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The Daily Tar Heel

Superchunk Comes Home for Show

Superchunk is known around the world, but you couldn't tell from the early scene.

You also couldn't tell that the group's in-store acoustic show was just the third of four stops that day, a blitz celebrating its new album, Here's to Shutting Up. Select independent music stores in Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro were on the in-store performance roster as well.

One of the browsing customers waiting for the show to start was the Chunk's leader himself, Mac McCaughan. The rest of the group pulled up in a nondescript blue van and set up with little fanfare.

But they're Chapel Hill landmarks. Even if it doesn't appear that way.

"They're the staple here in town," said Sean McCrossin, the owner of CD Alley. "They've been rocking out here for years."

Since rising to national and international acclaim in the early '90s, Superchunk has toured across the country countless times. Next week the group kicks off its tour in Japan, followed by a trip to Europe, before coming back home to perform at the Cat's Cradle on Oct. 26.

But today's four acoustic shows, a rarity for a band known for making listeners' ears bleed, seem business as usual. Even McCaughan downplays the event.

"We wanted to do it last week, but some of us went to a wedding," McCaughan said. "Our tour doesn't start till a pretty long time, and this seemed like something sort of different to do."

McCaughan is a little less humble when talking about Merge Records -- the successful local record label that he and wife Laura Balance, the band's bassist, own and operate -- has had on Chapel Hill. "I think people see (Merge) as something they can count on," he said. "Even if its not the type of music they listen to, maybe they'll give it a chance now."

Despite Superchunk's and Merge's great success, everyone in the group and at the label treat the four-show day as nothing special, even if it's anything but.

"It's just something the band thought might be fun," said Martin Hall, a Merge representative. "They do in-stores out of town from time to time, but no one could remember the last time they had done one locally."

By the time the group had gathered in the back of CD Alley, its popularity in Chapel Hill was evident. The shoebox store was packed sardine-tight with 50 or 60 fans, more outside.

Superchunk's excellent set was just five songs, as the band had to hurry to a Greensboro show. But McCaughan's gentle whine of voice had rarely sounded so great, his guitar plucking honed skillfully.

Three of the songs played were from the new album, and they held up well with older material. "Late Century Dream," the group's current single, showed a more mature Chunk but a band that's never been better.

Superchunk fan and CD Alley owner McCrossin summed up the group's local appeal and the show in simple, humble fashion.

"I love them man -- they're awesome."

The Arts & Entertainments can be reached at

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