This page has moved to a new address.

The Hold Steady

body { background:#aba; margin:0; padding:20px 10px; text-align:center; font:x-small/1.5em "Trebuchet MS",Verdana,Arial,Sans-serif; color:#333; font-size/* */:/**/small; font-size: /**/small; } /* Page Structure ----------------------------------------------- */ /* The images which help create rounded corners depend on the following widths and measurements. If you want to change these measurements, the images will also need to change. */ @media all { #content { width:740px; margin:0 auto; text-align:left; } #main { width:485px; float:left; background:#fff url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:15px 0 0; padding:0 0 10px; color:#000; font-size:97%; line-height:1.5em; } #main2 { float:left; width:100%; background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:10px 0 0; } #main3 { background:url("") repeat-y; padding:0; } #sidebar { width:240px; float:right; margin:15px 0 0; font-size:97%; line-height:1.5em; } } @media handheld { #content { width:90%; } #main { width:100%; float:none; background:#fff; } #main2 { float:none; background:none; } #main3 { background:none; padding:0; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } /* Links ----------------------------------------------- */ a:link { color:#258; } a:visited { color:#666; } a:hover { color:#c63; } a img { border-width:0; } /* Blog Header ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #header { background:#456 url("") no-repeat left top; margin:0 0 0; padding:8px 0 0; color:#fff; } #header div { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 15px 8px; } } @media handheld { #header { background:#456; } #header div { background:none; } } #blog-title { margin:0; padding:10px 30px 5px; font-size:200%; line-height:1.2em; } #blog-title a { text-decoration:none; color:#fff; } #description { margin:0; padding:5px 30px 10px; font-size:94%; line-height:1.5em; } /* Posts ----------------------------------------------- */ .date-header { margin:0 28px 0 43px; font-size:85%; line-height:2em; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; color:#357; } .post { margin:.3em 0 25px; padding:0 13px; border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:1px 0; } .post-title { margin:0; font-size:135%; line-height:1.5em; background:url("") no-repeat 10px .5em; display:block; border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:0 1px 1px; padding:2px 14px 2px 29px; color:#333; } a.title-link, .post-title strong { text-decoration:none; display:block; } a.title-link:hover { background-color:#ded; color:#000; } .post-body { border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:0 1px 1px; border-bottom-color:#fff; padding:10px 14px 1px 29px; } html>body .post-body { border-bottom-width:0; } .post p { margin:0 0 .75em; } { background:#ded; margin:0; padding:2px 14px 2px 29px; border:1px dotted #bbb; border-width:1px; border-bottom:1px solid #eee; font-size:100%; line-height:1.5em; color:#666; text-align:right; } html>body { border-bottom-color:transparent; } em { display:block; float:left; text-align:left; font-style:normal; } a.comment-link { /* IE5.0/Win doesn't apply padding to inline elements, so we hide these two declarations from it */ background/* */:/**/url("") no-repeat 0 45%; padding-left:14px; } html>body a.comment-link { /* Respecified, for IE5/Mac's benefit */ background:url("") no-repeat 0 45%; padding-left:14px; } .post img { margin:0 0 5px 0; padding:4px; border:1px solid #ccc; } blockquote { margin:.75em 0; border:1px dotted #ccc; border-width:1px 0; padding:5px 15px; color:#666; } .post blockquote p { margin:.5em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments { margin:-25px 13px 0; border:1px dotted #ccc; border-width:0 1px 1px; padding:20px 0 15px 0; } #comments h4 { margin:0 0 10px; padding:0 14px 2px 29px; border-bottom:1px dotted #ccc; font-size:120%; line-height:1.4em; color:#333; } #comments-block { margin:0 15px 0 9px; } .comment-data { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .3em; margin:.5em 0; padding:0 0 0 20px; color:#666; } .comment-poster { font-weight:bold; } .comment-body { margin:0 0 1.25em; padding:0 0 0 20px; } .comment-body p { margin:0 0 .5em; } .comment-timestamp { margin:0 0 .5em; padding:0 0 .75em 20px; color:#666; } .comment-timestamp a:link { color:#666; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } .paging-control-container { float: right; margin: 0px 6px 0px 0px; font-size: 80%; } .unneeded-paging-control { visibility: hidden; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #profile-container { background:#cdc url("") no-repeat left bottom; margin:0 0 15px; padding:0 0 10px; color:#345; } #profile-container h2 { background:url("") no-repeat left top; padding:10px 15px .2em; margin:0; border-width:0; font-size:115%; line-height:1.5em; color:#234; } } @media handheld { #profile-container { background:#cdc; } #profile-container h2 { background:none; } } .profile-datablock { margin:0 15px .5em; border-top:1px dotted #aba; padding-top:8px; } .profile-img {display:inline;} .profile-img img { float:left; margin:0 10px 5px 0; border:4px solid #fff; } .profile-data strong { display:block; } #profile-container p { margin:0 15px .5em; } #profile-container .profile-textblock { clear:left; } #profile-container a { color:#258; } .profile-link a { background:url("") no-repeat 0 .1em; padding-left:15px; font-weight:bold; } ul.profile-datablock { list-style-type:none; } /* Sidebar Boxes ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { .box { background:#fff url("") no-repeat left top; margin:0 0 15px; padding:10px 0 0; color:#666; } .box2 { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 13px 8px; } } @media handheld { .box { background:#fff; } .box2 { background:none; } } .sidebar-title { margin:0; padding:0 0 .2em; border-bottom:1px dotted #9b9; font-size:115%; line-height:1.5em; color:#333; } .box ul { margin:.5em 0 1.25em; padding:0 0px; list-style:none; } .box ul li { background:url("") no-repeat 2px .25em; margin:0; padding:0 0 3px 16px; margin-bottom:3px; border-bottom:1px dotted #eee; line-height:1.4em; } .box p { margin:0 0 .6em; } /* Footer ----------------------------------------------- */ #footer { clear:both; margin:0; padding:15px 0 0; } @media all { #footer div { background:#456 url("") no-repeat left top; padding:8px 0 0; color:#fff; } #footer div div { background:url("") no-repeat left bottom; padding:0 15px 8px; } } @media handheld { #footer div { background:#456; } #footer div div { background:none; } } #footer hr {display:none;} #footer p {margin:0;} #footer a {color:#fff;} /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 15px 0; }

