Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Favourite Band: The Hold Steady

Live at the Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, Ca 9.24.10

This is The Hold Steady. They are my desert-island favourite band. It's stupid how much I love them. I don't expect you to love them, too. I just expect you to indulge my worship.

The Hold Steady was introduced to me about four years ago, when I picked up my sister's then-boyfriend at the San Jose airport and had to dive him the hour back to Monterey with me. He put in a CD.

"I just saw this band live in Chicago, you'll love them," he said. The first track was amazing. I listened intently. Track two was called 'Chips Ahoy': "This song is about a race-horse, not cookies." It turns out it didn't matter what the song was about, really. I was already in love.

I immediately went and bought the album, Boys and Girls in America, and listened to it non-stop. Then I bought their first two albums: Separation Sunday and Almost Killed Me. They sang about sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, and religion. They had reoccurring characters. It was like a Bret Easton Ellis novel come to life in songs. The band itself was like a drug and I couldn't stop listening.

In the past 4 years they've released 2 more studio albums and a live album. I've seen them live 5 times (it would have been 6 but a venue change caused a show to be 21+ much to the dismay of the aforementioned then-boyfiend of my sister) and 3 of those times in the past year and half. I even took my first trip to Vegas to see them play for $15 in a bar.

They are a modern band who sound like a bar band from the '70s. The first time I heard their song "South Town Girls," I immediately thought of The Band (thus it was kinda cool to see them play at The Fillmore - the famous venue featured in The Last Waltz). They are one of the best bands I've ever seen live (up there with Sleater-Kinney and Broken Social Scene) and definitely one of the bands that seems to have the most fun playing. When you watch Craig, their vocalist, you know that there is no where in the world he would rather be than playing this show, right now.

When I saw them this past week in Santa Cruz, it was very surreal. In spring, I saw them for the second time at the Fillmore and it was a packed house. Each time I've seen them, recently, the audience seemed to get larger and larger. But not the other night. It was both awesome and sad.

We wondered into The Catalyst Club around 9:00pm, right before they went on, and the club had about 40 people wandering around inside! By the time The Hold Steady came on, the crowd was maybe 5 deep, but with a ton of space around everyone. I wandered up to the front row.

If you think that a small crowd would lead to a mediocre show, you are much mistaken. They played a full 90-min set and it was just as good as any of their other live appearances (and better for me since last time I was so sick, I had to be propped up just to watch them - now that's commitment!). I bounced and sang until my throat made no more sounds.

Also, I bought this shirt:

The merch guy looked at me like I was mad when I said, "It's like The Hold Steady meets Harry Potter! I have to have one!" I mean, clearly that's what this shirt is, right?!

Check them out. You can thank me later. The Hold Steady

Certain songs they get so scratched into our souls.

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