Vancouver’s Japandroids bring us a Modern Classic rock album that Celebrates, er… Rock.
Internet killed the video star, right? So what’s on the radio?
Wednesday, 8th March, 2011
The most important thing in music – any kind – is commitment to, and enthusiasm for the task at hand.
Craig Finn, the Lead Vocalist (Or more correctly, the Lead Talker, as my wife eloquently put it) of the Hold Steady is testament to this fact. He can’t sing, he can’t dance, and he has the stylistic fashion sense of a night out at the local golf club. And yet, as he spread his arms wide to embrace the crowd, and gazed down at them as he introduced the sweaty band after more than 20 exhausting, exhilarating songs, his plaintive passion and joy for his craft was so infectious, and so contagious, that I doubt there was a single soul in the room who even slightly noticed that this guy is kind of a major dork in a polo shirt.
“There’s just so much joy in everything we do up here. We’re the Hold Steady, and You’re Brisbane, and We Fucking Love You”
And as the band launched into the pulsing riff of “Stay Positive”, the singalong scripture “Woah, Woah”s came up from the crowd, and it was clear that these declarations of love were entirely mutual.
Rock music kind of got poisoned (by Poison?) in the 80′s with weird hair metal and “girls! girls! girls!” codpiece posturing. Musically, The Hold Steady come from an ancestral root of rock that remains untainted by such pollutants, while still retaining the “Cock-Rock” elements that make you want to punch the air. Overdrive pedals, power chords, pentatonic minor scales, tasteful guitar solos all form an infectious backbone for Finn to weave his literary narrative of modern living, of excess, and the supernatural, of faith and restitution. And the band themselves, were absolutely rock solid and amazing. It’s clear that the crew have gotten pretty good at producing this show. The sound was brilliantly mixed, you could hear everyone clearly. People will often complain about a bad mix, but forget to praise a good one.
Perhaps it’s just the Catholic ethos coming to the fore, but you sure do get a lot of value for money from your Hold Steady show. The band played for over 2 hours, drawing from their 5 album catalog, with standout tracks “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”, “Hot Soft Light” and “The Weekenders”. Finn riled up the crowd, encouraging them, singing and clapping along with them with a clearly evident passion and unbridled delight that comes from “Just another day in the Office”. (To be fair, I think he clearly loves his work a lot more than most of us)
The crowd at The Zoo was a mix of young and old, varying between old guys standing around nursing beers, and shirtless hardcore crowd surfers. The Zoo is a great venue to see a band – well set out, intimate and very Brisbane, with its windows wide open (to let the Hard Rock out.)
A lot of the appeal of the stories that are caught up in the Hold Steady lyrics comes from excess, substance abuse and reckless abandon, detailed through the behaviour of Finn’s characters, (how many bands have a dedicated wiki where people dissect and discuss characters?), and in a way, The Hold Steady have a natural fan base in folks who used to take a lot of drugs. But while it may have been one of the factors that drew me to them initially, the element that I walked out with after the gig was one of overwhelming positivity and enthusiasm. Of the fact that if you wholly commit to something, you can achieve it, no matter what. No matter if you are a dork in a polo shirt, you can lead the greatest little hard rock band in the world. Because you committed to it, with positive energy and love.
As the band returned to the stage for an encore (“You Can Make Him Like You”, “Killer Parties”), Finn told the crowd that he’d given up drinking for Lent. But then, he recounted, “I thought – this is Australia! I can’t give up drinking beer!” produced a Stubby from a nearby amp and toasted the crowd. “What the hell – This is a Godless Country anyway, right?”
And he’s pretty right – but this is certainly not a country without positivity and love and enthusiasm. Those things were abundant in the Valley that morning as we all spilled out into the street into the late summer air.