Drive By Truckers? I feel like a full fledged sucker.

by Ian Power

Ok children.  Let’s go through a precise analyzation of what was so terrible about last night.

Two months ago: I look at the First-Avenue website and see that The Hold Steady are playing two shows.  Hooray! Hooray! Right? Right.  For some reason Drive By Truckers and Hold Steady are switched up on the schedule during the Saturday Night show so it appears that The Hold Steady is opening for Drive By Truckers, HA!  Let’s all have a good laugh at how ridiculous that would be. We all laugh, Laugh, laugh, laugh….Fast-forward to…

Saturday night 6:30 pm: I am sitting around watching random tpt programming when it occurs to me that I might as well check when the doors open for the show, Craig Finn’s in town better get all fancied up.  Oh what’s this? The doors open at 6pm Hmm, that’s strange but oh well; there must be unlisted openers on the bill.  I waste time for another hour or so figuring I’ll get there for the Drive By Truckers as long as I arrive before 9 pm.  I even decide to arrive on the early side, moseyin’ on over to First Ave at the ripe old hour of 7:45 pm.  I know what you’re all thinking 7:45 Ian? That’s much to early for a show! Well folks I’m not taking any chances.  After all this is The Hold Steady we’re talking about!

 As I stride through the doors I am affronted by two earth shatteringly horrible pieces of news at the same time:
1.) That stupid thing on the website was real and Drive by Truckers are headlining.

2.) The Hold Steady started 45 minutes ago at 7pm!

Seven O’ Clock are you serious?  Why oh why oh why oh why would any Hold Steady show have them going on at seven in the frickin’ evening???? What is the point of that?  I rush in and push to the back of a sold out crowd but am stopped mid-step as I both gasp and vomit a bit simultaneously.  It is the first time during the course of the night that I puke inside my mouth out of frustration and disgust; it will not be the last.
Now I am not an ageist, but when 30 somethin’s are ruining my Hold Steady show because they have yoga in the morning, I have a problem. Needless to say the hairlines in this crowd were even more receding than the Finn man himself!  The audience looks content, they undoubtedly all had dinner dates at 4pm before they came here and are now getting tipsy on 10 dollar beers, let me repeat that 10 DOLLAR BEERS while they shrug along to the music!  I’m sorry ten bucks for beer? Are we at the airport right now?  Am I in a Chili’s in Time Square? Is anyone else at the show disgusted by this?  No, everyone is fine with it.  Craig Finn is singing about PBR and random Twin Cities geographic locations and the venue’s selling this nostalgia back to the audience jacking up the pricetag threefold.  These Yuppies are shelling out cash like its infected with SARS and First Ave. is just lapping up the profits, selling those little logo-stamped baby outfits on the side.

That’s ok I don’t mind, free market capitalism, whatever, but when the show’s demographic is changing things so that a concert will end by 10 pm so that they don’t have to pay the babysitter double, I have a little problem with that.  This is rock and roll, or at least I wish it were.

I move past this sad state of affairs determined to have fun anyway.  Hell this is my favorite band, the most authentically good thing to come out since….I don’t know.  The Hold Steady’s been playing 45 minutes? Fine that gives me at least another 45 minutes to rock out right? Right? Wrong.  The Hold Steady play two more songs (they were very good songs don’t get me wrong.) They wave to the crowd, grinning wide and boom, done, no encore, no explanation, no apology, no nothing.  They walk off stage not even looking back, Craig Finn goes and finds Holly or whatever and that projector scene drops to reveal an early Jackie Chan film; sadly the most entertaining thing all night.  I am stunned, looking around for the Molotov cocktails, but there is nothing, people begin to shuffle around, the lights come on and an ominous voice over the loudspeaker tells everyone to tip their bartenders.  Half the crowd moves towards the bathroom (they probably all pee like 50 times a day) the other half moves towards the bar.  I vomit a little in my mouth again.

I stuck around, mostly because I was so angry that I didn’t know if I was capable of riding a bike.  At 8 something Drive By Truckers went on, I gave them an honest chance, I really did, but here’s the thing: Drive By Truckers= Mediocre at best.  I knew this going in and that’s why it was inconceivable to me that they would headline.  Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood’s voices are not good enough or bad enough to be appealing they’re in that awful in between place.  The lyrics seem hackneyed, tagged on, impressions of how southern outlaw ballads are supposed to be-composed but empty of any persisting authenticity.  That pear shaped bassist Shonna is a novelty at best and honestly the whole thing just seems a bit over produced and contrived.  It’s all so polished in its “Grittiness.” Drive By Truckers is like what would have happened if Tom Petty, John Cougar Mellencamp and Willie Nelson had made a country album ten years ago. I’m sorry that’s just what it seems like.

So, of course the audience loves it. This is the whitest most Caucasian audience in the history of mankind-of course they love this.  The women are all dancing: a ghostly awkward mix of on-beat hip sway and random arm movement.  The men are all toe tapping, holding their twenty dollars worth of beer in two hands and nodding their heads in drunken approval.  Everybody gets to pretend they are southern! But not in an un-hip or possibly racist Tim McGraw sort of way.  And then I notice that this is all some sort of perverse mating ritual, this is married life…I puke in my mouth for the third and final time of the night and push my way out.

(Sigh) Silver lining, on my way home I see a large billboard:  Morris Day and the Time are playing the casino.