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Hold Steady

I try not to leave the house because I rarely return, from whatever it is I have gone, saying, "Gee, I am really glad I did that."  I have a far better time staying in my big house on the hill, with my computer, where I am able to write, correspond with fans (, and manage my fantasy football teams (fuck you, Peyton Hillis).  But on Sunday, my friend Matt had an extra ticket to the Treasure Island...Music Festival.  Aside from maybe "Barry B." and "Creeping Charlies' Scrapingbooking Project," there might not be a more terrifying phrase in the English language.

There was a time when I loved the fucking things.  In 1990, my buddy Rich and I went to England, where we fought our way to second row, center, for the Knebworth Music Festival.  Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd...

Seeing Pink Floyd was especially awesome, since a few days earlier, I had hunted down their reclusive former lead singer, Syd Barrett (, up in Cambridge (#4 Cherry Hinton Lane, Margaret Square.  Don't bother looking for him now.  He's dead).  Although, honestly, the best band that day?  Tears for Fears.  I shit you not.  They were incredible.

That concert was 15 fucking hours.  120,000 people.  How the fuck I was able to stand there, in that swelling sea of stink, and not have to piss sixty times is beyond me.  Of course, I was 19 then and my prostate wasn't the size of a grapefruit.

The most memorable moment of that concert came with the two hippy girls Rich and I met.  Rich and I were just good Christian kids from CT.  We didn't drink.  We weren't terribly adventurous.  This trip was a big deal.  Three months backpacking through Europe.  Oh, the adventures we were about to have... We didn't have any adventures.  We spent a lot of time indoors, deeply entrenched in a hasidic Jewish community, out by Seven Sisters Station, with a (slightly anti-semetic) man named Pat Sweeney (don't bother looking for him, either.  He's dead, too).  Meeting the two hippy girls from California was a striking juxtaposition.  They were backpacking as well, but I don't think they quite followed the same...agenda. They were cute. Blonde, if I remember.  Of course, being hippies, they stunk, ratty hair and all that. But being a cute girl grants a wide berth.  I doubt we tried to pick them up.  It wasn't the hippy part so much (I hadn't yet developed my disdain for all things patchouli); we simply had no game. But we talked.  I don't remember much of what we talked about.  The part that sticks was when Zeppelin played "Going to California," how they started crying.  It sounds terribly cheesy now.  Actually, it was pretty cheesy then.  But there was a certain sweetness to it, too.  So far from home, being so touched by the power of music.

But like I say, that was over 20 years ago.  My friend in Miami, Scott, tells this funny story about trying to go to a music festival in his 30s.  In the parking lot on his way in, he saw some kids doing drugs, and his first thought was to find a cop and say, "Arrest these kids!  These are bad people!"  And he knew then that his music festival days were behind him.

