Archive for The Hold Steady

Play Ball!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by 30daysout

At the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown NY

Starting pro baseball season in the middle of this big economic losing streak might be a good idea, or it might be a bad one.  Good idea – the simplicity and fun of America’s pastime might get our minds off our money woes.  Bad idea – we can’t afford a friggin’ ticket!

But we really have no choice: baseball has its own time, like the seasons.  It arrives, whether we are ready for it or not.  We will soon be wondering about lineups, starting pitchers, Manny, the damned Red Sox and lots more.

They should add a line to every player’s baseball card saying whether or not he took steroids.  They should have Bruce Springsteen play after one game in every ballpark in America.  And they should bring back Lee Elia.  Time to play ball.

MP3: “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” by the Hold Steady

MP3: “Who’s On First?” by Abbott & Costello

MP3: “Catfish” by Kinky Friedman

MP3: “Yankee Stadium” by Nils Lofgren

MP3: “Narragansett Beer” by Curt Gowdy

MP3: “Past Time” by the Baseball Project

MP3: “Go, Cubs, Go!” by Steve Goodman

MP3: “Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run” by Milo Hamilton

MP3: “Baseball, Baseball” by Jane Morgan

MP3: “Baseball Bat” by Courtney Love

MP3: “Real Men of Genius: Mr. Designated Hitter” Bud Light commercial

MP3: “Centerfield” (live) by John Fogerty w/Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Clarence Clemons

MP3: “Get The F***ing Job Done” by Lee Elia

YouTube: “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” by Steve Goodman (Thanks Ken Shane, for the suggestion!)

SXSW Report: Austin Crazy Time

Posted in SXSW with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2009 by 30daysout


The South by Southwest music conference is a big event every year in Austin that masquerades as an important opportunity for music industry types to get together, discuss their business and get exposed to a few new acts.  What it really is – and it shall hereafter be referred to as SXSW – is a huge-ass party with more than a thousand music acts playing nearly continuously for about four days.  Big Fun.

Over the years we’ve covered this event for various news media outlets, but we stopped doing that about 10 years ago.  Now we just go for the free, unofficial “side” events (also known as day parties) that are way more fun than the official SXSW-sponsored events.  Plus they almost always have free beer.  If you’re lucky (or get there really early) you might get a cup or two.


The Gaslight Anthem, 2008

So we’re going over to Austin next week.  My advice has always been to make a plan, pick a few must-see acts and just “go with the flow.”  Last year we parked the car and heard a band playing.  Just a few steps, and we’re watching the Gaslight Anthem.  Take a look at the crowd in the photo … you wouldn’t see that for this band today. 

And that’s really why you go to SXSW, to discover new acts that you really like, and who might sooner or later (or never) become big stars.  Oh sure, we had a blast when the Stooges played in 2007 and when Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mick Jones of the Clash returned last year with Carbon Silicon – and this year the big rumor is a possible appearance by Metallica – but that sort of stuff is actually a sideshow.

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Review: “War Child Presents: Heroes”

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2009 by 30daysout


This cool little compilation has, at its heart, a pretty interesting idea: take a handful of legendary singers/bands and ask them to identify a current artist to perform cover versions of their songs.  The result is War Child Presents: Heroes, a 16-track disc that aims to benefit children affected by war.  Although the album is a bit uneven, it rocks in its best parts.  So Beck’s garage-rock dismantling of Bob Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat,” the Kooks’ faithful rendering of “Victoria” by the Kinks, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs channeling the Ramones in “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” are successful because each of these artists understand the context (and the era) that fuels these classics. 

When the performer imposes too much of his or her personality on a song, the result is less satisfying: Rufus Wainwright turns a medley from the Beach Boys’ Smile into a long whine, and Duffy’s too-sultry reading of “Live And Let Die” drains all the excitement out of the song.  And a few choices couldn’t be more right: Bruce Springsteen is dead-on with his choice of The Hold Steady to do “Atlantic City” and TV On The Radio is a perfect fit for David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by this album – try it and you will be too.

MP3: “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” by Beck

Stream songs from War Child Presents: Heroes at this MySpace page

Summer, Final Edition 2008

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2008 by 30daysout

Summer’s fading away – so here’s a grab bag of summer, sunshine, beach and just cool songs, some new and some old.  Enjoy!  (Thanks to L.A. correspondent Randy Fuller for some of the songs and mashups you find here.)

MP3: “Summer, Highland Falls” (live) by Billy Joel

MP3: “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady

MP3: “Summer Of Pain” by Witch Hats

MP3: “Special Bong Olympics” by Barking Spiders

MP3: “The Inconvenience Of Truth” by Carbon/Silicon

MP3: “Lost Coastlines” by Okkervil River

MP3: “Long Summer Days” by the Moody Blues

MP3: “Sunshine Lies” by Matthew Sweet

MP3: “Sun Is Shining/Sunshine Superman” by MaxwellJump

MP3: “Claire De Lune” by the Tomorrow Men

MP3: “Czar Of The Surf Guitar” by the Illuminoids

MP3: “The Boys Of Summer” by the Ataris

MP3: “Ain’t No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue” (live) by Isaac Hayes

Bonus video: “Help Me, Rhonda” by Al Jardine, Steve Miller and Flea

Review: “Stay Positive,” The Hold Steady

Posted in Review with tags , on July 22, 2008 by 30daysout

Written by contributing reviewer Jeff Balke … check out his blog here

Referencing Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” in the first line of The Hold Steady’s new CD Stay Positive is likely a clue from the band that, while they may appreciate and even resemble the inevitable comparisons to Bruce Springsteen and other big arena rockers, they would probably be happier if we dug a little deeper and realized they owe their existence as much to hard core and underground pop as they do to the Boss or Elvis Costello.

Like their breakthrough album Boys and Girls in America, the Hold Steady continue to cement their place as the best bar band in America with big, loud guitars and the almost rambling vocals of frontman Craig Finn.  Finn’s lyrics, like the music, are direct, without pretense and only a bit more cryptic than previous efforts.  References to his hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul continue as do the honest depictions of those around the singer.  Finn is one of the finest storytellers working in music today, spinning complicated tales of simple people making them seem larger than life, while reminding us all the while that they are just like us:

Second dates and lipstick tissues
New York is pretty heavy
Girl, I hope it doesn’t crush you

Magazines and daddy issues
I know you’re pretty pissed
I hope you’ll still let me kiss you

Stay Positive pulls no punches.  While it may have many of the signature elements of previous HS releases, the guitars are heavier and the production is thick and layered with elements of another Minnesota band, the Replacements, echoing throughout, particularly on “Slapped Actress.”  Despite the lean towards heavier guitars, HS does not stray too far from what they do best even with the dark, religious overtones of “Both Crosses.”  If you have any doubts, dial up the title track to hear the classic full-bodied B3 backing up eight-note grinding guitars, near-spoken-word vocals and chorus gang chants.

Unlike Boys and Girls in America, this is a more complete effort with very few dead spots tightly packed into 11 tracks and less than 45 minutes worth of music.  While Finn and the band may owe a lot to the big name artists to whom they have been so readily compared, Stay Positive helps to remind the listener that there is an awful lot more going on with The Hold Steady and, no doubt, they would be thrilled we noticed.

MP3: “Sequestered In Memphis”

MP3: “Stay Positive”

The Hold Steady official website