The patio of Ice Palace Studios, the home of NADA Miami, is a haven for cool liberal dads and artsy couples. Picnic tables and grassy knolls create a homey cookout vibe for the colorful and large-spectacled patrons of NADA. In shorts and accompanied by Jim Wilbur with acoustic guitars, Superchunk's Mac McCaughan is the cool liberal dad of the afternoon.
McCaughan and Wilbur begin their set with their newest song, "What a Time to Be Alive," on which McCaughan rails about the Trump era, a preview of their most political album yet by the same name.
NADA dropped the news just a week earlier that McCaughan and Wilbur would play a surprise acoustic set, and they lived up to the hype, making them this year's indie-music underdog to Art Week's flashier acts. They are supporting Merge Records, Mac's independent label since 1989; and NADA Cultural Partner, whose booth at the fair promotes their Paddle8 auction of artist-designed record sleeves. Mac mentions this isn't their first art fundraiser; this past summer, they raised $25,000 for Planned Parenthood with the sales of their limited seven-inch, "I Got Cut."
Two bald men at the frontmost picnic table play air guitar and nod aggressively to each new song. On "Cool," McCaughan sings, "There's nothing new/There's nothing new/Everything's borrowed/Everything's used." This lyric was not written as an inner monologue of cynical two-day-deep Art Week attendees, but it might as well have been.
It's easy to lose sight of the political role of art within four big white walls, but outside, McCaughan addresses the uncertainty artists and creators often feel in times of social turmoil. "I think a lot of people after the election wonder, 'what can i do to make things better,'" he says, introducing "Break the Glass," another commentary from What a Time to Be Alive.
"Break the glass/Don't use the door," McCaughan sings. "This is what/The hammer's for!" The door: every avenue to justice within the existing political system, closed to those it ostensibly serves. Outside, cop cars surround the venue, but none of them seems to have cops in them. "This is what our hands our for!"
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He defends the art fair as an institution against pretense and hip cynicism, and reminds the audience that art should operate outside of the four walls of a gallery. "Thanks for taking a break from all the art to see," he grins.
"This song is about baseball and death," McCaughan says to introduce "Out of the Sun," a song about being a 12-year-old Yankees fan in Fort Lauderdale, where McCaughan was born.
"Hopefully, it won’t be 24 years before we get back to Miami,” he laughs. “For me, wherever there’s a community like this — a music scene and and arts scene — it’s important.”
- "What a Time to Be Alive"
- "Learned to Surf"
- "Skip Steps 1 & 3"
- "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo"
- "Break the Glass"
- "Crossed Wires"
- "Hello Hawk"
- "Sick to Move"
- "Out of the Sun"
- "Detroit Has a Skyline Too"
- "Driveway to Driveway"
- "The First Part"