One band that has been in constant rotation on my Ipod as of late is The Hold Steady. Their sonic shotgun discharges some of the best non nonsense rock n' roll I've heard in a while. I'll probably miss them on their upcoming stop in Chicago, but luckily a good friend, Dave Gaetano, caught them out on the east coast as they were bringing their 2006 tour to a close. Dave posted the following review on a private group but I found it so inspirational, I asked him to post it here. My thanks to Dave for allowing it to be posted.
Well...every once in a while you see a show by a band you've never seen before, that you are excited to see, that anticipation, build up...and you leave disapointed questioning why oh why aren't they good live? (Pete Yorn comes to mind) This was not the case last night. The Hold Steady in the small confines of The Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton, MA created a rock environment that made me feel guilty that it only cost $15 to get in.
Now, I can't stress enough how each and every one of you needs to see a show in Northampton. Be it the Old 97's, Wilco, the first time I saw Ryan Adams, Jesse Malin, Ted Leo, Roger Clyne, John Eddie...whoever I make the 40 minute ride to see....something about this town brings out the best in bands. Either the respect of the crowd, the middle of no where feel of this great small town or maybe just luck, but it always yields great shows for me. ( http://www.iheg.com)
On to the show! I was happy to see The Steady playing the smaller upstairs "Clubroom" as opposed to the more formal downstairs "Ballroom". All black, rather small, think Emo's annex SXSW'sters (that's for you Bri). A single bartender that would make the soup nazi proud, stage in the corner, a raised back floor area and a simple light/speaker stack. Bathrooms that are modeled after CBGB's and that sticky carpeted floor that makes you oh so glad you chose to wear your brand new shoes. In other words, a perfect rock room.
This was the last date of the first leg of their tour to support Boys & Girls In America. I don't know if the energy level was because of that, or because the lead singer has family roots to Northampton (Mom & Dad there) or if this is the normal level of The Hold Steady. All I know, is they took the stage and tore into "Stuck Between Stations." Immediately they are jumping all over the place, crowds fists in the air right in the bands face. (Sidenote to Craig Finn, lead singer...the hand gesture you made all night treads a little too close to the Nazi "Heil Hitler" thing. At one point I looked over at Jamie as the crowd did it back to him and said "We aren't at a youth nazi rally, right?) ANYWAY, strong opener with an energy that did not end. This non stop assault on us lasted the entire 90 minute show.
The band has an eclectic look (some here described them as bankers/accountants) But, they must have hired a stylist. On keyboards we had a dapper dressed, Charley Chaplin mustachioed, black suit/red tie/black cap, red wine swiggin hyper machine. On Bass someone dressed a little like a lost member of the village people (hello sailor!) "Chips Ahoy" appeared 3 or 4 songs into the set, and the singback of the crowd on the "Whoa-whooahs" was fantastic. Amazing in this day and age to see a band with no airplay have each of their songs sung along to as if they were radio staples. Whether it was the old stuff, the new stuff, the unheard of stuff, this first 50 people or so right in front of the stage were INTO this. We were INTO it. The band ate it up, the crowd ate it up, even the drink nazi was seen cracking a smile. We were also treated to "Chill Out Tent" which they introuduced as one they hardly play. This worked as they changed the female part to "She was pretty high..." and the male part to "He was" etc. Thus changing the first person narrative, to one as an outsider's observation...huh, Dave? Obvioulsy being in Western Mass, this one was a hit. "Hot Soft Light" also was great (kids like them drug/drinking references and the intro regarding viewing 'Cops Too Hot for TV' helped; You see "The only difference is, they guy in the trailer park doesn't have his stuff pixled out, now you see it!")
"Party Pit" was also a friggin highlight. Guitar player is fantastic, and really carries the songs. Love his playing style. Between him and the piano player, they are one tight musical unit. The whole band, somehow through all the drinking going on on that stage is tight tight tight. I believe they even reprised some of this song later in the show in a different set up, since some inibriated people had problems shouting out songs they had already played. No, it wasn't me. The band called out their opening act (Catfish Haven, a Chicago band that was so-so) to end the main set with of course "Massive Nights" the stage had a good 15 people up there, everyone either banging on something or chugging on a bottle, the whole front of the stage jumping in unison. Again, I may be getting old, but nights like this make me young again.
They opened the encore with "First Night" the crowd even calming down enough and hushing down for the piano break in the middle and then going nuts again with a sing along erupting on the lines "Boys and Girls in America" and "White Noise" The show ended with 'South Town Girls' into "Banging Camp." Now, here was a scene that summed up the whole night.Half way into Banging Camp, people from the crowd start streaming onto the stage. Again, having never seen them, don't know if this is impromptu or a regular part of their encore. But, it was cool as hell to witness. It was sort of like watching fans storm the court after say, George Mason beats Uconn in the elite 8. By the end of the song, there had to be a good 25 people on stage, just dancing, singing, waving arms. Craig Finn lost in the middle of this sea of college aged kids singing right along with him. Then, all of a sudden you see him rise above the crowd, standing on top of the bass drum. He's snapping photos of the scene on stage in front of him with the biggest smile. It was surreal, fun and one of them rock moments that I think all of us here can relate to- it just verified again why we spend nights in stinky, creepy bars late at night- for that kind of moment. He was spraying his beers all over the crowd, piano player was sharing his now second bottle of red with any female near him, a bottle of Jack was seen being passed around. I wish you were all there. The crowd hushed down as he did the last few lines, ending with the band's call to arms, and I wish I remember the line here, cause it was perfect, but it ended with "Because We're The Hold Steady" Lights up, stage cleared and looks around the room affirming we just got a good one.A real riot act of rock, youth, energy, alcohol, joy, sweat....Damn, I wanna go to Chicago for New Years now.
All in all a great night, reaffirming again my love for that damn town. Pretty much we got all of Boys and Girls (think 2 left out) as well as Separation Sunday. I'd say go see them NOW...but aside from the Chicago shows, you're going to have to go to Europe. Though I can't believe they aren't going to be hitting the road here again in the Spring. Hmm, Austin anyone?