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it started in a vestibule, it ended in having to start a wiki to keep track of everything Craig Finn says
February 4, 2011 12:28 AM   Subscribe

The Hold Steady is a band that tends to write songs that are stories about drugs and sex and Jesus. There is a wiki that keeps track of all of their reused characters, locations, and self references, among other things.. Because of their songwriting style, the NPR annotated versions of "The Swish" and "The Cattle and the Creeping Things" as well as their TVTropes entry are also worth a look. You can listen to their latest album on the Guardian website.
posted by NoraReed (59 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I came across these guys via an NPR podcast about economics - they were the outro music, IIRC. Great, you know, rock.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 12:50 AM on February 4, 2011


Ginger and Jack and four or five Feminax makes the room spin like nothing else, holding-onto-the-floor spins. I found out by accident, I swear, and I shudder every time I listen to 'The Swish'.
posted by carbide at 1:15 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you enjoy The Hold Steady, may I also suggest Lifter Puller.

If you do not enjoy either, you would not be alone. I seem to recall that some people found Finn's voice particularly offputting - in an "OH GOD I FUCKING HATE THIS BAND" way.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:43 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]



i must admit i was a little bit aroused by it
i must admit it felt a little bit erogeneous
i must admit it felt a little bit anonymous
i must admit i feel a little bit anonymous now

posted by louche mustachio at 1:46 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saw 'em when they toured with Drive-By Truckers. That was a big fun rock show. I'm not a big fan of their last record. It teetered into the arena-rock territory that their first albums were so good at stripping down and reassembling. And I wonder just how many more songs about broken scenesters Craig Finn has in him. Still: I'll buy the new one.

"Arms and hearts and alcohol and death
We pull each other in and then
We push it all away..."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:49 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh how I love me some Hold Steady. If I shut my eyes it's like I'm listening to the E Street Band, fronted by Bob Mould, with occasional cameos from Thin Lizzy.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:49 AM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like the idea of the Hold Steady. I really don't like the actuality of the Hold Steady. It's one of those things - maybe in a decade I'll go back and listen again and think "Hey, this is great." Maybe.
posted by awfurby at 2:12 AM on February 4, 2011


Oh how I love me some Hold Steady. If I shut my eyes it's like I'm listening to the E Street Band, fronted by Bob Mould, with occasional cameos from Thin Lizzy.

Shutting your eyes isn't actually such a bad idea, even in concert. They sound fantastic but they look like dorks. And Craig Finn continually gives the impression that he simply can't believe he's up on stage fronting such an amazing band.
posted by daveje at 3:02 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Craig Finn continually gives the impression that he simply can't believe he's up on stage fronting such an amazing band.

...That's my favorite part.
posted by NoraReed at 3:32 AM on February 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Craig Finn continually gives the impression that he simply can't believe he's up on stage fronting such an amazing band.

I'm going to see them next week, and I love this because it's also license to for me to dork out.

As much as I've tried to like the new album, I can't, but am hoping either (a) I realise I'm wrong, or (b) it's a blip and the next one will be back on form.
posted by carbide at 3:35 AM on February 4, 2011


I got into the Hold Steady with Almost Killed Me and was swept off my feet: Finn's poetic storytelling and his barking, words-falling-over-themselves delivery; the huge riffs; and the fact that I grew up in a world and a 'scene' that was a lot like the teenage punk-rock Minneapolis he sings, or should I say yells about.
Separation Sunday I consider a Desert Island discs-level masterpiece and still have it on heavy rotation. But their output since just hasn't inspired me to this level. Their sound - perhaps!- began to sound more like parody than homage.
I'm happy to give this one a spin though - thanks for posting this.
But anybody who thinks they don't like the Hold Steady - start with Separation Sunday.
posted by Flashman at 4:00 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dude, those lyrics. Soaked in booze. You can get a contact buzz from listening to them.
posted by jbickers at 4:04 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to respectfully disagree with Flashman--on the Internet! About a band! What are the odds?--and say that Boys and Girls in America is both the band's best album and the most logical entry point for the potential Hold Steady fan. (Although Separation Sunday is indeed a very fine album). I would also caution people approaching the band for the first time not to make a judgment based on Heaven Is Whenever, which pretty much everybody agrees is their weakest.
posted by Rangeboy at 4:37 AM on February 4, 2011


Thanks for posting this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:51 AM on February 4, 2011


...That's my favorite part.

