“…Guys go for looks, girls go for status…” — The Hold Steady
You don’t go to see The Hold Steady if you want to meet girls. However, if you want to NOT meet girls, a THS show is a good place to go. You will — be forewarned — see a lot of dudes. Dudes with glasses. Dudes with facial hair. Dudes with plaid shirts. Dudes, apparently, without the right “status” to attract more girls. Just…a whole lot of dudes. If you’ve seen THS perform, you know this to be true. And you know that the few girls in attendance probably understand what the locals feel like when the fleet pulls into the harbor for shore leave.
The nautical analogy is fitting, perhaps, because this particular THS show was held at the underground venue that is Washington, D.C.’s U Street Music Hall, which when sold out feels a bit like being on a submarine. It’s hot. It’s crowded. There’s a lot of noise. And, in case I haven’t mentioned this…there are a lot of dudes.
The chief dude is Mr. Craig Finn, a Brooklyner by way of Minnesota, who started the evening by sharing his joy with the audience. Unfortunately for those that are Yankees fans, his joy was largely a result of the fact that the Bronx Bombers had just been bounced from the playoffs. But, alas, at least it was something for him to channel into his craft.
And, channel it he did. That the band was playing in this venue is somewhat curious, unless one is familiar with their wish to never get so big that they are no longer a bar band. They are what they are, and they’re supremely comfortable with what they are. They’re a band. A band with a Twainian fondness for allusions to the Mississippi River. They sing songs about drugs and parties. About life and death. About decisions made and consequences rendered. Songs about living.
They do all that, and on this night, like most, they do it very well. They play tightly, with a controlled aggression and a lucid awareness of the fact that rock and roll, at its core, is about fun. You can see it on their faces, as they look at each other and out at the fanboys singing and clapping and chanting and stomping. Even while tackling some weighty subject matter, the perpetual impression left behind is, that, these guys get it. They get how lucky they are. They get how awesome it is to be able to do their modern-day Afghan Whigs thing on stage in front of people who know all the words and feel an emotional attachment to the band and its ethos. These guys…more so than most…they get it.