Thursday, July 31, 2008

Positive Jams

I saw the Hold Steady at the Mezzanine this Tuesday. It takes a lot to get me out on a weeknight these days, but decided to go out for this show because it was an early start (8pm doors) and the venue was near a BART station. This meant that I didn't have to drive and could make it home at a reasonable hour, which are my two most important factors in going out for a concert.

The Mezzanine has free Wi-Fi and I had my iPod touch with me, so I was able to check email and browse the web at the show. There was a mini-storm brewing Tuesday night on a music mailing list that I'm on, and I was able to watch the entire thread unfurl in real time while the opening band (The Loved Ones) was playing. I didn't like being "that dude" at shows who keeps checking his phone or blackberry while there's a show going on, but it's hard to turn down the opportunity when it's offered.

On the downside, they only had five kinds of beer (in bottles, and none on draft), and the cheapest options were Bud or Bud Light (40% of their choices) at $6 per bottle! Instead of paying six bucks for a Bud, I decided to brave "America's greatest bar band" without being able to raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer. This was probably a wise decision, since the place was packed and the crowd was 90% male, which made the men's room a difficult room to reach.

In an effort to extend the capacity, the Mezzanine had removed every chair and table and bar stool, so there wasn't anywhere to sit. Standing up for three hours straight doesn't work for me anymore, so I found a wall to lean against for the duration of the gig. This saved me from fatigue and claustrophobia, but the sound bouncing off the wall gave me temporary tinnitus afterwards, because iPod earphones don't make very good earplugs.

Anyway, the Hold Steady rocked! Here's their setlist as pulled from the HS message board.

The Hold Steady @ Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA July 29, 2008

Constructive Summer
Chips Ahoy
Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
Sequestered In Memphis
Girls Like Status
Massive Nights
Southtown Girls
Lord, I'm Discouraged
Yeah Sapphire
Hot Fries
One For The Cutters
You Can Make Him Like You
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Crucifiction Cruise
How A Resurrection Really Feels
Slapped Acress

Positive Jam
Stuck Between Stations
Most People Are DJs

The Hold Steady get compared to all the standard classic rock forefathers like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, but I think they're more directly influenced by bands of our generation, like the Replacements and Guided By Voices. Craig Finn sets a Pollardesque presence onstage, and guitarist Tad Kubler looks like Bob and Tommy Stinson's younger brother. They just look more like regular dudes than famous rock stars.

Craig Finn ended the set with the words "stay positive San Francisco!". It sounds kind of corny to quote the title of your most recent album as a mantra (something from the REO Speedwagon school of concert banter) but I found it inspirational. To paraphrase Enid from Ghost World, The Hold Steady are like the exact opposite of everything I hate about rock and roll.

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