Friday, September 2, 2011

The Hold Steady - Donkeys -- 9:30 Club - Sep 1 2011

The Donkeys - This is a sold-out show tonight, so there are people filing in during the set slowly filling it to capacity while listening to this opening four-piece. The Donkeys are from the left coast and play pretty original music that sometimes heads in the California direction. But for starters, they throw a curveball by having a sitar played with a guitar, drums and keyboards. They then go two guitar thereafter with the keyboardist handling the low end. They have a very poppy sound with roots in the garage scene something akin to the Choir with a little less of the choral vocal style. There was a song that sounded very much like "96 Tears" and even a bluesy ballad. It almost got too varied after a bit, but they still kept a garage pop feeling much of the time. The crowd seemed respectful maybe a bit appreciative, but I think a tightening of the sound and approach may be needed to bring a lot of these people back.

The Hold Steady - I confess yet again that this is another big name band that I had not listened to beyond a song here and there. I was quite pleased with their sound as they brought more of the power to the pop as opposed to the opening band. Two or three guitars are rocking at all times atop a rhythm section whose lack of flourish but classic power easily lives up to the band's name. The crowd is singing along to the hits with no prompting, so clearly things were working for the band. And they earned it with plenty of energy and some songs that really pulled me in. Others seemed like rehashed old rock'n'roll moves, but the set kept pace alright. The vocal style was what I found really interesting with a story telling style that reminded me of Springsteen, Costello, and even Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy). I think that sets them above and lifts them above the many bands that could play this kind of music. Although this band really did lock in and is quite a bit more accomplished than the many bands that may play good rock'n'roll music like this. I have nothing to compare to, but I would guess this band delivers a pretty excellent show every night. I am always pleased to see deserving bands succeed in obtaining large audiences. I will add the Hold Steady to that list.

Quote of the Night: From the opening band... "This is the best DC show we have ever had!"
Well, a show at the 9:30 in front of 1,200 people probably does get you a bit more excited than your last show at the DC9, Black Cat backstage or wherever it was.

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