Mine too. Jammy bastard that he is.
posted by daveje at 5:00 AM on February 4, 2011


Sorry, Rangeboy, but I am in perfect agreement with Flashman.
posted by snofoam at 5:00 AM on February 4, 2011


I only have two songs by them, but I can't remember any of the characters or places other than a horse. I think his name was Chips Ahoy.
posted by orme at 5:08 AM on February 4, 2011


I saw the Hold Steady on tour after Separation Sunday came out and they were just a monster of a live band. I heard one of the songs off the most recent record and I like Finn's singing less than that crazy talk/shout thing he had going on from Lifter Puller up through the first few HS albums. Some people find it irritating, but I really can't get enough of that over-hyper BANDS AND FANS AND HANDS AND TRAMS AND ALBUMS SLAMMED WITH JAMMIN TRACKS WE'RE DANCIN TO IN TAXI CABS kinda thing.

Hey can we just make this the thread where we make up our own Craig Finn lyrics?
posted by Maaik at 5:30 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Aw c'mon, how many ways are there of saying "I knew this girl. She took lots of drugs"?
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:36 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Five albums worth at least, apparently.
posted by Maaik at 5:40 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Hold Steady are my favorite band. When I heard Separation Sunday I was blown away, and I must have listened to it for six months straight. I regret that I didn't get to see them live when they toured with the Drive-by Truckers because that was probably the best tour ever.
posted by dortmunder at 6:02 AM on February 4, 2011


the keyboardist for the Hold Steady is (was?) Franz Nikolai, the accordianist/keyboardist for the World/Inferno Friendship Society.
posted by entropone at 6:04 AM on February 4, 2011


Aw c'mon, how many ways are there of saying "I knew this girl. She took lots of drugs"?

Plenty. Especially if she's doing it to fill the hole in her life where she thinks religion should have been. Or if she's a hoodrat (but you already knew that). Or if the drugs aren't the point. Etc. I know it's nobody's favorite record for some reason (and not mine either), but I was really happy with Stay Positive: it was the best statement to date of their philosophy. Forget ironic scenesterism, enjoy right now, enjoy where you are. If Craig's dorky dancing and pointing turns you off, I suggest trying to accept it for five minutes. And in that time, let yourself go. Stop worrying what the people around you are thinking about your dancing or singing; they aren't watching you, they're there to be there.
posted by yerfatma at 6:06 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


the keyboardist for the Hold Steady is (was?) Franz Nikolai

Was.
posted by yerfatma at 6:06 AM on February 4, 2011


Franz sat next to me on the subway once :SWOON:
posted by entropone at 6:14 AM on February 4, 2011


Plenty.

I should have said, I was snarking with love. I do like the Hold Steady (though I'm more of a latecomer: Boys and Girls... era. And especially like his attitude to being in a band and playing live gigs. Anyone who thinks, and acts "this is the best thing that I could possibly be doing and I'm so grateful that I'm here", is alright by me.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:33 AM on February 4, 2011


Hey! Two days ago I proposed to my girlfriend whom I first met through a friend at a Hold Steady show. I still have the ticket stub as a relic of the night.
posted by yeti at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: snarking with love
posted by Flashman at 6:57 AM on February 4, 2011


Hey can we just make this the thread where we make up our own Craig Finn lyrics?

Somebody beat you to it.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:04 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


When they were on The Colbert Report, Colbert asked Finn and Kubler if they were sure that they were rock and roll stars and not, y'know, graphic designers.

Best goddamned band on the planet for my money.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:12 AM on February 4, 2011


I came home to my husband listening to the Hold Steady once and I was like, "why are you listening to Blues Traveler?".
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


When they were on The Colbert Report, Colbert asked Finn and Kubler if they were sure that they were rock and roll stars and not, y'know, graphic designers.

