30 Coachella Bands in 30 Days
127 Bands, 5 Stages, 3 Days and 1 Mean Sunburn.
"Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - April 17-19th, 2009 or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Find 30 Reasons To Love a Weekend in the Desert."
-By Scott Butterworth
Day #3 - Artist #3 - The Hold Steady:
I hate to start off with what I'm about to do, because I think the world of rock and roll journalism has no shortage of the cliche, metaphor-based music review, but it jumped out at me. I couldn't help it. You know, the kind of description like: "(insert new awesome band)'s album sounds like the aftermath of a night out on the town, when the band is using the crosswalk at Abbey Road after leaving the pub, and is run down by a bus driven by Pink Floyd."
Well, I'm going to do it anyways. When I first heard "Stay Positive," the title track off The Holdy Steady's 2008 album, I sensed something unique, yet so familiar, from the Brooklyn-based (by way of Minneapolis) band. The formula instantly popped into my head. Ready for this? I promise it's the only cheesy metaphor I'll be using. If Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were constestants on the improv sketch show Whose Line is it Anyway and were told to sing a song in the style of the Dead Kennedys, ala Wanye Brady, we would get "Stay Positive."
So now we're going to put this formula into practice. Below we have videos of the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia," Bruce Springsteen performing "The Rising" at President Obama's Inauguration and The Hold Steady's "Stay Positive" and "The Swish."
Craig Finn's voice has the vocal delivery and heart inspired by the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra. Even if you're just looking for a song to bob your head to, Finn's voice cuts through the music and leaves you no choice but to pay attention and listen to his narative storytelling. Here's some classic Dead Kennedys to wake you up in the morning. (When the guitar kicks in with its signature wail, it damn near brings me to tears.):
Several times while listening to The Hold Steady, I had to check my iTunes to see if it accidentally switched to Bruce Springsteen. They convey that earthy, blue-collar emotion that comes closer to Springsteen than anything I've heard in awhile. This video doesn't actually include the E Street Band but I thought it was a memorable performance that perfectly exemplifies the spirit of Bruce and the E Street-ers:
The Hold Steady - "Stay Positve" from Stay Positive (2008):
The Hold Steady - "The Swish" from their debut album Almost Killed Me (2004):
The Hold Steady made their most notable splash in the music pond with 2006's breakout album, Boys and Girls in America, which preceded 2008’s Stay Positive, and was inspired by Jack Kerouac’s classic coming-of-age beat novel, On the Road. Finn first read the book at age 16, but didn’t fully appreciate it until rereading at age 32 (2003), and decided to base an album off a line by main character Sal Paradise, paraphrased, "Boys and girls of America have such a sad time together." On the Road is an all-time favorite of mine and I myself read Kerouac’s classic novel in mid-2006, coincidently during the exact time Boys and Girls in America was released. Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard the album until this past year. Listening to it now, Boys and Girls in America sounds like it was wrung straight from the pages of On the Road after the book was left sitting out in a rainstorm. If Sal Paradise had an iPod during his freewheeling cross country travels in 1947, Boys and Girls in America, would have surely been on “repeat." See "Stuck Between Stations" video:
From the looks of the Coachella lineup, my best estimate is to expect a midday performance on the “Main stage” or smaller “Outdoor stage” on opening day, Friday April 17, 2009. The Hold Steady were the Saturday highlight at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago last summer and they were the only band that day to get an encore, so make sure to leave work early on Friday and circle this band on your schedule. Every year at Coachella there is that sleeper band that comes out of nowhere and blows me away. In 2008, it was The National and their beautiful album The Boxer. This year, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be The Hold Steady.
(To see all the Coachella posts in this series, click here. And thank you to those that commented on previous posts. Please feel free to comment on what you like, don't like, or give any other suggestions.)