Hold Steady returns hope to rock’n’roll
With the release of the Hold Steady’s third album “Boys and Girls in America,” the Hold Steady has rightfully earned the title of “the best band around today.” Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone magazine said, “Damn you Hold Steady! How can any band be this good?” Pitchfork online music review gave the Hold Steady the highest rating this year, a womping 9.4. The Hold Steady started as an homage bar band. With idols like The Band, the Hold Steady aspired to bring back the “bar band.” Their debut, “Almost Killed Me,” achieved the bar band mentality with tracks like “The Swish” and “Barfruit Blues.” The entire album is laid with bar room scenes, full of bloody and beer-soaked drunks.
The band has humble beginnings, despite their monstrous sound. Tad Kubler, lead guitarist and vocals for the band, said “Me and Craig were just sitting around watching The Last Waltz when Craig said, ‘Dude, why aren’t there any bands like this anymore? Let’s do this from now on.’”
Attending a Hold Steady show is like attending a child’s little league game – even if they don’t play well, you still cheer like hell. The band smacks smiles onto the faces in the audience while Tad plays shredding guitar solos. The audience cheers and proudly claps for a job well done. Franz Nicolay, piano player, opens a bottle of wine and pumps his fist in the air, making a sacrifice to the Gods of Rock.
“Boys and Girls in America” is one of the most hopeful albums ever. Finn’s three archetypical characters, Gideon, Holly Halleluiah, and Charlemagne, go through obstacles that the modern youth in America experience. They are broken, weak, and ready for something different. Bar rooms and drugged-up shows won’t suffice what Holly is looking for.
The album is Craig Finn’s interpretation of boys and girls in America. He says, “They have such a sad time together.” His message of hope is found hidden underneath all the drunken and high pictures that he paints in the album. The hope comes from an alternative to the hard partying scene. The hope is faith, love, not the emptiness of getting high. “There’s a type of positivity to that record,” Finn said. “That excites me the most just because that’s the way I think about things in life. And I’m excited that people are buying into it, because there’s so much out there that’s so dark and so negative.”
When Craig Finn sings, he shapes the words in the air with his hands. He looks like an uncoordinated kid, but he truly becomes the lyrics he sings.
The audience becomes part of the band at a Hold Steady show. Craig sings to the sea of hands as he reaches into the crowd, trying to make ripples into the crowd spreading hope throughout.
“We are trying to create an atmosphere,” said Finn. “The people are having fun. I want people to make it our shows and then the next time we come around, they’re like, ‘Note to self: take work off the next day.’ Cause I know I don’t want to go to work after that.”
During their Boys and Girls in America tour, the audience rushed the stage at the end of the set as Craig and the rest of the band soaked them with beer. “We started pulling people on stage throughout the tour on that last song,” Finn said. “And it was really fun. It just is a really awesome way to end the show. It just shows people that they are an important part of this tour.”
Pulling people on stage eliminates awkwardness for the band and audience, according to Finn.
“You know, for the performer there’s always that uncomfortable moment at the end of the show,” He said. “When the audience kind of wants another song. But once you’ve pulled everyone on stage and all the instruments get unplugged and everyone gets beer-soaked, it’s pretty obvious that the shows over. It’s just a nice closer that way.” The band is coming out with a DVD of their “Boys and Girls in America” tour and has been interviewing fans at their shows. All of their crazy, rocking nights will be available soon through Vagrant Records.