The Hold Steady and The Drive By Truckers at Terminal 5 – November 6th, 2008
The day after the Decemberists rocked our socks, Alison and I found ourselves back at Terminal 5 for the Rock and Roll Means Well Tour that consisted of a double bill of the Hold Stead and the Drive By Truckers. We caught the first night in NYC that had the Hold Steady leading off the night (DBT would lead off the second night in town on Friday).
I have a working knowledge of the Hold Steady’s music (specifically Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday) thanks to Luke’s enthusiasm for the band (he has me to thank for his true introduction to the Boss, but Rattle My Cage is above determining who did who a greater service) but my real purpose in buying the tickets was for the Drive By Truckers (to whom I owe Emma an obligation for the introduction – and mine to the Boss – but again, Rattle My Cage doesn’t keep track of that sort of thing). Therefore, I was not prepared for how much the Hold Steady were going to rock.
They came out ready to perform from the start, and they did it as much through their music and it’s intensity as in their stage presence which I think a lot of strong performers rely on. It was strong and it was steady throughout. The overwhelmingly male crowd responded and the number of fans singing along with every word and just generally going nuts extended at least ten rows back. One particularly memorable fan in the second row–who had at least 20 years on all the other fans around him–was a particularly good gauge for each song’s high point. Whenever his enthusiasm seemed like it would overtake him, he would turn around to another fan who I don’t think he knew, they would simultaneously shout the song’s lyrics in each others faces at full volume, and then high five, and go back to watching the band.
I didn’t keep track of song titles, but I did appreciate the inclusion of “Your Little Hood Rat Friend” which I included on my Luke-inspired Eighth Note Invasion mix as well as Craig Finn’s anecdote that back in 2002 he had gone to see the new-to-him Drive By Truckers at the Bowery Ballroom and how he thought they rocked and how much fun it would be to do that. (Granted, I was at a distance, but I thought that Finn sort of resembled the New York lotto guy which was sort of an odd sensation, though not as odd as seeing Sylvio Dante back to back with Bruce Springsteen singing into the same mike on stage.)
The Drive By Truckers came on after the hour and a half first set by the Hold Steady and I just didn’t feel like they had the same level of intensity as the Hold Steady. Even after you factor in enough time for the die hards to switch places the crowd didn’t seem to react as strongly either. Patterson Hood did have a particularly great story about how his 90-something year-old great uncle from Alabama had just voted for a black man for president – followed, of course, by “The Sands of Iwo Jima” and the guitar playing all around seemed really strong. I also appreciated one of my favorites, “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” though I think it was just because I’m a fan of the song and not so much of the particular performance. I will say, however, that their last two songs were really shredding. They reached a level of intensity that almost certainly would have brought me and the crowd into their performance from the outset. I’d catch the Hold Steady anytime anywhere after this night. I might wait for serendipity or a smaller venue to bring me back together with the Drive By Truckers (or a strong argument – Emma insists it must have been a fluke).