Concert Buddies: If you don’t have one, GET ONE!

25 Apr

The guys in Deer Tick look like what the Hold Steady guys probably looked like in college ...

One of my favorite bands, The Hold Steady, played at Pontiac’s Crofoot Ballroom Wednesday night. I discovered “the best bar band in America” by a total fluke a couple of years ago: I saw a few of their CDs in the library stacks, remembered I’d read something positive about them in Rolling Stone, and decided to give them a try, then fell hard for their storytelling and muscular musicianship. They have a new album – Teeth Dreams – hence the tour.

The band playing in this area for the first time in five years was a cause for great celebration, but more than a little sadness. Seeing this band in concert has been a cultural Great White Whale for my older daughter and me: long pursued but always just out of reach. Now they were here and she was not, since she is in college in New York (only a subway ride away from Brooklyn, the band’s home base, I might add).

Other than my daughters, I can’t convince anyone else I know to go to concerts with me on a regular basis. (A recent exception: my friend Lois went with me to the Majestic to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – great company for thunderously amazing show.) Granted, the outfits I want to see aren’t usually chart-toppers, so the overlap between my social circle and fans in metro Detroit is a sliver. This time out, I didn’t help matters when I described The Hold Steady to friends as “a lot like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band without half the instruments – if Bruce and the boys only sang about stoned, drunken, remorseful Catholics in Minneapolis.”

(At least they have a band name I can say without having to brace myself for bemused expressions from those who don’t follow alternative music: I can’t talk about the Airborne Toxic Event or Band of Skulls without a lot of eye-rolling.)

But you know what the real problem here is? I’m an adult. So are my friends. We have to plan ahead. We have to commute and work a full schedule and see to the kids and get up early the next morning. After running around all day, the prospect of standing for four hours in a half-inch of beer to be crushed by knuckleheads pushing toward the stage isn’t a really a draw, even if you are a stone-cold fan.

So I went by myself to see The Hold Steady. It was just me and 500 fellow tribesmen.

Craig Finn at the Crofoot 042314Tribesmen is an accurate term. The typical Hold Steady fan seems to be between 28-45, male, Caucasian, dark-haired and wearing button-up granddad shirts:  the exact description of Craig Finn, the lead singer. Finn looks like your sophomore English teacher, lurches across the stage with an endearing lack of coordination, and speak/sings these weirdly literate stories about burned-out losers searching for love and hope.

Here’s a sample lyric from “You Can Make Him Like You”:

You don’t have to deal with the dealers
let your boyfriend deal with the dealers
it only gets inconvenient
when you wanna get high alone

Before they started their set, Finn explained why they were down to four pieces: their newly hired guitarist Steve Selvidge had to leave the tour to be with his wife and new baby, who came a few weeks early (musicians are adults with adult issues, too). Then they launched into a two-hour, gloriously rich performance.

As the evening wound down after midnight, Finn thanked the audience. “You had a million other things you could do tonight but you chose to come to a rock-and-roll show,” he said. “You came here to be with people who all like the same thing. These days, that’s really important.” Then as the final song wrapped, he introduced the members of the band then pointed out to the audience, “And you, you, you, YOU – we are ALL The Hold Steady!” We all cheered in tribal solidarity and the show was over.

It was freakin’ amazing! You have to take my word for it … since you weren’t there.

So next time, who’s with me?

Enjoy a song by the band from its early days when they were officially a four-piece band:

See you on the flip side …

Before you go, another shout-out to those who have bought my first novel, Love and Other B-Sides! If you haven’t yet, it’s not too late to be cool like they are – download it today!

6 Responses to “Concert Buddies: If you don’t have one, GET ONE!”

  1. Pam Houghton April 25, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    Sounds like a great time. My husband and I went to see the Rolling Stones at Ford Field back when they were here, oh, 8 or 9 years ago. We were in the fourth row and next to two younger couples who were having a great time with their beer and their pot. One guy kept holding his beer cup up in the air and I was afraid in his excitement he’d spill it on my hair. The horrors of beer in my hair. As a teen, I would have been, this is GREEEAT! But as an adult, with two kids at home, it wasn’t my bag anymore. We did see them at the Palace a few years earlier, kind of behind the stage, and that was far more enjoyable. I’m thinking we abandoned our original seats to sit there and no one else was around. A great place to see Mick’s ego on display.

    • lpon45 April 25, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      For all the money you have to pay for a beer at these venues, you’d think people would be more careful about spilling it, dropping it or drinking too much of it. (I was in the balcony for this show with a Sierra Nevada, terrified that I’d somehow have a spasm and drop it on someone at floor level.) Glad you got a good view of Mr. Jagger and the other gentlemen. In my opinion, no matter where you sit, you get a good show.

  2. Jason Wendleton April 25, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    I’ve seen: Steely Dan, Motorhead, The Bravery, Old 97’s, Guided By Voices, Morrissey, John Hiatt, Franz Ferdinand, and Jack Johnson ALL BY MYSELF. If you figure out a way to convince lame people to attend shows with their friend/loved one let me know.

    Just this week I dragged my wife to a metal show…she feel asleep on her feet. It sucks being a music fan in a household of knitters.

    • lpon45 April 25, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

      You are a lone cowboy, my friend. This was the first time I’d ever gone to a concert on my own; I don’t even like to go to the movies alone. I’m not sure I’d do it for every band out there, but for a favorite like The Hold Steady, I had no choice but to go.

      Given that I wasn’t even able to give my spare ticket away, I am done with buying tickets in advance for more than just little ole me.

  3. Debbie April 25, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I felt very cutting edge and cool to be invited along by my Chicago nieces to see 21 Pilots perform at the Fillmore. But…my sister-in-law and I were very happy we ended up in actual balcony SEATS; we couldn’t have kept up as standers. As it was, we actually complained about our necks hurting because we had to keep them turned. The band and the rest of the twenty-somes there seemed to have plenty of energy, though.

    • lpon45 April 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

      Wow, you’ve stumped the panel here: I haven’t heard of that band. What did you think of them?

      I am completely with you: balcony seats are the way to go at the Fillmore. You can see just fine and you avoid the sweat and beer bath on the floor.

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