Tad is actually a pretty damn good photographer.

The Hold Steady are one of the greatest bands to see live. The energy is absolutely amazing and Craig makes you feel like you're part of the show and not just an observer. If you're on the fence about them you won't be if you see them live.

btw - I can't believe this is the first time THS has been mentioned on the blue.
posted by photoslob at 7:39 AM on February 4, 2011


I love these guys; seen 'em a couple a times and talked with them. I've often described Craig's stage presence as a cross between Joe Cocker and Woody Allen (but in a good way).
posted by DaddyNewt at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2011


The Hold Steady might have changed my life, but I'm pretty sure they are my life.
I just signed up to Metafilter after 11 years of lurking just to talk about how much I love them. I read the site every day, but I never felt like there was something I could contribute that wasn't said better by other members. But I love this band. Its 3am, I'm drunk, and I've been waiting all night to log on tell you.

It was pretty inevitable. I was a lapsed Catholic by the age of 11. I grew up on classic rock radio ('kids on the East Coast know a certain perfect ratio of warm beer to the summer smoke, Meat Loaf to the Billy Joel') and wrote Beat-influenced poetry. The first time I heard Seperation Sunday (on an MP3 leant by my friend) I was blown away, and I never looked back.

I saw them at a festival the night after I lost my virginity. I couldn't hear any of the words. I just remember yelling and screaming and somehow grabbing Craig's hand for one song.

When I was having an existential crisis, I listened to 'Citrus'. "Hey bar room hey tavern I find hope in all the souls you gather". Even if there isn't anything there you can make something better just by being with your friends, by seeing bands and trying to take care of each other.

When Stay Positive came out I thought it was a bit cheesy. I was the uber-nihilist and my favorite band was telling me to stay posi? But I incorporated it into my worldview, and found that having your idols tell you to think positive was a nice affirmation of what my psychologist was already telling me. I've got a badge of the Stay Posi symbol, and I'm thinking of making a tattoo.

I briefly adapted Seperation Sunday for a scriptwriting class, and I was thinking of turning it into an Unknown Armies campaign.

This sounds cultish, and it probably is. Bruce Springsteen and Craig Finn and others are big believers in the 'church of rock and roll'. You get together with like-minded people and you create something joyous and warm. Craig ends every show with talking about how much joy there is in the room. But it's not just in THS shows I feel it - there's a moment like that in every gig I go to, in every drink I have with my friends, that's good to keep in mind.


Plus, they're bitingly funny and clever and tell a story that you can geek out to as you try and connect all the dots. It gets a bit dense sometimes, a bit prog-rock, but it works.

I can't believe I've waited 11 years to join Metafilter just so I could be a fanboy, but that's how it is. I've got into other bands through THS - The Drive-By Truckers, The Mountain Goats. I'm trying to track down the books Craig mentioned.

Unfortunatly, they also kinda spoiled me on non-rock. I basically turned into jonmc after my brief flirtation with indie and electronica, and now sitting in a dark room with (usually) older people listening to loud guitars is what gets me going. But it's a good feeling. I"m seeing them in Australia soon, and everyone should come to a show. Even if you don't get converted tonight you gotta admit the band's pretty tight.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:18 AM on February 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


"Hey can we just make this the thread where we make up our own Craig Finn lyrics?"

I do this a bit too much when writing songs, but it can make a nice change from people trying to be Bob Dylan or Tom Waits.

('course, Craig admitted he got the whole multiple narratives from Tangled Up In Blue, so it's not much of a stretch...)
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:32 AM on February 4, 2011


Hey man, "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" is probably my favorite song on that album. That "Woke up afraid of my own shadow / Like genuinely afraid" line gives me goosebumps every damn time.
/derail
posted by Maaik at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw the Hold Steady live in September 2009. Second only to my wedding, it was the happiest night of my life.

There is, indeed, so much joy in what they do.
posted by Zozo at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2011


One of the best shows I've ever seen:

The Hold Steady and The Constantines (who I'm dismayed to learn aren't going to be doing much anymore). The grinning delirium of Craig Finn is infectious, and Franz Nicolay was the best hype man Finn could ask for. It's a damn shame Nicolay's not with the band anymore, but his solo work is pretty sweet. Bonus Franz Nicolay covering Warren Zevon on an accordion.

