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No One Wins At Violent Shows: The Hold Steady Prove A Point In Los Angeles

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The little-barroom-band-that-could, did, this week in Los Angeles.

On the eve of the release of their fifth album in six years, Brooklyn-based The Hold Steady occupied L.A. Live's rin gong of acoustic perfection, taking to the confines of the Grammy Museum's intimate, 200-person theater for a moderated interview, audience Q&A, and rare acoustic show including songs from the new record, "Heaven is Whenever" (Rough Trade/Vagrant).

Met with coyly tempered adulation and requisite nay saying from the council-of-music-blogs, the album hit stores on Tuesday (5/4/10) with the additionally weighed thud of mainstream exaltation, following a 4-star review in Rolling Stone.

Monday's preshow panel (5/3/10) conducted by MusiCares VP Scott Goldman, addressed the band's four principals, but ultimately raised more questions than it answered.

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For example, how do boys from the Midwest who claim to be heavily influenced by The Replacements, Violent Femmes and Cheap Trick grow into men who flow like a tensely wound E Street Band enrolled in ivy league English? Is it as simple as Craig Finn's vocal tone and cadence echoing Springsteen in the way that mundane details are led into something more meaningful? Or are they secretly all from New Jersey?

Also curious was the laughing, stunned, un-response given to a younger fan who asked for the band's thoughts on playing for divided audiences of "people your age" (Finn is 38) and "people...my age."

The upstairs performance space -- a finely tuned room owing its aurally pristine reputation to a force of Grammy sound engineers -- easily accomodated the band's 6-piece touring line up and provided a warm stage for their unlikely anthems and noticeably moving parts.

Embraced by an audience of academic fans and critics, the band offered hand claps, confident choruses, and offbeat beats to pretty up the wordstorm, while twinkly piano fingers and moderate melodica-use added blues and jazz shivers to the otherwise straightforward guitar and percussion setup.

Opting for a more traditional gig, the Hold Steady followed up the unique event on Wednesday (5/5/10) with another sold-out show at the El Rey.