BY REX REASON
Super Bowl. SUPER Bowl. SUPER BOWL. You can try to escape this unique and uniquely American "holiday," but even if you ignore it, it hangs in the air. Since Super Sunday was the setting when I spoke with Jeff Reese of Fort Collins, Colorado's Underminer--in town tomorrow at Alex's Bar in Long Beach--we decided to embrace it and ask Reese for semi-quarterly updates as the game unfolded.
"I'm actually looking forward to watching the Boss," says Reese. "There have been some good Super Bowl half performances lately - Price, Tom Petty. It's stuff I hated 20 years ago."
There's nothing particularly football-appropriate about Underminer. In fact, singer/guitarist Karl Alvarez spends the majority of the game reading a book in the corner. Still, one could draw a few parallels between the band's sound and America's favorite game. Tough 'n dirty rock-inspired punk with a little '90s San Diego scene dissonance, Underminer sounds like the band's members' résumés. Karl Alvarez is best known playing bass with proto-pop-punks Descendents and All. Reese did time in San Diego's Inch. Drummer Johnny Freedom kicked around Colorado punk bands, and bassist Dave Bush played in Nardcore (Oxnard hardcore) band Burning Dog.
While Underminer isn't short on experience, they are a bit long in the tooth - at least for rock & roll. "I took 10, 11 years off of playing anything when my kid was born," says Reese. "We're old fuckers playing music. We have people say, 'You guys are old school.' No, we're just old. We write now what we wrote then. It's old school sounding because I'm 37 years old."
"It's 10-0 Pittsburgh right now," says Reese. "That's not good. We're playing in Tempe, Arizona next. We almost drove to Arizona to see the riots in person... if they won. If they lose we may get the depressed drunks at our show."
Since we're talking Super Bowl, how about a sports-meets-rock question? Do you relate more to a band of 18 year olds or a group of 30-somethings forming a softball team? "Last night I felt like a 20 year old kid - maybe 100 pounds heavier, but a 20 year old kid standing in front of the crowd," says Reese. "Early on before things started gelling and we got comfortable playing again it was totally like a beer league softball team."
Time to asses the musical side of the game.
"The Boss was good, but he wasn't Prince-good," says Reese. "Prince destroyed. The halftime music has gotten good. Janet Jackson's tit was a pretty high standard. They started pulling out all the stops. It's hard to upstage a boob, especially Janet Jackson boobs."
Have another beer, Reese.
The voice of Underminer, Karl Alvarez is the best-known member of the band. How does the band choose to exploit or ignore that?
"We've done a pretty good job of avoiding exploiting the Alvarez-angle until this tour," says Reese. "This tour we did more promotion of 'Karl Alvarez of Descendents' just because we need to make gas money at least."
Reese is both pragmatic and philosophical about what that means for Underminer. "I work as a promoter, so I totally understand it," he says. "But as a band you feel it's kind of exploitation... you want to be the four guys going out and conquering the world on our own merits. But we've got to get people to show up. Descendents fans could show up and this is probably the closest thing that Karl's done to punk rock."
The game's getting interesting. We'll talk again soon.
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"It looks like it's going to be a bunch of depressed Cardinals fans in Tempe," says Reese. "They'll be drunker and more sullen. Maybe we'll pull out some Joy Division covers."
So, back to softball team or young band of dudes - which is more apt?
"When we recorded it forced us to focus, and it made us leaner and meaner," says Reese. "Now it's not just old guys trying to rehash what they used to do... and not getting there. Last night we played in Durango, Colorado. It was like being the young fucking kid again, watching the pit. But I'm sore today. I can't do that every night."
Underminer, Gasoline Addicts, and Breaker at Alex's Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Wed., Feb. 4, $5. 21+.