And yes, Separation Sunday is the best thing they've ever done. Concept albums are hard to do and harder to do well, but The Hold Steady pulls it off. I listened to that album maybe 25 times in a row when I first got it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2011


"Stay Positive" was my intro to the Hold Steady. Having grown up in the Youth of Today and early Seven Seconds era, it totally blindsided me that anyone else would not only remember but still cherish those values.

Now y'all are telling me that it's just one piece of their epic? Sounds like I got some catching up to do. Thanks, Metafilter, and Long Live Rock!
posted by whuppy at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2011


Also, there are tons of comparisons to the E Street band flying around. What Springsteen song do you think would make for the best Hold Steady cover. If you said "Atlantic City" you'd be right.

I just found this, it is awesome
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2011


Heaven is whenever I can turn up The Hold Steady loud. It's like listening to Randy Newman fronting a merger of The Replacements and the E Street Band.
posted by jleisek at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2011


Speaking of the Drive-By Truckers, their new album, "Go-Go Boots", drop Feb. 15. There are a series of videos about the making of the record here.

Heard during the encore of the DBT/HS concert:

Craig Finn: "Drive-By Truckers are the best rock band on Earth!"

Mike Cooley: "Damn right we are."

Craig Finn: "You were supposed to say something nice about us."

Mike Cooley: "I like your glasses."

And then they all played Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:30 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Lovecraft In brooklyn:

Welcome. I love you for your name. Contact ADDED.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:43 AM on February 4, 2011


Lovecraft in Brooklyn - Welcome! And thanks, that was lovely. I dig these guys a lot, and I feel like you put your finger on a lot of why... 'cos they're totally, unironically, all about some kinda transparently utopian, communitarian, unapolagetically corny vision of what music can do, be, and mean for people.

I've liked the Hold Steady since the Current started playing them (hometown boys! albeit in exile) in heavy rotation when the first album came out. And I'd drive around in my cab on the Eastside in St Paul and think, you know, Payne Avenue *really does* live up to its name. The constant level of detail (real names be proof!) kind of makes the whole thing work for me, despite all the excesses lyrical and otherwise. Although I'd caution anyone about using their music as an actual roadmap to the Twin Cities- Nicolette out to the ocean is probably not the most direct route.

Anyways I got to see them at the Funfunfunfest in Austin last November, and it was wonderful. Craig Finn gave this spiel (tourspiel!) about seeing the Descendents at First Avenue on what was supposed to be their farewell tour (in the 80's?), and how just geeked out he was to be sharing a stage with them, and ended it with "So thank you funfunfunfest, for making punk rock dreams come true!"

With real awe! And also awesomeness! I could see how you could hate the guy's voice, but I can't see how anybody who loves music, rock and roll, punk or whatever, could not *love* that.

Also,
We drink and we dry up and then we crumble into dust
We get wet and we corrode and then we're covered up in rust

is perfect.

posted by hap_hazard at 12:58 PM on February 4, 2011


*gives hap_hazard bonus Internet points for weaving in Minutemen references*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:09 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doublewhiskycokenoice's name reminds me that I need to track down the album it's originally a reference to.
I should mention The Gaslight Anthem, my other current obsession. Same basic vibe as THS, with simpler lyrics
And Andrew WK has a similar vibe, minus the bad bits

Hap Hazard, that's awesome. The Desendents seem to have that effect on people.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:58 PM on February 4, 2011


The Hold Steady might have changed my life, but I'm pretty sure they are my life.

