The Rock n’ Roll Means Well tour pulled in to L.A. last night, marking the final evening of an earth-shaking, booze-guzzling road match between the Hold Steady and the Drive-By Truckers, two bands born of disparate geographical landscapes yet inextricably linked by their commitment to the art of the amp attack. This marked the third straight Thanksgiving week I’ve had the pleasure of consuming way too much whiskey while pumping my fist in the air to Craig Finn and his Brooklyn brothers — if they’re not on tour next fall, I fully expect them to come play at my house — and the third time in two months I’ve seen DBT do their Southern thing. But it wasn’t until Finn told a new Hold Steady origin myth that I understood the connection I was missing: After Lifter Puller closed up shop, Finn moved to NYC from Minnesota hoping to do “comedy, writing, some New York s—.” Instead, “turns out I just started drinking.” Then he saw DBT at the Bowery Ballroom, and thought, “Wait a minute. That looks fun.” Insert rhapsodical statement about the transformative powers of great music here.
So consider these two bands sonic soulmates, sharing a taste for massive guitar glory — DBT’s patented three-axe assault howling like air brakes on the highway, or Tad Kubler of the HS whipping out the double-necker — along with a tendency to revisit themes, locations, and characters in their songs. (The gods of DBT’s Alabama no doubt had a horrid influence on the HS’s Holly, provided she was ever sober enough to know what she was listening to.) There was plenty of physical crossover last night, too: DBT guitarist John Neff lent pedal steel to the HS on “Cheyenne Sunrise,” DBT singer Patterson Hood (pictured above, with Finn) contracted some of the HS frontman’s pleading, outstretched energy on “The Company I Keep,” and both bands collided for an encore that started with covers of the Minutemen’s “History Lesson (Part II),” AC/DC’s “Ride On,” and the Band’s “Look Out Cleveland,” then motored home with DBT’s “Let There Be Rock” and HS’s “Killer Parties.” At some point, I believe there was a man in a gorilla suit on stage. I wish I’d been more focused toward the end, but HS played the calf-shredding duo of “Stuck Between Stations” and “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” back to back mid-set and everything beyond that got a little blurry.
After the jump, I stop typing and just put up some of the photos I took last night while trying to control my excitement long enough to, if you’ll pardon the phrase, hold the camera steady. Yes, Craig Finn: There is so much joy in what you do. Happy Thanksgiving, PopWatchers…