Monday, August 08, 2005

I'm Glad to See That You're Still in the Bars

THE HOLD STEADY @ Bowery Ballroom 8/5/05
After a Chinese meal at the nearby New York Noodle House, it was time to head up to Bowery Ballroom to catch a set by one of the fastest rising indie-rock bands in the area. After getting on the cover of The Village Voice and since the release of their terrific sophomore album Separation Sunday, they've been all the rage with critics and fans alike, thus far culminating in a 2-night headlining stand at Bowery Ballroom, the biggest local venue they've played in at this point. They have a sound that's tough to pin down, but essentially it's '70s hard riff rock or maybe even pub rock along the lines of when The Rumour backed Graham Parker or when The E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen were still playing the circuit in Asbury Park before Born to Run landed them on the cover of Newsweek. The main difference between them and many other competent bar bands is singer Craig Finn's vocals, which resemble a revival tent preacher during a particularly righteous sermon rather than anything resembling a conventional rock and roll singer. Another good point of reference is Husker Du-era Bob Mould or maybe even the talk-singing style of Jeff Pezzati (formerly of Naked Raygun and currently in The Bomb). Some have even suggested the ranting style of The Fall's Mark E. Smith but I don't know if I necessarily agree with that comparison. The lyrics concern the shady side of life and in particular, Separation Sunday is a song cycle about a Catholic girl gone bad named Hallelujah (or Holly for short).

With all these elements added up, the performance was galvanizing and lasted for about an hour and a half with a 3-song encore and it encompassed all of Separation Sunday as well as songs from their 1st album Almost Killed Me. Finn repeatedly enticed the crowd with lines like the one in the title of this post and seemed to be having a great time on stage, which is always nice to see in the midst of so much apathy and navel-gazing and what not from way too many bands. He repeatedly invited fans to an after-party at Hi-Fi (formerly Brownies) as well, though after their set ended at 1:15 AM, I was more than happy to go home at that point. If I have one very minor complaint, it's that their set started out slowly and took time to pick up a little steam, but I think part of that was nervous jitters. I think Finn & co were obviously a bit overwhelmed at all the attention they've been getting and how popular they've become recently, which is understandable for a band who could barely fill smaller places 6 months ago.

Black Mountain was supposed to open, but they didn't show. Instead we got Sam Champion (we listened to them from downstairs; they were ok at best) and another supposedly metal band who we got there too late to check out.


Blogger anne said...

It's good to see you back in a bar band, baby!

I'm still not sure I agree with the nervous jitters part. I mean, I wasn't able to pick up on any of that, unless you count Craig Finn's bouts of spitting, wild hand gestures, or yelling out at the crowd while far from his mic as "jitters."

I think their lack of pretentiousness is what makes them so great.

10:12 AM

Blogger bp said...

New York Noodle Town, not House.

-the food police

1:29 PM


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