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all words: Andy Hess
all photos: Joel Didriksen from last time

The Hold Steady are the most loved and unloved band in America (and on BYT).

It’s easy to understand why.

Craig Finn raps more than he sings. The band is Thin LIzzy-meets-Springsteen for hipster scum. And what’s with that dapper as fuck dude with an awesome moustache? Is there even a casual fan of the band?

The answers to those questions don’t really matter, because they’re still the best live act touring right now.

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The Hold Steady greeted an almost-full 9:30 Club at their early show with a smile, a raised beer and 23-song set spanning all four of the band’s albums. You could tell you’re in for a treat when Finn opened the show with those a cappella lyrics to Separation Sunday’s “Hornets! Hornets!”. What followed was an hour and half long set involving singing, dancing, crowd-surfing and beer-sloshing.

Finn is a maniac on stage. He’s constantly doing something with his hands and almost losing his glasses. He’s running around on stage, involving the crowd in unified clapping. He does this awkward dance move that’s too hard to describe in print. He’s having the time of his life. And you can tell. I’ve never seen a band so excited to be playing music for their audience. It’s nice to be noticed at a rock show and The Hold Steady make sure you’re having the time of your life regardless of how you feel about them.

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Iran, on the other hand, was more lackluster than I was hoping. Having returned to DC for the second time in a month and some change I was really looking forward to catching them this time. They didn’t have Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio with them (which I was expecting), but Iran managed to make it worth watching at times. Unfortunately for them, the audience that was there was to see The Hold Steady. There was maybe one hundred people in the building when they went on stage.

The band seemed to win them over with numbers from their most recent album Dissolver. “Evil Summer” packed more of a punch than it did on the record and the sincerity in “Buddy” was more even more heartfelt with the anecdote about singer Aites’ friends. “I Already Know You’re Wrong” was the definite winner of their set with its roaring, over-driven guitars and a steady pounding on the drums. The venue hurt the band more than it helped. Iran would be great at The Black Cat or DC 9, but their paranoia fueled blend of indie rock turned them mediocre at best in the 9:30 Club.

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