Prior to last night’s Hold Steady set at Summerfest’s US Cellular Connection Stage I was engulfed with nervous anticipation. It was my first time seeing The Hold Steady without the crowd pleasing party starter Franz Nicolay. It was my first time seeing The Hold Steady play material off of a new record that (so far) has the least amount of intensity and replayability. And it was my first time seeing The Hold Steady at a festival that places little more emphasis on sound quality and crowd comfort than it does on making sure that fifteen year olds aren’t smuggling in flasks of peach schnapps.
SOAP BOX:::::::I only saw two shows at Summerfest this year (Passion Pit & THS) and both were at the US Cellular Connection Stage. I just want to say that the sound at this stage is ridiculous. It’s muddy and distracting. While I am grateful that we only have to pay a meager $15 to see some of our favorite bands in our hometown, it’d be nice if someone took some time and small amount of the massive amounts $$$ this festival generates to fix the sound issues. If I came from miles away to see anyone and had to deal with a shitty sound system and BLEACHERS that hold no purpose, I’d be pretty unhappy. Anyway….
The band stormed out of the gate with “Constructive Summer” and started building a set peppered with favorites from Separation Sunday, Boys and Girls in America, and Stay Positive with well placed new songs folded in. “The Sweet Part of the City” ” The Weekenders” “Hurricane J” and “Rock Problems” translated well live, kept pace, and should be welcomed into live sets by any fan of the band.
Highlight of the night: “Sequestered in Memphis.” From where I was standing, this was the only song that the crowd around me knew all the words to. I found out that a Hold Steady show can sometimes only be as good as the crowd around you. Singing, shouting, and flailing around in unison with Craig Finn and an elated audience is truly the highlight. Hopefully some of the fans that got on board with Stay Postive and Heaven is Whenever will do some research and one day lose their voices during the “woh-oh” parts in “Massive Nights.”
Bummer: The set was devoid of Almost Killed Me. When it was 11:30 and the band was finishing Separation Sunday’s “How a Resurrection Really Feels” I was certain they would have time left for end of the nighter “Killer Parties,” but I was wrong.
Overall, it didn’t reach the epic levels of jubilation that a Hold Steady show usually does for me but it still didn’t totally disappoint. And while I missed looking on at the suited, mustachioed, and dapper looking key tapper, the Franz Nicolay-less Hold Steady still breathes life into it’s audience with the best of them.