The Hold Steady

Episode 387: In Conversation with Seán Barna...again

Episode 387: In Conversation with Seán Barna...again

In 2017, a longtime friend of the podcast Seán Barna was living in New York City and wrestling with some serious life questions. How could he survive as an artist? Did he even WANT to make music anymore? Moreover, did he have anything left to say? In 2018 he found some of those answers through a fateful friendship and a handful of spontaneous studio sessions from which his latest EP, Cissy, was born.

We’re sitting down with Barna to talk about the creation of Cissy, the power of drag queens, struggling artists, and song, and winding down our time in the basement with our friend who was there at the beginning.

Episode 59: Franz Nicolay

Episode 59: Franz Nicolay

In this episode, Kevin sits down with Franz Nicolay, revered multi-instrumentalist / composer / performer who you might know from bands like the World/Inferno Friendship Society, The Hold Steady, Guignol, Anti Social Music and much, much more. Hard at work on his next solo record Nicolay talks a little about the past, a little about life as a solo artist, and even a little about singing like Meatloaf. Tune in to this one kids, because when you’re talking Franz Nicolay, well that’s about as good as it gets!

Episode 47: The Hold Steady / Future Islands

Episode 47: The Hold Steady / Future Islands

In our latest episode the curmudgeon is STRONG with the gang as Kevin and Paul face off over the latest from ultimate-bar-band rawkers The Hold Steady, and Adam lets us all know how he REALY feels about Future Islands and their latest super-sweet-dance-move (or maybe not so) powered record, SINGLES. PLUS! Madelyn weighs in on this year’s SXSW and gives her recommendations for the bands you must see in 2014! 

LIVE: The Hold Steady @ U Street Music Hall - 10/17/12

“Our psalms are sing-a-long songs…” – The Hold Steady

The members of The Hold Steady wear their influences on their sleeves.  They love The Replacements and Springsteen; name check Meatloaf, Billy Joel and Robbie Robertson; and un-ironically reference “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “Been Caught Stealing” in the same lyric.  They worship at the church of St. Joe Strummer.  So, like their muses, of course their shows consist of shout-along rockers and hook laden anthems played with unmatched enthusiasm.  As a result, there are few places more exhilarating than a Hold Steady show…and that goes double when they play a small venue like U Street Music Hall.

For the uninitiated, U Street Music Hall is a former pool hall that was converted to a music venue in 2010 and typically plays host to DJ sets, dance parties, and smaller touring acts.  In fact the club is owned and operated by DJs who ensure that the acoustics of their intimate performance space are second to none.  Suffice to say, it’s the smallest venue The Hold Steady have played in the DC-area in years and they took full advantage of the opportunity. 

REVIEW: Craig Finn - Clear Heart, Full Eyes

“It’s hard to suck with Jesus in your band” - Craig Finn, from the song "My Friend Jesus"

While truer words may never have been spoken, it’s a shame that Hold Steady singer Craig Finn didn’t seek out a little more divine inspiration when making his debut solo record, Clear Eyes Full Heart.

While hardcore Hold Steady fans are sure to find something to love, the truth of the matter is that Clear Eyes, Full Heart comes off as a half-assed attempt at a meaningful record, failing to engage, or really ever connect, on any level with the listener. In recent interviews Finn has said that when it came time to make this record [he] packed up, headed to Austin and entered the studio with a group of musicians that he had never worked with (or even met) prior to the session. It shows.

"Damn right I'll rise again": The Hold Steady @ The 9:30 Club - 9/1/11

It’s been said that The Hold Steady are the greatest damn bar band in all of the land, but these days that assessment may not of the glowing connotation that whoever said that once meant it to have. Somewhere in the middle of planning for the band’s last album Heaven is Whenever, long time keyboardist Franz Nicolay came to the conclusion that his work with the band was done and just like that, he was out of the band.  The resulting record was spotty at best and at worst seemed disconnected from everything that had made The Hold Steady so great to begin with.

Before, it had always seemed as if singer Craig Finn was a major player in his tales of druggy, reckless youth gone wild.  After Nicolay’s departure the focus shifted less on the band and directly onto Finn, who whatever reason seemed to be outside of his stories now. The shift in narrative focus was even made more jarring by the absence of Nicolay’s joyful keyboards in favor of more traditional arrangements. The point is, is that it just wasn’t the same.