On my favorite bastard Irish holiday, I couldn’t figure out why The Hold Steady didn’t start with a D like all the other holiday-appropriate words they seemed to feed off (disillusioned, depressed, deranged, drunk…).
It was loud between sets, real loud. The kind of loud where you don’t realize you’re speaking because you’re too far gone. So when the Hold Steady took the stage, opening with “Stuck between Stations”, the cheering made Craig Finn’s opening tribute to Kerouac all but unintelligible. The Americana bar-band appeal is there whether sober or drunk, replete with The Hold Steady’s knack for solidly-stated riffs and honkey tonk piano solos, but what caught me off guard is the space Craig Finn’s narrative lyrics leave for crowd participation.
The band mostly concentrated on Boys & Girls In America, with some of the previous album cuts thrown in, with the chant from “Party Pit” and the ‘ohhs’ off “Massive Nights” really raising the decibel levels. Every green beer-drinking dipsomaniac seemed to be waiting for the chance to holler, “gonna walk around and drink some more.” The band seems well aware of its catalogue’s live appeal, straying from the dense songs of Separation Sunday for the simplicity of “Little Hoodrat Friend” and “How A Resurrection Really Feels.”
When the band took its first break, the standard chants of “encore” for some piss wasted reason were replaced by that old jingo-hockey game adage “U.S.A.” Finn came back seeming confused, reminding everyone that the Buckeyes had played Xavier that day, two teams not only from this country but the same state. He and Kerouac are definitely on to something. To counteract the white noise, The Steady broke out into “Positive Jam.”
It was a twisting high of a show with its bittersweet comedown in “Killer Parties.” Lead guitarist Tad Kubler climbed the ten foot speakers to rip his drifting solos between Finn’s departing words. The song received one last hoorah as members of the Thermals came out to continue the jam while The Hold Steady said its good byes, passing out its remaining beers to the front row.