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Still a Bar Band and Proud of It: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady on Shine's CatchUp

Craig Finn of The Hold Steady
Thirty Tigers
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

Welcome to Shine's CatchUp where WFPK host Laura Shine catches up with musicians about their music, new albums, or whatever they've recently been up to.

The Hold Steady is a band that's been together for 20 years. For WFPK, it started with the album Boys and Girls in America in 2006 when we fell in love with them. After playing numerous times in Louisville, they've built a steady following here. Their fans will be in full force at this month's Waterfront Wednesday on The Big 4 Lawn in Waterfront Park and it's a no-brainer to say they will garner new fans as well. The story-telling and charisma of front man Craig Finn is undeniably great. Their new album carries on that storytelling called The Price of Progress. Stay tuned for a new book as well, covering their 20 years together by The Hold Steady and Michael Hann due July 25th called The Gospel of The Hold Steady: How A Resurrection Really Feels. We spoke with Craig about the band and more, below.

Congratulations on 20 years of The Hold Steady! That's a real testament of longevity for a band. What is it that has enabled you all to stay together for so long?
I think the big thing is that we continue to have fun. We’ve changed the way we’ve toured over the years to do less of the long grueling tours, and focused more on residencies and one-offs such as the show in Louisville That has helped a lot. Also, we continue to make music that we’re proud of, and that keeps us creatively engaged. I think it’s fairly unusual for a band 20 years in to have as much fun as we do.

Having built a loyal following over 20 years, what does that allow you to do and NOT do as a touring band?
Our fan base allows us to focus on playing where we want and when we want. We’ve been able to build specific annual multi-show weekends in Brooklyn and London that happen the same time each year so our fan base can plan for it. When we play multiple shows in a city, we can enjoy the place a little more than we would if we were hurrying off to the next stop. We spend more time on music and less time on travel this way.

You're still described as a "bar band" which I'm assuming means a more intimate connection with your audiences. What does that moniker mean to you? When was the last time you actually played in a bar and where?
We are playing in a bar - The Empty Bottle in Chicago- this coming weekend. To me, the idea of a “bar band” is something that’s less pretentious than an “alternative rock” band or something like that. It’s a no-frills presentation. I use that term endearingly- some of my favorite bands I would also say are bar bands- The E Street Band comes to mind, even though they tend to play stadiums these days.

What inspired you to put out a book about the band this year? How did that come to be?
At 20 years, it felt like the time to take stock. I’ve always loved oral histories of bands because the stories differ a little. The truth is somewhere out there but it gets hazy when a lot of people get involved. The book came out really good and I especially love the contributions from the fans. There are some really beautiful testimonials from people who have followed us for almost the whole life of T.H.S.

Check out the video of the song "Sideways Skull" from the album The Price of Progress. The Hold Steady will be taking the stage at 9 pm, June 28th at Waterfront Wednesday.

Laura is the afternoon host from 3-6 pm weekdays. Email Laura at lshine@lpm.org

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