If you’re not a Hold Steady fan, stop reading this entry right now.
I’m thirty two years old.
To date, I’ve lived in New Jersey, Hartford, Long Island, Hartford again, Jersey again, spent a fair amount of time between San Francisco and Los Angeles, two years in the Great White North and finally, the past seven years have been here in the greater Harrisburg area.
I’ve done everything from managing a bad-check collections call center to slinging Christmas Trees on a vacant lot along the river, was an ice-cream man for about forty eight hours two summers ago, hustled speakers out of the back of a white minivan for quite some time in the nineties, was a radio DJ on two different stations over the course of two years and, most recently, have been a talent buyer and concert promoter for a four hundred-person capacity rock club/music venue/brewery and, to pay the rent, I stagehand for my local chapter of the IATSE union.
And threading all of those moves and jobs together is my life. I had cancer when I was twenty. I powered through six months of chemotherapy, thirty days of radiation and five years of CT scans, bone scans, bloodwork and lost hair (Hodgkins Lymphoma). Eventually got married in Vegas, divorced in Harrisburg and discovered myself in a strange, strange land called “Central Pennsylvania” with, literally, nothing but the clothes on my back, my computer, stereo system and shared custody of a newborn baby girl we named Kaiya.
“What the hell I’ll tell my story again”
31 Flavors and I have been together for just over a year- and it’s the longest relationship I’ve been in since the divorce.
But trust me, I’ve had my heart ripped from deep inside my well guarded chest and stomped on the ground my fair share of times over the years.
And, although we try to tell ourselves that it gets easier each time, the harsh reality is that it actually gets harder and more difficult to decode the static-peppered communication waves in the pursuit of the perfect mate.
I know frustration. I know anger. I know fear. I know uncertainty. I know doubt. (They’re all good friends of mine)
But I also know hope. I know promise. I know how positive energy is infectious and invites it’s counterparts confidence, happiness, contentment, pleasure and success to the fold.
“Lord, I’m sorry to question your wisdom
But my faith has been wavering
Won’t you show me a sign,
And let me know that you’re listening?”
Kaiya starts Kindergarten in seven days.
Seven days until my little girl dives into the blurry and questionable public school system and, although I’m not a religious man, I pray that she’s fortunate enough to attend twelve years of public school with few (or no) catastrophic incidents.
She’ll learn to tell time – which, I believe, is the mile-marker that indicates the crossover from wild-eyed and bewildered with the world to the point of reference in that all of us- humans who’ve endured the reigns of the current social system within which we exist- can remember as the end of our innocence.
Time for school. Time for lunch. Time for recess. Time for homework. Time for dinner. Time for TV. Time for bed. Time for school. Time for lunch. Time to get back to work. Time to take a mandatory fifteen minute break to smoke and power up on coffee. Time to commute home. Et cetera, et cetera.
It’s certainly safe to say that, along my path thus far, I’ve discovered for myself exactly what it means to hold it steady.
I’ve discovered for myself how to stay positive.
“Man, we make our own movies.”
Last Wednesday, I drove three hundred and six miles to Norfolk, Virginia to see The Hold Steady at The Norva. Wednesday night- actually very early Thursday morning, I drove towards Virginia Beach and slept in my car…waking up with a coffee and a banana watching dolphins frolic about sixty yards offshore and then driving one hundred ninety three miles up I-95 back to DC for the sold out 9:30 club show. [And semi-related, Friday afternoon I drove the hundred and nineteen miles up US-15 back to Harrisburg; only to wake up Saturday morning and ride in the ABC Boxtruck up to State College to work a beerfest all day Saturday; and finally, after riding back to Harrisburg Sunday morning, we had a quick breakfast and then drove out near Philly to take care of some business.]
After an exhaustive drive for six hours Wednesday on interstate highway, it was rewarding to change my shirt and put on sneakers, stroll around the corner and kick back a few cold, refreshing beers with a fellow message board moderator and his warm and welcoming wife.
Hold Steady fans aren’t like regular music fans. Meaning: we don’t really fit into a single demographic.
Jonas Brothers fans generally fit a demographic.
Bruce Springsteen fans generally fit a demographic.
Disco Biscuit fans, generally, fit a demographic all their own.
Last Wednesday night I drank beers with a guy in his fifties who flew into Norfolk from Salt Lake City just to see The Hold Steady.
Last Thursday night, I hugged and high-fived Hard Corey- a nineteen year old indie rock grrrl from North Jersey who made the trek to DC to see The Hold Steady.
And standing right behind her was Mona- the fifty-something sweetheart of a lady who discovered The Hold Steady on the Springsteen message boards- and was attending her seventh show. Which, in a comforting and odd way, made me feel like I was there with my Mom.
Then there was brother Chris- the NYC attorney who buys many drinks for many people while displaying signs of being the most hardcore, badass sonofabitch I’ve ever met. He’s the skinny guy you’d want in your corner in a streetfight- he looks relatively harmless, but this dude will kick your ass three times til’ Tuesday.
AndyM is somewhere in his twenties. He’s sort of a drifter. But his trip from Philly to DC was inspired by the same thing as the rest of us: unity.
So to put it broadly, Hold Steady fans are all over the map. An unclassifiable genus of hardcore and devoted superfans who go to great lengths in support of our favorite band.
We’re all in this together, you see, and there’s no better social-representation of that than at a Hold Steady show.
Even Wednesday at the Norva- there were maybe three hundred people there; most of them first-timers- the feeling of community and belonging and camradarie and warmth and joy and respect- is simply too large to ignore.
“It’s hard to explain…but it’s this…There is so much joy in what we do up here” remarked Craig Finn about two and a half minutes into a twelve minute Killer Parties on Thursday night.
He says it every show. At some point or another, in probably ninety five percent of the performances The Hold Steady has played, he says the same thing.
But know what?
Shit certainly gets quite crazy and complicated at times, but there is so much joy in the world.
And we’ve all got it in us.
We’ve got potential.
We’ve got promise.
We’ve got everything we need at our fingertips.
“We are our only saviors; we’re gonna build something this summer.”