All the sniffling indie kids...
The Hold Steady: Live @ Common Grounds
So, I went and saw The Hold Steady in Gainesville, Fl last night. The Common Grounds down town is mostly known for a well distributed PA system, expensive beer and, now, sticky floors. I mention the sticky floors only for the fact that it was because of said floor that something became stuck to the bottom of my black, ever so ripped, Chuck All-Stars within minutes of entering the club. I say something because I honestly don't know what it was. In any case, knowing this would be a nuisance for me, and noticing the only slightly annoying opening band wouldn't be through playing for at least another 15 minutes, I put my hand on a nearby table to steady myself in order to get this mystery item off the bottom of my foot.
All of the sudden I hear a voice ask, "You didn't step in shit, did ya?"
Yeah. It was Craig Finn working the merch booth.
Realizing who he was, I let out a laugh.
Turning on the charm, AS YOU CAN SEE, I then WALKED AWAY.
So, with my journalistic instincts now clearly in doubt, I proceeded to patiently wait for the main attraction to take the stage. The club wasn't quite as packed as I wanted or even expected really, but the numbers that were there slowly filled the empty space in front of the very low stage. Myself among them. Most of the band came up through the crowd since this place had no backstage, and I had, apparently, been standing next to the Bassist for a good ten minutes. He even borrowed my lighter, which actually annoyed me. I am such a dick.
When they finally did take the stage, they opened quickly with Banging Camp and Craig genuinely became a different person. Normally that is pretty run of the mill for a lead singer. You have your quiet, artistic type who let's it all out (as they say) on stage. Or someone who is naturally loud or abrasive who becomes quite serious when performing their music. With Craig though... it's almost just another VERSION of his personality, and certainly not an act. The ridiculously fast paced claps, not on time with any music; that not drunk but not sober swagger; his verbose and almost adlibbed delivery of most of the lyrics. And, most importantly, that smile. That fucking smile. This is the most content band I have ever seen live. Not to mention so utterly flawless. Even when Craig's guitar went out of tune and he had to spend five minutes fixing it, things are handled in a such a breezy and laid back fashion that just makes you happy to be there.
I found the banter between songs interesting because Craig seems to have this way of looking at everyone without looking at anyone...while singing. However, while addressing the audience and telling bad jokes in between songs he never raises his eyes from the floor. Again, odd because he is very personable while off stage. By the time Cattle and The Creeping Things started being played I had been pogo-ing so much that I didn't even notice that I had inadvertently created a small pseudo mosh pit filled with awkwardly skinny white indie kids and, well, myself.
When they finished their encore, Craig walked right off stage and headed back to the merch booth. Where I was WAITING. After our odd and stilted meeting #1 I wanted to redeem myself in, at least, my own eyes. He asked if I wanted a shirt to which I replied:
"I don't like your shirts."
He laughs, though.
Hey, it's the truth. So, instead of a shirt that I didn’t like and couldn’t afford to begin with, I opted for the green lighter with THE HOLD STEADY ALMOST KILLED ME written on the side in makeshift whiteout. Then had to buy one for my friend. After, I went through the whole bit where I tell him how awesome it was and he thanks me, blah, blah. Then while he's getting my change I ask:
"Is it, like, difficult to write the way that you write? The way you interlock characters and themes and stuff like that?"
That was about as intelligent as I could sound while being drenched in sweat, and after 6 overpriced Bud Lites.
He kind of giggles and says, while smiling:
"Not difficult. But that's an easy thing to say, ya know?"