Saturday, April 4, 2009


Saw the Hold Steady in Champaign last night. Went with two friends, entered the show with a few drinks in me, left the venue completely drenched in sweat, through my wallet, through my shirt, just drenched, and completely sober ... even though we had a pint of Jack between us during the show. One of the best shows I've ever been to - in a curious venue. For a band nicknamed the "best bar band in the America," seeing them in a "dry" facility was interesting.

The Courtyard Cafe is in the student Union at U of I on Green Street. The cafe is just like a sectioned off area with a little performance stage. So to say makeshift and intimate would be annoying and an understatement. For a band that usually plays to thousands, seeing them with just 450 other people was awesome. And those 450 people were fucking nutz, all-pogoing, all crowd-surfing and all mashed together in unison, everyone could use a little cathartic concert now-and-again. Any shared experience is so rare, and when you're trapped with a few hundred other like-minded people for two hours, it can be a little life-affirming. Something as ultimately silly as rock and roll can reset the brain.

Today my neck is sore, it felt like I ran five miles last night. When it was over I had to (see the rationalization here) buy a tour T shirt cause I didn't have a clean shirt to wear after the show.

We went to a couple bars, but were so exhausted, we just headed to the beer garden immediately to have a few quiet beers and talk about the show.

The tunes mostly came from their last two albums, but they also provided a few deep cuts from "Separation Sunday' and "Almost Killed Me."

I remember several moments distinctly, but the rest of the show blends together - mostly because the band plowed through their catalog, often without break between songs - which actually worked well 'cause the momentum just kept building.

Distinct moments:
When "Stay Positive" got to the heart of what this country needs at this exact moment, when the machine-gun guitar attack of "Party Pit" started annihilating ear drums, the climactic bridge of "Stuck Between Stations" and opening chords of one of the loudest songs I have heard in years - "Hot Soft Light."

We drink and we dry up Then we crumble to dust
We get wet and we corrode and now we're covered up in rust

I don't have video of the show, but here's some miscellaneous Hold Steady youtube clips for those uninitiated in the unified scene:

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