The heat is nothing new here in coastal, sunny Charleston. But every band that has never come to the edge of South Carolina is always stunned by it's presence. "I think we're halfway through the hottest show we've ever played," singer/guitarist Craig Finn. But that didn't stop Finn and company from taking us all to rock church for a sweaty, fist-pumping service at The Pour House.
But before The Hold Steady ambled out, the crowd got their warm-up from Philadelphia's The Loved Ones. "Let's all pretend, just pretend, that we don't have to go to work tomorrow," Dave Hause pleaded with the crowd. They finally won everybody over by the time their set ended, but it took some effort. Opening for The Hold Steady is not easy feat, I'm sure. But the quintet (joined by Hause's sister Missy on keyboards) finally broke through with their Less Than Jake-meets-Against Me! brand of punk. (The group is currently signed to Fat Wreck Chords.) By the time they were joined onstage by Tad Kubler and Franz Nicolay (who wins a dual award for "Best Rock Mustache" and "Most Unlikely Member of a Rock Band") for their closer, it was too much for folks to handle: The Hold Steady were mere feet away.
Honest to God, I could have left after the first four songs: "Constructive Summer," "Chips Ahoy!," "Sequestered In Memphis," and "You Can Make Him Like You." I defy you to tell me that's not rock's biggest wet dream. But I stuck around for most of the new album (including my personal favorite, "Slapped Actress" the closer before the encore) and some back-catalog numbers (never heard "Milkcrate Mosh," and it seemed a little too literary for the party crowd).
Finn looks like a manic preacher who genuinely enjoys his job; converting all the non-believers to his own brand of positivity. And while there's only so many songs about hoodrats, drugs, hardcore sing-alongs, and bars, Finn sells it like this is the only life there is. And as I left the club last night, sweat-drenched and dizzy, I thought that The Hold Steady might just be the only rock band left on the scene worth talking about. And I'm glad that I'll go to my grave believing in what they have to offer.