Live Review: The Hold Steady and Iran at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 29 August 2009

By on Thursday, 3rd September 2009 at 3:00 pm

My relationship – if it can be called that – with England’s fans of Brooklyn-based band the Hold Steady is a tenuous one. Back in May, I nearly missed getting stoned on the Dot to Dot Festival Facebook page for relaying a report from BBC 6music News that the band would be appearing at the Nottingham half of the festival, on 24 May. (Turned out this was later proved false. Yikes.)

Well you know, I missed them there too, so like some of you, I had not seen this band up close and personal yet either until they were scheduled to be in town for the last weekend of August. Saturday night was a warm-up gig for the band if you will for the next day, when the band would be playing the Virgin Mobile Free Fest (yes, sponsored by that Virgin behemoth company owned by ‘your’ Richard Branson) at Merriweather Post Pavilion (yes, where the name of the latest Animal Collective album came from).

The opening act for the night was Iran, a side project of TV on the Radio‘s Kyp Malone (who, by the way, was not present for his band’s gig because that other band of his was performing clear on the other side of the country, at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival this weekend). Iran play growly, experimental rock, and I’d venture that if you like the Hold Steady, you’d probably think they’re cool too. A set highlight was “Evil Summer”, a drum-driven song Iran singer Aaron Aites introduced as a song they did not play very often but had been requested the last time they played the 9:30.

p-holdsteady12You read about bands in the media but you’re never really prepared until you are face to face with them for the first time. (Everyone’s heard about wicked cool Franz Nicolay and his crazy moustache, right?) So that said, the Hold Steady looked nothing like I imagined they would. Frontman/guitarist Craig Finn looks like a computer geek – and I say that with the utmost respect, because my own brother is an actual computer geek. Finn looks so ‘guy-next-door’ that you would never imagine that he is a rock star. And yet he is…

n-holdsteady10Sporting a baby blue electric with a Grateful Dead teddy bear sticker on it, Finn could have channeled his inner Jerry Garcia – but didn’t. Instead, he led the Hold Steady tirelessly through a strong, 22-song set that spanned the band’s catalogue, smiling broadly and bouncing up and down like a Mexican jumping bean throughout as adoring fans turned the night into a massive singalong, their fists raised high in the air in excitement. At times I felt like he was smiling right at me, which was a little unnerving – perhaps the notepad I’d furiously scribble on between songs and the camera I trained on him and his posse were a dead giveaway that I was one of those ‘music journos’. I hope he agrees with what I’ve written.

‘Stay Positive’ was an obvious favourite, the crowd happily pogo-ing whilst singing along with Finn on the infectious “we gotta stay positive / oh oh oh” chorus. The adrenaline rush of hearing this performed live from the first time, compared to only previously hearing it on 6music through computer speakers, was pure pleasure.

So to anyone out there who has a ticket to the Hold Steady’s sold-out show at the 02 Islington Academy gig on 10th September – you’re in for a treat! The band will also make appearances at County Clare, Ireland’s Cois Fharraige Festival (12 September) and Salisbury’s End of the Road Festival (13 September) before returning to America later this month.

After the jump: setlist and photos.


Iran Photos:




The Hold Steady’s Set list
Hornets! Hornets!
Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
Sequestered in Memphis
The Swish
Barfruit Blues
Our Whole Lives
Don’t Let Me Explode
Stevie Nix
You Can Make Him Like You
Separate Vacations
Lord, I’m Discouraged
Stuck Between Stations
Southtown Girls
Stay Positive
Slapped Actress
How a Resurrection Really Feels
Chips Ahoy!
Going on a Hike
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Certain Songs

The Hold Steady Photos:





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