Earlier this month, I went out to Brooklyn to see three nights of The Hold Steady’s four-night run celebrating the tenth anniversary of their album Boys and Girls in America—their best-known album. Today I updated my Google document in which I track shows dating back to around 2008 (it is a very imprecise list, especially for pre-2013 or so), and observe that the band is tied with Quiet Company for most shows in that period — 14 total.
I am, more or less precisely, The Hold Steady’s core demographic. I’m 45 (same age as Craig), I grew up in the St. Paul suburbs (he grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs), I grew up listening to bands like the Replacements and the Suburbs and Arcwelder and so on. And looking around the venue, there sure were a lot of folks like me—and a lot of guys (first show in ages where the men’s room line was much longer than the women’s). The shows were (per usual) great, and I got to see friends (old and new!).
My first rock show in a club was The Suburbs at First Avenue circa 1987, the first of a number of “farewell” shows (that “farewell” thing never stuck; I in fact saw them this last summer at Taste of Minnesota). Ella’s first rock show in a club was The Hold Steady at the Iron Horse in 2012, just before our move here.
For both of us, those introductions to club shows are almost not fair. I’d put late ’80s shows from The Suburbs and any era Hold Steady show in my top ten live acts—maybe top three or four, honestly. (This history with the ‘Burbs and other Twin Cities bands is part of why I am so utterly delighted to have a New Standards song on Let All The Children Boogie, incidentally.)
She’s gotten to see some amazing acts since then, too, including THS one or two more times, Quiet Company a ton, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, TMBG many times, Matt & Kim, and countless acts at ACL, Fun Fun Fun, and Sound on Sound Fest. We went and saw Hamilton in January, which, while not technically a concert, was similarly transporting. She’s doing dishes now, listening to Thao cranked up. I’m guessing Lizzo will be next on the playlist.
I think it’s safe to say she loves music and specifically live music—that photo to the left is from Quiet Company’s run at Holy Mountain (RIP), and watching her be transported was a lovely moment. As I remember saying at the time, there are no doubt more important parenting goals than having kids who like to go see great music performed well, but I’m still glad to have achieved it.
Anyway. She’s going to go off to college next year.
This is not a surprising fact; she’s that age and she’s always had college in her plans. She’ll end up somewhere great (hopefully with a good college radio station!) and she’ll do well, I’m confident.
I sure hope she also keeps seeing great live music and finding new great bands. (I keep looking at the venues in the places she’s considering, hoping they’ve got a good talent buyer.) And I hope she goes and sees a band that becomes for her what The Hold Steady and The Suburbs and Quiet Company and Mates of State and Fishbone and The Thermals and Michael Franti and Sharon Jones and so many more bands have been for me.
We’ve been doing this radio show thing for kids and families for over eleven years now (and have no plans to stop any time soon). Lots of our early listeners are in the same situation we are, or will be soon.
My hope is that at least for some of your kids, the show has been an introduction not just to great music for kids, but as the first step for your kids finding music that moves and engages them the way these bands have done for me. Get out to the shows with your kids, even as they get older; you might have to take a nap before hand (Uncle Rock has a whole song about that), but it’ll be worth it. I’ll be out at the Against Me! show with Ella at the Mohawk in a few months and hopefully a lot more before she heads on the road.
At almost every Hold Steady show, Craig Finn declares, “There is so much joy in what we do up here,” and it’s palpably true. That joy comes from every person in the venue, and it is shared with every person in the venue. Help your kids find the band who brings the joy for them like that. Maybe it’s a band you like, maybe it isn’t; be excited about it either way.
(Also: Buy music. Buy merch. Tip well. Sing along, even if you don’t sing. Support the bands.)
There’s gonna come a time when the true scene leaders
Forget where they differ and get big picture
‘Cause the kids at the shows, they’ll have kids of their own
The sing-along songs will be our scriptures
–The Hold Steady, Stay Positive