Crystal Ballroom, Portland
Friday, August 20th, 2010
Warning: This is a concept review based on a concept album, Separation Sunday. Most of this didn't actually happen, and you probably won't get it.
Standing around waiting for the Hold Steady to start, I struck up a conversation with a chick named Holly, who had a cross around her neck leading to three open buttons. After discussing the Ramones and Screeching Weasel at length, she joked about how I should remember never to trust her. When she started talking about Jesus, the conversation turned into a bore, but it seemed like a simple way to score, so I smiled and nodded agreeably. Then I excused myself to grab a beer, and lost sight of her.
The Crystal Ballroom was at half capacity on this night. When this happens, it means one can aimlessly wander without intruding on anyone's personal space or view. Me being a bit taller than the average folk, made sure I had a lot of room in front of me, just in case I was blocking someone's view. They can always step in front of me if they can't see, you know, the usual. Then a tall dude with his girl approached from my left, acknowledged me with a nod and smile, then proceeded to stand directly in front of me obstructing my view. If you are going to do this, don't acknowledge me? Then I forget you exist and move. Not this time, you sir, are an asshole.
After moving away from said prick, I found a better spot to stand. I nodded and smiled to some dude wearing sweatpants who tapped me on the shoulder a couple minutes later. Apparently I was blocking his view or something. Oh really, it's a fucking concert dude.
He introduced himself as Charlamange and his bald friend as Gideon. He kept trying to talk me into playing "paper, scissors, rock" for $5 a pop, which was confusing. I guess I'm not much of a gambler. Within minutes, Holly from earlier arrives. She referred to Charlamange as Charlie, and gave him a big hug, so I guess they know each other. The show was about to start, and I had to take a leak, so Holly offered to hold my beer.
Upon return, the Hold Steady started the show with "The Sweet Part Of The City." Being surrounded by bars and restaurants, it was a very fitting opener. I then pounded my beer, and the show immediately became really crazy. Craig Finn, known for his crazy leg movements, started doing a rendition of Karate Kid mixed with Robert Hays Saturday Night Fever spoof from Airplane. He then floated above the crowd, all the while kicking his legs in typical awkward fashion. Then he started shooting icy lasers out of his feet, turning concertgoers into Hans Solo blocks of ice. The guitar player shot lightning bolts through the crowd each time he lifted his guitar, and shook the venue when hitting the whammy bar. The crowd was going nuts. There were people touching people they didn't even know.
Finn immediately morphed into the larger than life stage presence he is, all 7'6 of him, looking like a taller version of Drago from Rocky IV. Peering around the venue, I noticed great white sharks and killer whales flying around with cigarettes where their eyes were supposed to be, exiting from the trunks of big black cars. What the fuck is going on, and where is Holly?
I was seeing doubles for three straight songs when Holly reappeared. She was half naked and three quarters wasted, so I could easily see the religious scripture tattoos on her neck and lower back. She was a sexy mess, but looked strung out and experienced, so I was a bit curious. As she whispered religious passages in my ear, I could see Finn, still floating above the crowd, surrounded by elevating cattle and creepy things. Holly kept reminding herself out loud not to fall in love with me as she kissed my neck. At that point, "Floating Finn" approached me, nodded and smiled, then hovered right in front of me with his back turned so I couldn't see the stage. What the fuck Craig?
I briefly dislodged myself from Holly's grasp to get a better view of the flying sharks and whales when I stumbled upon Gideon smoking out of a pop can made from a Pringles can. He told me Holly was contagious, and that he rallied her in Vegas. I looked to the left and Charlemagne was throwing rocks and scissors at frozen audience members with a wad of cash in his off hand. Looking back toward the stage, the drummer, wearing a bright purple cloak, waived his magic totem pole and filled up the other half of the venue with visions of skaters and soccer players.
At this point, the encore began with a song I'd never heard, but I sure liked the metaphor. After two songs, the show was over and the lights came on. I was waiting for my ride, then got jumped from behind by Holly who had a string wrapped around her finger, and a fist full of Adderall.
Fast forward ten minutes, the skaters, frozen people, and soccer players disappear, as did Holly, leaving me with my thoughts about how the band was pretty tight, and how much fun Massive Nights is live. I'm pretty sure I was pumping my fist hard for that one, while dancing with a toothless giraffe.
I'm not sure how Holly got my number, but she's been calling me again. At this point I should say Holly is a hoodrat, but I'm guessing you probably know that.
1. The Sweet Part of the City
2. Soft in the Center
3. Barfruit Blues
4. Constructive Summer (blending into...)
5. Hot Soft Light
6. Hurricane Jay
7. The Swish
8. Rock Problems
10. Cattle & The Creeping Things
11. Sequestered in Memphis
12. We Can Get Together
13. You Can Make Him Like You
14. Hornets! Hornets
15. The Weekenders
16. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
17. Girls Like Status
18. Chips Ahoy!
19. Massive Nights (blending into...)
20. A Slight Discomfort
21. (the end of ) Positive Jams (blending into...)
22. Stuck Between Stations
23. Southtown Girls
Citation: Craig Finn's lyrics, mostly from Separation Sunday.