Category: The Hold Steady

Recap: The Hold Steady, Meat Puppets, and Retribution Gospel Choir at First Avenue

“We are The Hold Steady, and we’re gonna have a good time tonight!”

Usually when a singer introduces his band like that on stage, it’s just a platitude, an easy way to warm up the crowd. But when Craig Finn says it in Minneapolis, and particularly at First Avenue, you can be damn sure he means it. In strict terms of residency, The Hold Steady might be a New York band, but its heart has always been here in Minnesota. That’s hardly a secret, of course—Finn has been mining his Minneapolis past for lyrical material ever since he and fellow expat Tad Kubler formed THS out of the ashes of Lifter Puller, using it as an essential backdrop for his long-running, loosely connected song cycle about being young and down-and-out. The passing of years makes the theme increasingly nostalgic and hazy with each successive album, but it doesn’t seem like Finn will drop it anytime soon—not when Heaven Is Whenever kicks off with a line about living on Hennepin Avenue.

So when The Hold Steady comes home to the bar one block away, they own that stage. And that’s because we Twin Citians own The Hold Steady. Never mind New York; these guys are ours. “I don’t think anyone understands what we’re talking about half as well as you guys do,” Finn acknowledged during “Little Hoodrat Friend.” Finn makes an unlikely rock star, dressed in a black button-down short-sleeve shirt like a guy from the IT department who’s busting out a few of Mick Jagger’s moves. He had a look of pure joy on his face the whole night, and it was mirrored in the ecstatic mood of the audience, which burst into explosive life for the headliners after an appreciative but more subdued response to openers The Meat Puppets. The crowd clearly knew all the songs by heart and sang along to every syllable.

Originally published Dec. 30, 2010 on Read the complete article.

2005: The Year In Music (Loon State Edition)

As someone who’s lived almost all of his life in the Twin Cities, I’ve always been a big fan of Minnesota’s music scene, and one of the pleasures of being The A.V. Club’s Twin Cities editor is that I get to hear so much local music. As a sidebar to our national 2005: The Year In Music list, here’s my take on the best discs made by or (in one case) about Minnesotans this year.

1) Low, The Great Destroyer: Low’s musical identity is so closely tied to melancholy, introspective stillness that turning up the volume would seem to wreck what’s appealing about the band in the first place, but on The Great Destroyer, Duluth’s finest export after taconite pellets cranked up the fuzzbox and the amps without sacrificing a thing. Instead, the increased intensity—ominously rumbling keyboards under “Monkey,” a loud, distorted riff powering “Everybody’s Song”—lends Destroyer an epic quality that works hand in hand with the intimacy at the heart of a Low song.

Originally published Dec. 16, 2005 on Read the complete article.

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