Last night I got back to Baltimore just in time to catch the free Hold Steady show at the Recher Theatre in Towson. If you didn't know before, you certainly would have realized immediately that the event was sponsored by Jack Daniel's. Outside the Recher, they laid out a red carpet and had velvet ropes lining the entrance way. The girls taking tickets were all donning Jack Daniel's hats and shirts, and there was even a raffle for a guitar emblazed with the famous whiskey's logo. And obviously the drink menu was all Jack, all the time (whiskey and ginger ale, lemonade, and Coke drinks were being served).
Tennessee transplants J-Roddy Walston and The Business started the show off and they definitely set the tone. Their raucous southern rock was amplified by their headbanging, high-energy stage presence. J-Roddy Walston turbulently pounded on his piano and his raspy voice dished out lyrics like, "I got this gun, and girl it don't miss." They closed with the crazy infectious "I Used to Did," leaving the crowd incredibly amped for The Hold Steady.
This was the first time I've ever seen The Hold Steady, but I've always liked their music. They're like the happy-go-lucky love child of Bruce Springsteen and Social Distortion. And their stage show did not disappoint. You could tell that they all were genuinely having a blast up there and feeding off the crowd's energy. Frontman Craig Finn was swaying all around, dragging the mic stand with him, and pointedly rattling off lyrics to the faces of his fans. On keys, Franz Nicolay (who almost had an Edgar Allan Poe look to him) never let up, encouraging hand claps from the audience and even breaking out an accordion for a few songs. The highlights for me were "Constructive Summer," "Chips Ahoy," "Sequestered in Memphis," "Hot Soft Light," and "Party Pit" (which caused the whiskey-filled crowd to repeat "Gonna walk around and drink some more, gonna walk around and drink").
All in all, the show and atmosphere were very high-energy and positive. It was definitely the most crowded (and diverse) I've seen Recher on a Sunday in, oh, ever. I guess in this economy, a free show (especially with this lineup) is just too good to pass up.