The Hold Steady ‘Subpoenaed in Texas’

20 03 2009

A misleading headline, but I couldn’t resist lyrical allusions to one of my favorite Hold Steady songs, “Sequestered in Memphis.” After chatting (click to watch our video interview!) with the Brooklyn-via-St. Paul rockers during Lucero’s set (alt-country meets hard rock, done right), I fought my way back inside Red 7 to catch their set at the Quack Media/Found Magazine day party. Let me tell you, it was quite the dirty fight to find my way to the front of that raucous crowd, but every splash of beer and all the violent elbowing was worth it. The Hold Steady completely killed it.

photo by Jillian Mapes

The five-piece “classic” rock band started off the set with the opening track from their latest, titled “Constructive Summer.” The track was the defining song of summer 2008 for me, and its energy was even more explosive live. Lead singer Craig Finn strutted around the stage like a less obnoxious version of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, whom The Hold Steady are proud call former tourmates (listen to “Ask Her for Adderall” off Stay Positive for more details). Drenched in sweat three songs in, Finn must have practiced his mic tricks and fist-pumping before the set. The crowd followed suit on the latter, pumping fists at first and later attempting to crush the bones of those audience members directly in front of the stage (i.e., me).

photo by Jillian Mapes

More tracks from their latest and old favorites from their break-out album, The Boys and Girls in America, followed. The band has a reputation as a “working man’s kind of band” with a Springsteen-esque vibe. Yeah, if Bruce Springsteen channeled the energy of early punk rock (and was good, but hey, that’s just my personal hatred of Springsteen rearing its angry head).

Overall, the best show at SXSW I’ve seen…so far. There are many, many more to come. Fans can experience The Hold Steady’s live presence on their upcoming tour documentary, “Positive Rage,” which will be out April 7. the Hold Steady will be headlining Rachael Ray’s SXSW party Saturday and rocking Mohawk Patio tonight at midnight. — Jillian Mapes




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