This was awesome enough, but then your username sealed the deal.
posted by reductiondesign at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2011


I should mention The Gaslight Anthem, my other current obsession. Same basic vibe as THS, with simpler lyrics

Here is the story of why the singer for The Gaslight Anthem has a Lawrence Arms tattoo.

posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:15 PM on February 4, 2011


I do sort of feel like a bad fan for not really caring for the Dillinger Four, considering I love most of the other bands that seem to be in their sphere. I learned about them around the same time I learned about all music that was not really on the radio-- this is like 9 years ago, back in the time of Angelfire and Geocities, and there was this website run by this girl who had the best cartoon dollmaker on the web. You remember those things? You moved the little pixel art things around and dressed up the little dolls. Anyway, she had the rest of this website and she wrote this sort of proto-blog about her high school experience and stuff and I thought she was by far the coolest person on the web. You know how you idolize people at that age.

Anyway she would make layouts for her website with edited versions of pin-up girls with, like, vibrantly colored hair and Chucks added (this was before they got bought by Nike) and song lyrics, and she'd use Alkaline Trio, the Dillinger Four and Catch-22 all the time. This lead me to ordering every Alkaline Trio album I could get from Asian Man Records plus some of their compilation CDs of different artists that they had on the label, since it was like 20 songs for three bucks.

So I ended up with all these new artists I'd never heard of from these mail order CDs and then I was listening to The Lawrence Arms and the Chinkees and Slow Gherkin and having this punk/ska phase that I never really fell out of. I think it imprinted on me and gave me this love for bands that are really happy to be there, you know-- maybe because I knew the guy that owned the label ran it out of his mom's garage and so he'd done all the packages and stuff I was getting in the mail with piles and piles of cheap new music that was mine in a way nothing from the radio was, and that's how I learned to love music!

That had very little to do with The Hold Steady so here is them covering The Mountain Goats' Southwood Plantation Road.
posted by NoraReed at 3:28 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably a little late to the party here, but I'm just chiming in to say that the Hold Steady are a great example to me of an American Rock Band that will never make much sense to non-Americans, kind of like Bruce Springsteen.

I think they're not bad musically, but I find the lyrics to be strangely alienating to me.
posted by dobie at 5:14 PM on February 4, 2011


Just gonna mention Titus Andronicus here cuz no one else has yet.
posted by whuppy at 5:14 PM on February 4, 2011


This lead me to ordering every Alkaline Trio album I could get from Asian Man Records plus some of their compilation CDs of different artists that they had on the label, since it was like 20 songs for three bucks.

Oh man, you want a punk rock nostalgia trip? Dig this:

Asian Man Records 15th Anniversary Party

And guess who's going motherfuckers!! All my years of not being able to get to The Fest are vindicated!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:26 PM on February 4, 2011


Just dropping in this thread to rep for the unified scene.
posted by silby at 8:39 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man, you want a punk rock nostalgia trip? Dig this:

Asian Man Records 15th Anniversary Party


Oh my god that sounds like fun. I want to go.
posted by NoraReed at 8:54 PM on February 4, 2011


Probably a little late to the party here, but I'm just chiming in to say that the Hold Steady are a great example to me of an American Rock Band that will never make much sense to non-Americans, kind of like Bruce Springsteen.

Yeah, they are both about the american underclass. It's its own genre about scraping by/getting even, so our folks tend to love it.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:14 PM on February 4, 2011


I'll just share this one for Lovecraft In Brooklyn--when I last saw the Mountain Goats, in Minneapolis, where I live, his encore (or maybe second encore. I don't remember) consisted of coming out and doing solo Positive Jam, which he relied heavily on audience participation on to remember the lyrics. Being Minneapolis, people went pretty nuts for it. That was the point where I realized that I should listen to more Hold Steady.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:50 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's the DECSENDENTS

/pedant


posted by bibliogrrl at 8:57 PM on February 6, 2011


No, if you want nostalgia you should all come to Chicago for the Screeching Weasel 25th Anniversary Fest.

Ok, I am not even going to start telling stories. Because then I feel like a very old, scenester jerk.

Mostly because I AM old now. *sigh*
posted by bibliogrrl at 9:00 PM on February 6, 2011


So I went to see them play tonight (too much Heaven Is Whenever but mostly awesome) and Craig Finn is introducing 'Girls Like Status' with something like this: "When I was a teenager, my dad said something to motivate me..."

From across the venue, some guy shouts "YOU'RE NOT MY SON!"
posted by carbide at 4:17 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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