuana. And it was that humor that saved the show.
When a wayward drunk stumbled over to the merch table and tried to steal and pour beer on the T-shirts, Bolton leapt off the stage, grabbed the dude and bounced him out the door, before hopping right back to finish out the song. If we were enraged by the thief, we were more impressed by the band's cool. We raised our beers even higher.
The Supersuckers ended on "Born with a Tail," one of the band's rockabilly oldies, which includes the line, "It's time to fly the finger. Yeah, that middle digit brings your point, and it drives it home." Like good fans, we obliged, flipping off the stage as Spaghetti lifted his iPhone and took a picture. Afterward, as the musicians loaded their gear into the van, a handful of fans basked in the post-rock glow. It wasn't the best show any of us had been to, but it was deeply satisfying in ways most shows aren't. If anything, The Supersuckers made us into a better audience—louder, more in the moment. And if that makes them the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World, I'll buy it.UPDATE: Here's the photo Eddie Spaghetti took of the Missoula fans at Stage 112.
- Photo courtesy of Eddie Spaghetti
- The Missoula crowd gives the one finger salute to The Supersuckers.