So it seems that Springsteen-esque lyrical bombast and better-than-average bar-band chops are continuing to catch on with the indie rockers. Straight outta Minnesota and into the ears of those who would use Pitchfork's Best New Music section as a cultural barometer comes the Hold Steady, the latest band for which one must preface a recommendation with the words "Never mind the hype." I bought into the Hold Steady upon first listen because of their lyrics. For example, this gem off their 2005 concept album, Separation Sunday: "I was seeing double for three straight days/After I got born again/It felt strange but it was nice and peaceful/It really pleased me to be around so many people/Of course half were just visions/But half of them were friends from going through the program with me."
Their new release, Boys and Girls in America, is not surprisingly also brilliantly verbose, gaudily orchestrated and constantly intoxicated/intoxicating—each attribute an undying credit to their name. Their live show, like their albums, is spoken word and bar rock mixed together. Lead singer/songwriter Craig Finn is telling you a dense, enthralling story, and you can tell there's an undeniable sense of urgency in every anecdote, revelation and deviation.
See the Hold Steady live anywhere. I saw them in a multipurpose room in UCLA; guards were on duty to make sure kids didn't do so much as sit on the floor, let alone anything else kids would like to do. It was one of the most awkward shows of my life, but the Hold Steady held steady, proof they're never out of their element—even when they're playing songs about a drug dealer named Charlemagne to a room full of dead-sober college students.
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The Hold Steady perform with Sean Na Na at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.theholdsteady.com. Sat., 9 p.m. $10. 21+.