Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Hold Steady - Ottobar - B'more

Last night the Rockists (+5) braved the cold and crowds to see The Hold Steady in our neighbor to the north(east). Time to triple-team this bitch!

Rob: Let me first say that I hate crowded bars/shows. The show was sold out, and quite, at that. Also let me say that I don't enjoy seeing the same show twice. THS aren't known for mixing it up at shows. In fact, I think it would be safe to say they have opened up with "Stuck Between Stations" at every show since the end of summer '06. When my fellow Rockists and I saw THS in October at the same venue, it was an amazing show. The bar was half full and it was the night before Boys and Girls in America was released. It was probably one of the best shows I had seen in 2006.

Last night was the same exact show, except the venue was packed (it was hard to even get my hands up to clap) and it wasn't the usual crowd I was used to being around at the previous THS shows. F-ing pseudo teenie-boppers. But I did enjoy myself. For the first time, I liked their old songs ("The Swish," "Killer Parties") better than the stuff off of Boys and Girls and it was great to hear them include them into the show towards the beginning. One other thing, if you end up making the trek up to Ottobar, be sure you visit the upstairs bar. It's quite chill (although much more smokey than downstairs) and last night it was 2 for 1 drinks. Bonus.

Let's hear from the Gs.

GH: This is was Hold Steady show #6 for me, and the first where I've doubled up on either a venue or a city. Ottobar is still great -- it sounds good, the drinks are reasonable, and the upstairs is pretty sweet. We caught Tad Kubler (lead guitar), Bobby Drake (drums), and Galen Polivka (bass) shooting some pool beforehand. That was sweet. They asked if the Rockist Society would be interested in exclusively putting out their next album. Just kidding.

As for the actual concert -- good but not great. They always put on a consistent performance, but this one lacked a cutting edge or just a touch of magic -- err, a funny bit of chemistry? -- that made our last trip to the Ottobar so great. Rob's right: this set is starting to sound a little too familiar, and, for a band that tours as much as they do, you'd think they'd want to change it up too. "Stuck Between Stations" is still great, and we all know I love "You Can Make Him Like You", ditto "Southtown Girls". And I bet "Guys Go For Looks, Girls Go For Status" from the encore (the b-side on the Chips Ahoy! 7") sounds good on record, but it was a little flat in concert. Whoa, look at me -- complaining about the greatest band in the history of all-time. Just a little journalistic integrity, folks.

Final verdict: if you haven't seen them yet, you really ought to. Even an off night has the power to convert the skeptics.

G.L. First, some comments on the venue: I really like the Ottobar, this was my second time there and I'll welcome any opportunity to head back. For some reason it reminds me of the Black Cat, though it's better in almost every way - the sound is great, drinks are cheap, and the staff are fairly pleasant. Oh yeah, the upstairs bar had two for one drinks. Charm City? More like Crunk City!

But on to the show. I guess I was slightly disappointed by the setlist - it was a pretty Boys and Girls heavy show, which in itself isn't that bad, but they played everything we heard last time. They did end with "Killer Parties" much to my and GH's delight, though i was hoping for a few more "deep cuts", namely "Sweet Payne". That being said, they were incredibly animated (albeit slightly less drunk, or at least less visibly so) and it should be noted that at one point bassist Galen Polivka took out his wallet and started throwing dollar bills into the crowd. Talk about getting your money's worth...

This show was a wake up call for me in that I realized The Hold Steady are, like, kinda popular. Ottobar was sold out and I mean, it was really sold out - like I think I got to third base with the person behind me. As GH and I discussed on the ride home, this, of course, is fine...actually it makes us here at The RS extremely happy, but it's still a weird sensation to see one of your favorite bands go from relatively unkown to playing on Letterman and selling out shows. I won't stop loving them by any means, but is it time to find a new favorite band? Who knows. Maybe it's just the rockist in me.


Martin said...

I'm no rockist, so I feel the need to comment. Since it was my first time seeing them, I was pretty blown away. They're energetic and charismatic, and obviously enjoy what they're doing. I can see the set getting somewhat old after a few times, though.

As for their popularity, well, consider this -- they sold out Otto Bar. While that may seem bad for a HS purist, it says something good about the band. They could be playing larger venues by now, but they choose not to. Something tells me that the 9:30 Club would happily have them, not to mention attract a much larger audience than Otto Bar or Black Cat could. But they opted to go back to Otto Bar, damn the fact that they could make more money elsewhere. That's a plus for the band; an indication of their dedication to their fans. I'm guessing a sold-out show at Otto Bar is better than one at 9:30, right?

Anyhow, I thought it was a good time, even though I felt prissy being bothered by the cigarette smoke.

G.H. said...

Agreed. Honestly, we've been trying to spread the gospel of the Hold Steady for God knows how long now, and it is apparently no longer falling on deaf ears. It says something about them as a live act that we're acting slightly disappointed while you (and a few others I've talked to) came away very impressed. In my Rockist dreams, there are two stages on either side of a huge concert hall, and the Hold Steady and the Drive By Truckers alternate songs all night long.

As far as the 9:30, I think it's time for them to make the jump. They're ready for it, and I think they're big enough to carry a bigger room like that.