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DS Show Review & Gallery: The Hold Steady, The Mountain Goats, and Dillinger Four. Chicago (07.01.2023)

Chicago’s newest large music venue hosted two nights of The Hold Steady, The Mountain Goats, and Dillinger Four. I was there to document the second night for Dying Scene’s first show at The Salt Shed. The Salt Shed is so named because the venue was built out of the Morton Salt Warehouse Complex. The Chicago […]



Chicago’s newest large music venue hosted two nights of The Hold Steady, The Mountain Goats, and Dillinger Four. I was there to document the second night for Dying Scene’s first show at The Salt Shed.

The Salt Shed is so named because the venue was built out of the Morton Salt Warehouse Complex. The Chicago Landmark was first opened nearly a century ago with the transformation into a music venue first open to the public in late 2022. The cavernous ceilings and fairly open-looking stage let you know immediately this is going to be a different kind of place to catch a show. It’s a cool-looking place for concerts. It sounded pretty good in there as well.

There is also an amphitheater on the grounds of the complex and a midway in which to hang out before the shows. It promises to be a great venue for shows. From my first experience at The Salt Shed, they may very well fulfill that promise.

The Hold Steady is celebrating its 20th Anniversary on this tour. The band presently comprised of Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Steve Selvidge, Galen Polivka, Bobby Drake, and Franz Nicolay, also had another reason to celebrate. Kubler and Selvidge are “birthday twins.” That is they were both born on same day, month and year. At a Chicago Cubs game the night before this show, on the jumbotron, was a happy birthday shoutout to Kubler and Selvidge on their actual birthday. Dying Scene would like to extend a belated happy birthday wish as well.

Now, onto the show itself. This was the second of two nights for this bill with The Hold Steady headliners. The band may be two decades old, but they have retained the energy and enthusiasm of the early years. The set list included “Stuck Between Stations.” The song’s credited writers are by Craig Finn, Fran Nicolay and Tad Kubler. The references to Sal Paradise, the protagonist of the classic Jack Kerouac novel, “On The Road,” and to the late confessional poet, John Berryman, were a reminder that there were at least two published authors on this bill. Those being Franz Nicolay, and The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle.

The tune itself is a meditation on depression, written in the midst of a tough time for Finn.

There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together
Sucking off each other at the demonstrations
Making sure their makeup’s straight
Crushing one another with colossal expectations
Dependent, undisciplined, and sleeping late

The band also cruised through the set with “Sequestered in Memphis,” “Sideways Skull,” “Sixers,” “Chips Ahoy,” and “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” among many others. The Hold Steady held the crowd steadily, in its grasp, from start to finish. Finn’s arms outstretched much of the time, matched in attitude by all of his bandmates, The Hold Steady thrilled the crowd. Will the band return to Chicago one day on its 40th Anniversary tour? We can hope, but if they do, it won’t be on any half-hearted nostalgia tour. No, I expect it will be just as exciting for the crowd and hopefully for the musicians as well. I hope to be there to document it once more.

Nearer in the future for The Hold Steady is the July 25th scheduled release of the oral and pictorial history of the band signed by the members, “The Gospel of the Hold Steady.” The limited edition pre-order package also includes a signed photo-journal chapbook by Tad Kubler, “TJK ON THS.”

It’s not often you see a band playing its arguably biggest hit right after taking the stage. That’s exactly what happened with The Mountain Goats. To the jubilant shock of myself, fellow photographers and fans, when the introductory notes of “This Year,” began. There was a virtual eruption of joy and being that it is one of my very favorite songs of all time, I was ecstatic as well. I discovered the 2005 tune late in its history, as many did, via its role as the ending credits song for the wonderful 2018 Oscar-nominated documentary, Minding The Gap. I was also glad to be able to watch it during the large venue photo pit standard operating procedure of first three songs, no flash and out. The proximity to the stage allowed me to work diligently and also soak in the song. Though every lyric in the song is incredible, the crowd hit its peak sing-along volume during the chorus of “I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me,” the hopeful lyric of “There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year.” That lyric is a reference to the phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem,” which is spoken at the end of every Passover Seder.

While “This Year,” may be the most well-known tune to the public at large, even becoming the subject of a darkly humorous pandemic era The Hard Times article, it is one amongst many beloved The Mountain Goats songs. The band — John Darnielle, Matt Douglas, Jon Wurster, and Peter Hughes, blasted through a great set, which also included, “Cadaver Sniffing Dog,” the bitter and very popular, “No Children,” “Up The Wolves,” “Rain in Soho,” and “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds.”

There were two exceptional standouts in an altogether amazing set. One was a very poignant solo by Darnielle, “You Were Cool.” Speaking to a friend treated poorly by others, Darnielle sang,

You deserved better than you got
Someone’s got to say it sometime because it’s true
People should have told you you were awesome
Instead of taking advantage of you
I hope you love your life now, like I love mine
I hope the painful memories only flex their power over you a little of the time

The other standout was “Palmcorder Yajna” on which The Hold Steady singer Craig Finn joined in, sharing vocals with Darnielle.

There are still numerous chances to experience The Mountain Goats as they are on tour through August and then resume again in October. Get on it!

Dillinger Four, out of Minneapolis, MN, provided a jaunty start to the evening. The band, comprised of Patrick Costello, Erik Funk, Bill Morrisette, and Lane Pederson, blasted through a tight set which included the exquisitely titled songs, “Let Them Eat Thomas Paine,” “Super Powers Enable Me to Blend in with Machinery,” “Maximum Piss & Vinegar,” and “A Floater Left With Pleasure in the Executive Washroom.” That latter song bemoans the crushing torment of working an increasingly less fulfilling, both emotionally and financially, job,

This isn’t you
It’s just what you do
Don’t mistake the irony of calling it a “living”
If you feel like no one
If you feel like nothing
You’ve only been taking what they’re giving

Dillinger Four also performed, among others, “Mosh For Jesus,” “D4 = Putting the “F” Back in “Art”.’ And while I’m sure the F does not stand for fun in that last song title, nonetheless, fun is precisely what Dillinger Four put into this show.

Dillinger Four will be busy this fall, as they play 1234 Fest in Denver and Philadelphia in September, and at Fest 21 in Gainesville, FL. in October. I’m guessing “Gainesville” be on the set list in “Gator Nation,” as it was on Saturday’s setlist.

Please check out more photos from the show. Thanks and Cheers!

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