Sounded Good On Paper

We gotta stay positive.

“This whole town is lifeless. Been that way our whole lives, just work at the mill until you die.” It wasn’t until I was listening to “Constructive Summer” this morning on my way to work when I figured out why The Hold Steady decided to play at a small venue in the middle of nowhere, New Jersey. The Starland Ballroom, in Sayerville, feels like it’s in the center of one of the towns that Craig Finn sings about. Driving for miles away from the highway, down the curvy, tree-lined roads I rolled down  my window to yell “GETAJOB!!!” at someone walking down the road (as I often do) with long hair and a metal t-shirt, there were jokes about being killed by townies which further cemented this theory.

Once inside it became very clear that this venue was not used to hosting the hipsters, sceensters and rock n rollers. The advertisements for future concerts did not show the next Of Montreal or Stephen Malkmus concert but instead showed upcoming concerts for bands like Dying Fetus, The Mongoloids and Job for a Cowboy. Oh yeah, and the Ratt/Extreme concert… it’ll take much more than words for me to describe how blown our minds were when we saw that.

After waiting around for about an hour watching the slideshow of hilarious band names and watching Jugglao videos on Thom‘s iPhone Titus Andronicus took the stage. The band was good but loud. This is the point of the review where I’m going to openly admit something. I’ve been getting to the point where I feel like I’m too old for this grueling concert schedule. I’ve noticed that I actually enjoy the concerts in the formal venues where we are encouraged to sit (like at Carnegie Hall, Tower Theater and the New York Society for Ethical Culture). I’ve also started to dislike the fact that to consider yourself an indie band you must have a beard this long. These are my personal hang-ups though and I want to get across the fact that despite all of this, I really enjoyed the set by Titus Andronicus. I haven’t listened to their albumyet, but it’s on my list and I think it should be on yours as well (if their live show is any indication of how they sound recorded).

Ultimately, I was let down by The Hold Steady. I really love all of their albums and have heard such great things about their live shows (even if A Positive Rage was a let down) that I believe this was a case of just over-hyping myself up for it. It could also deal with the fact that I was getting dry humped by a 16 year old kid who couldn’t take a clue that I didn’t want him rubbing all up ons. The band played wonderfully, but it seemed as if they were going through the motions. Craig really only addressed the audience once, noting that they had opened for the Get Up Kids at the Starlight once before. The setlist, while impressive, was also unimpressive. Yes, there were lots of great songs played but looking it over you can see that it’s missing some key tracks (from my top 10 list) that I know they’ve played live and waited eagerly to hear.

I feel bad for not enjoying the concert as much as I thought I would. I would also suggest that you go see The Hold Steady if they come around to a venue near you. As I stated before, I’m pretty sure it was just a personal funk I was in where I didn’t enjoy the concert. The two things I took away from it was that it was very loud (to the point where my ears were still ringing 2 days later) and the most memorable part of the night was after The Hold Steady left the stage and the house lights/music came up. The crowd all stayed, swayed and sang along to “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen. In an effort to clear the venue faster, someone cut the song off halfway through. The crowd stayed and sang the song all the way through without music. Yeah Jersey!

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