Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday at the McCarren Park Pool: The Hold Steady

The boys are getting younger
And the bands are getting louder
And the new girls are coming up

We've just gotten back from the first McCarren Park Pool JellyNYC Sunday pool party of the season -- or at least from the last part of it. We'd attempted to get to the 2 p.m. opening, and the pool's just a few blocks up Lorimer Street from Dumbo Books HQ here in Williamsburg, but we got there on the dot and the pool hadn't opened and there was a long-ass line stretching up Lorimer to Driggs and halfway to Manhattan Avenue.

Dumbo Books don't wait on lines that long, especially when the sky's darkening fast and Zeus is starting to make himself known audibly, so we got on a B43 bus going down Graham Avenue to Metropolitan and got our aerobic workout for the week just dodging the afternoon deluge.

We headed back after yet another thunderstorm started to clear up around 5:45 p.m. and were approaching Richardson Street when we heard the announcement: "The Hold Steady!"

Since we'd enjoyed the group at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park last August (our brief take on that show was posted on our MySpace blog last year,) we were grateful we go there for their whole show although sorry we missed the earlier bands.

This is going to be the last year of the McCarren pool concerts, as the city is turning it back into a real-live pool. However, as we walked in, it was still drizzling and we noticed the southwest corner of the pool had a decent start since it was filled with about 2 inches of wet from the afternoon's substantial rains.

The pool was filled with the usual crowds -- since probably a tenth of the hipsters in attendance will either post about it on their blogs (see, e.g., Eric R. Danton's review) or throw up pics on Flickr (see, e.g., Jason Bergman), we'll confine our 57yo's perspective to stuff we know about, which ain't much.

Last year we wrote, "Craig Finn has more energy and idiosyncratic moves than just about any musician I've seen lately." He still does. From his pogo-stick jumping to his hand gestures, which always suggest that he's just remembered ten things he's gotta do immediately but can't figure out which to start with, Finn is a musical dynamo, and he's got great backup from his accomplished mates Tad Kubler, Franz Nicolay, Galen Polivka and Bobby Drake.

At the gate was a notice that the event was being taped for a documentary film so we smiled a lot. We probably would have anyway.

We walked around the pool and inside it, getting as close as we could without having to become a Beltone customer tomorrow. It was the same great scene as it's been for the last two years with the same kind of crowd. (As we crossed Bayard Street on our way over, we couldn't avoid noting that across Lorimer Street on the corner of Karl Fischer Row, some non-pool-party people had set up a speaker blasting music with Spanish lyrics. Not all of Williamsburg is represented at the pool.)

Some observations, take them for what they're worth (about ten Zimbabwean dollars): More cops this year, maybe. Less body art, maybe, but more of it is faux-amateurish, like stick figures and scrawled text. More food choices for us vegetarians and vegans, thanks to Two Boots, the same folks who cater Celebrate Brooklyn; if we're not mistaken, there was another outfit supplying fast food for carnivores the last few years. We never before saw heterosexual young couples making out by stepping on each other's feet repeatedly. And was Fuze so much in evidence before today?

Also, some middle-aged easy-to-spot tourists with their foreign kids were taking pictures and talking an indecipherable non-Indo-European language. Did the McCarren pool parties get mentioned in some trendy Old World guidebook? Were they Finns thinking the Hold Steady's lead singer was a countryman?

But some pool stuff was the same in '08. The shirtless headband boys were playing dodgeball on the southside; members of the swimsuit set were taking a flying leap into the waterslide on the northside by the VIP section just south of the stage. The cerulean Bud Light drinkie plastic bracelets looked familiar, as did some audience members' ironic T-shirts (heavy on industrial companies this time out).

The Hold Steady always (at least the two times I've seen them) put on a good show. As the Boston Herald wrote yesterday:
What makes Hold Steady leader Craig Finn so fascinating is that he’s both the Boss and the geek. Watching the 36-year-old careen violently around the stage at a packed Paradise on Thursday at a free show sponsored by and a beer company was like witnessing Screech turn in a pitch-perfect imitation of Joe Strummer.

It’s nuts to see. But for Hold Steady fans, it’s becoming less and less surprising.

For the past five years, the Hold Steady has been putting the finishing touches on its cocktail of bombastic, tight “Born to Run” rock and Johnny Thunder’s sloppy “Born Too Loose” punk.

We loved every minute until the band walked offstage at 6:53 p.m.

They came back for the encore four minutes later. Eager to avoid the caravan to the L train, after two songs we headed out under the archway, avoiding the puddles, thinking we're “gonna walk around and drink some more” (iced tea, in our case).

As we walked home down Lorimer Street (plug #3), we were just ahead of an all-in-black couple, the dissatisfied female of which went on a really loud rampage about the concert and we were subjected to a tirade of
What the fuck was that for three hours...The same three fucking chords...hasn't progressed since fucking Elvis...ooh, everyone saying, I'm sooo least Morrisey's something to say, I may not agree with him, but he's got something to say...fuckit, this shit is the state of fucking rock and roll?

Us? We didn't look back.

Like the man (Mr. Finn) says, we gotta stay positive. Isn't life wonderful!

1 comment:

Matt Bell said...

The Hold Steady are always a great show! I can't wait to see them again at Pitchfork next week. It'll be my fourth time, and I'm expecting great things.