I can’t stop speaking, or writing in Craig Finn’s diction.
Seeing a band live had started to wear on me. As Finn sings during “Stay Positive”, the title track of their 2008 album: “There’s gonna come a time when the scene will seem less sunny. It will probably get druggy and the kids will seem too skinny.”
That time had come for me and a few of my friends, quite literally one day behind the A-K. For years, I suppose, I had big expectations for the music I listened to, and it always fell short, so much that I wandered into a gap of unaccounted for time in a lack of new music. Slowly, I wandered back into a passing fling here and there with a new band, or two, but nothing stuck like it had before. I had discovered The Hold Steady near the end of my time hanging around the college music scene. When “Stay Positive” dropped last year, it became one of my favorite albums, and not just because of John Cassavetes, but because it began to work its way into my brain so easily. I was at the time, where this album was taking me to new heights.
The Hold Steady rolled into town on Wednesday night, and rocked the beejezus out of the Tralf. That’s the scientific term for holding a revival of rock and roll. I honestlydidn’t think bands sounded the way you dreamed they would as you sung to them in your car, or that they could fulfill the intimacy, the charge and the expectations placed upon them from such a personal and private (and dangerous to other drivers) act.
But there they were. Every song was a sing along song, and I danced (much to the surprise of some of my coworkers, and I think to a friend of mine who shouted at me from above a stairwell as I raced a new friend down the stairs to the cool air outside; he said something I remember as: “what you did tonight made it better for everyone else”. I didn’t have a chance to ask for context), and I sang, which lots of folks were doing, but not all. And that didn’t matter, they were there with me, and I with all of them, and we were sharing, experiencing, living; whether they were aware of it or not.
I had thought it was difficult to have expectations met on a regular basis, much less exceeded, but every second in that crowd was a revelation of the power of music, and communal events. A power I had forgotten existed in art, one that could bring people together, of all ages and tastes, experiences and backgrounds to rock. Is that what they mean by a unified scene? I’d like to think so.