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Original Superdrag members reunite for tour -- and maybe more


Even before the original Superdrag lineup reformed for a series of shows this fall, singer/guitarist John Davis could understand why such reunions are a big deal to devoted fans.

After all, he is a fervent fan himself, as his story of recently seeing a reunion performance by his favorite band, Dinosaur Jr., shows.

“By the time I could get in to see them (as a kid), on the Green Mind tour, Lou (Barlow) wasn’t in the band anymore,” Davis says. “I waited 16 years for that show.”

Superdrag devotees will not have to wait nearly as long to see the Tennessee melodic-rock band’s original quartet — which also includes drummer Don Coffey Jr., bassist Tom Pappas and guitarist Brandon Fisher — take the stage again. That lineup, which released two albums on Elektra in the late ’90s and is probably best known for MTV frequently spinning the videos for “Sucked Out” and “Destination Ursa Major,” is in the midst of its first shows since 1999.

Pappas and then Fisher split from the group soon after. Davis and Coffey forged on with new members until 2003, releasing two more studio albums on the independent Arena Rock Recording Company label. They have been faced with the prospect of getting the old band back together for years, Davis says.

“From the time we played last, we’ve constantly gotten offers to go and play,” Davis says via cell phone from near his home in Nashville, Tenn., on the eve of the band’s second reunion date. “But the timing was never right; there was always some reason not do it. This past spring and summer, we started getting some pretty serious offers to do bigger shows. It seems like the band’s stock has sort of shot up since we quit playing. People seem to care more about the band than they did four years ago, which is pretty awesome.

“Back in April, we had a new record come out (rarities/B-sides compilation Changin’ Tires on the Road to Ruin), and that kind of stoked the fire a little bit. And I said, ‘I can’t think of one good reason not go do this.’ I spent some time thinking about how much I would enjoy playing music with these guys again. … I always just had a feeling that if we ever got together to do it again that it would have to be the original band.”

With these performances, Davis is doing more than regroup with his old bandmates; after sobering up, becoming a born-again Christian and releasing a surprisingly rocking gospel album (a self-titled CD in 2005), in a way he is reconnecting with his old self.

“Five or six years ago, it was a lot more difficult for me to integrate those two lifetimes,” he says. “Throughout the body of our material, figuring out my relationship with God was a recurring theme. … There are a few songs that are off the table now, period.”

Fully bringing Superdrag full circle, as Davis proudly notes, this time out the band is back to headlining big clubs it hasn’t played since its major-label days, such as Chicago’s Metro and New York’s Irving Plaza (now called The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza). The itinerary also includes a stop at Boston’s Paradise, site of what was supposed to be the group’s finale in 2003.

Davis says Superdrag’s set lists will draw heavily from the early albums and even find the band dusting off tracks from rare 7-inch releases. Meanwhile, Davis is tapping into the influences of his youth — think Husker Du and Black Flag, he says — with the release of his second solo disc earlier this month.

Recorded at the Foo Fighters‘ home studio in Los Angeles with Foo Fighters and former Superdrag producer Nick Raskulinecz, Arigato! is noticeably heavier than Davis’ other material.

“There’s a lot of SST Records on there,” he notes. “It’s really the kind of record I wish I could have made when I was 18 but didn’t know how. I think song-for-song it’s probably the most rocking album I’ve made, energetic and pro-active.

“Which is weird,” he adds with a laugh, “because I’m old.”

As for the future of their suddenly revived band, the members of Superdrag wisely aren’t ruling anything out, given recent surge in interest.

“We’ve definitely kicked it around,” he says of continuing beyond this run of concerts. “I think we’re down for whatever as long as it’s fun.”

— By George Henn

Superdrag tour dates (schedule subject to change):

* Oct. 19 and 20: Barley’s Taproom – Knoxville, Tenn.
* Nov. 2: The Fillmore at Irving Plaza – New York
* Nov. 3: The Paradise – Boston
* Nov. 8: 9:30 Club – Washington, D.C.