Tag Archives: The Hold Steady

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!

A Mom’s Guide to Dad Rock

12 Jun

Fathers Day cardIn our two-mom household, our kids have to double up on Mother’s Day but they get Father’s Day off. Probably a lot of men wish they could get that day off, too. I truly feel for dads on Father’s Day. Those guys deserve more respect.

Mother’s Day, for all its emphasis on feminine frippery and mass-produced jewelry that’s “as unique as she is,” at least comes from a place of genuine affection. It’s built around wanting Mom to bask in appreciation because “she does so much” and “she deserves a break.”

Father’s Day, on the other hand, seems to be nothing but a reminder of the guy’s shortcomings. Power tools, golf clubs, ties, cologne: those gifts tells Dad he needs to fix some things around the house, improve his game, sharpen up in the clothes department and smell better. And good luck finding a greeting card that doesn’t include one of the following:

  • Farting
  • Beer
  • Lack of hair (on head)
  • Too much hair (everywhere else)
  • The hopelessness of their musical taste

Yeah, Dad Rock often rears its balding head on the third Sunday in June. I’ve covered that topic before, but in case you haven’t committed that post to memory, the term essentially has two meanings:

  1. classic American rock from the late 1970s/ early 1980s that pretty much any Caucasian man over 40 can sing word-for-word
  2. indie American rock from the late 2000s-present that a lot of Caucasian men over 40 embrace so they can be perceived as cool, even though they would much rather be singing along with Huey Lewis instead

dad rocks the onsieThere’s been an intensive effort to reframe the term by adding a single “s” to the phrase, turning it into “Dad Rocks,” which can be easily plastered on mugs, t-shirts and other tchotchkes. Still, the better option would be to ensure that fathers have a genre they can own and enjoy without pity or scorn.

So, whether you’re a dad or not, here are three of my suggestions for freshening up your playlist without going too far off the map from familiar territory:

Kurt Vile

(Yeah, that’s his real name.) Vile’s voice is a bit of an acquired taste, and one song often sounds a lot like the next, but wait – don’t walk away! He’s got a swirling lyrical style and a muscular acoustic approach that’s kind of like a mellower version of Pavement. Smoke Ring for My Halo is my favorite of his albums – find it, pour yourself a couple fingers of something special and enjoy.

Jake Bugg

Okay, he’s a Brit. And he has only one album, named after himself. And he’s barely 20, meaning he’s younger than the baby on the cover of Nevermind. Before you dismiss him as another Bieber, try him out: he’s got Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel and even some Johnny Cash and Hank Williams in his soul. Give the opening track, “Lightning Bolt,” a listen and just try not to tap along to the beat on your steering wheel.

The Hold Steady

If you wish Bruce Springsteen would move to Minneapolis and get drunk and high a lot more often, check out these guys. Lead singer and lyricist Craig Finn is a great storyteller with some killer lines, as in “Stuck Between Stations” from Boys and Girls in America:

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 

And they did a song for the end credits of Game of Thrones – how much cooler can you get?

With that, Happy Father’s Day to all the men to whom it applies – and wear your Dad Rock (no “s”) shirt with pride this year!

See you on the flip side …

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