10/24/07 Hold Steady @ Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, N.C.

As cliché as it sounds, if I could drink with any band, I would definitely drink with the Hold Steady. Yeah, yeah, everyone talks about how this is the best live band, how they party their asses off, and how all of their music is about partying their asses off. And it’s redundant for me to say it. But you know what, I’m going to say it anyway. Hell, I’d scream it with a strung-out Craig Finn rasp if I could-because it’s f**king true.

On the 24th of October we ventured to Raleigh to the Lincoln Theatre to catch Art Brut and the Hold Steady, playing together on the NME Rock and Roll Tour. I had seen both bands before; Art Brut at the Empty Bottle the night before Pitchfork ’06 and the Hold Steady at the Astoria in London and also briefly this summer at Bonnaroo. My experience with the former was a bit awkward the first time around. I had actually never heard of the British outfit before (gasp!) and the raucous punk atmosphere they inspired was a little overwhelming. (I had been traveling since 8 a.m. that morning.) This time it was exactly what I was ready for, but despite the fact that Eddie Argos and crew brought the noise, the crowd was pretty tepid during their set. Clearly the contingency gathered in the newly renovated Theatre yearned for the Hold Steady.

By the time the Brooklyn via Minneapolis band cracked into opener “Hot Soft Light” the audience had pushed its way towards the stage, eager to get their Hold Steady Fix. Fueled by their swing for the fences rock-and God knows what else-Finn and company motored through numbers from Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America like stories told around a coffee table. Just like the spastic front man sings in the aforementioned opener, the night “started recreational, ended kinda medical.” By the time the set was coming to a close and the Hold Steady had chugged through feverish performances of songs like “Massive Nights,” “Multitude of Casualties,” and “Hornets, Hornets,” the crowd was hooked on Finn’s every word. Fists were pumping. Sweat was pouring. Smiles were stretching. Catharsis was breathing. And when Finn exclaimed, “This brings us so much joy,” before act closer “Most People Are DJs,” one definitely got the feeling that it was f**king true.

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