If it's too loud, you're too old.  I'm too old.

But on Sunday, the Hold Steady were playing.  There are four musical acts I will brave any condition to see live these days.  The Gaslight Anthem.  Tom Waits.  The Boss.  And the Hold Steady.

I'd seen the Hold Steady before, once on the Stay Positive tour, and again on the Heaven Is Whenever tour, and both times they were fucking amazing.

The Hold Steady is basically Craig Finn, who is probably the best lyricist going. This is no small compliment.  I take words seriously.  I love the Boss, but even he has a "Glory Days" and "Pink Cadillac" to throw the curve.  I can't think of a single Finn miscue. Check out the opening lines to the chorus to "Stuck between Stations."

         She was a really cool kisser / and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian.
         She was a damn good dancer / but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend.

Fuck, man, there aren't that many lines I'd kill to have written.  But that's one of them.  And, really, I could say that about pretty much all of Finn's lyrics.

They come from Brooklyn, and like the Gaslight Anthem, make no secret about the debt owed to Springsteen.  I suffered through the 80s, clinging hard to the Replacements and the Smiths, and then came the 90s with that fucking grunge and singers who sound like their trying to take a shit.  I've waited a long time for bands like the GA and Hold Steady.  Which is why I see each every chance I get.  Even if it means a musical festival on Treasure Island, which was a pain in the ass to even get to, since they don't allow parking on the island; and now that Burning Man is over, the island was crawling with the soiled crafting vermin.

But, holy shit, was it worth it.

Before the HS played, Matt and I walked around, ate overpriced wraps, drank a pinot or two, listened to a couple other bands, one from England, whose lead singer danced like Elaine from Seinfeld.

(Speaking of Seinfeld, Craig Finn really does look like he could be George Costanza's long lost younger brother.)



We squeezed up front.  The Hold Steady (strangely playing without their keyboardist) kicked off with "Constructive Summer," a summer-of-youth rock anthem, which comes out of the breakdown, "I met your savior and knelt at his feet / he took my ten bucks and he went down the street / I tried to believe all the things that you said / but my friends are all dying or already dead" with "Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer / I think he might've been out only decent teacher."  You really need to hear that shit in context.

One of the things that works in the Hold Steady's favor is just how unlikely a frontman Craig Finn makes.  A mix of Constanza and Elvis Costello, he's not the guy who gets the pretty girl.  Well, maybe he gets her, but only because he's been holding her hair while she throws up in the bathroom after drinking too much on the rebound and she tosses him a mercy handjob.  Finn is everyman.  And his songs are the songs of everyone's youth.  At least those of us who were never quite cool, except for our taste in music, books, and film.  We weren't the quarterbacks, and, yeah, we went to college, but we didn't do well; we fucked up, and we partied and got lost.  This is pretty much the prevailing theme of all the Hold Steady's songs. Killer parties and bad batches, pretty girls you can't save, shitty jobs, and hoping against hope that the summer doesn't end.  Essentially Springsteen 2.0, for a new nostalgia-starved generation.

After nailing "Constructive Summer," the band reeled off, in no particular order, "Magazines," "The Swish," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," "Hurricane Jesse," "Southtown Girls," "Rock 'n' Roll Problems," and "Chips Ahoy," with the line "She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race..." (Ever since first hearing that song, now every time my brother and I go to the track, we have to put some money on the fifth horse in the sixth race.  It never wins.)

They tore that shit up.  It was as perfect a set as I've ever heard.  Flawless, high octane rock, each song picking up where the other left off, and how they pulled off all these songs, which rely heavily on keys, without a keyboard player, is a testament to just how well these songs are constructed.  A really great song needs only a guitar and a voice, that's it.

In the words of Marty DiBergi, but enough of my yapping.  Here are some clips from the Best Rock Band in America.


I met Matt on Treasure Island.  He lives on the south side of the city.  I live in the El Cerrito Hills.  Matt got there early.  The Hold Steady were playing at 8:30, so I got there around 6:30, just as the sun had started to set.  I'd never been to Treasure Island, which offers a beautiful, up-close view of the city from a totally different perspective, its light twinkling colorful, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate shining bright. Because Matt was already inside the festival and was holding my ticket, I had to text him to meet me.  While I was waiting, I saw two hippy girls, clearly not from this country, dressed a little too funky to be American.  I heard them talk. They spoke English but sounded German.  Or maybe Polish.  Young, pretty, taking pictures of each other making goofy poses in front of the water, San Francisco in the background like postcard.  I asked if they would like me to take a picture of them together.  It's good to have mementos from times like that. 


Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home