Friday, March 09, 2012

Craig Finn @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Craig Finn; The Virgin Forest
@ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Broooklyn, NY - March 8, 2012

When you get older, and you're an know exactly what's wrong with you, but you just don't know what to do about it...that's scary. - Craig Finn

When Craig Finn sings the songs of the Hold Steady, he sings with the voice of an older, wiser narrator on the outside looking in on a series of teens and early twenty-somethings living a strange life that he himself may or may not have lived. So it required short bursts of punk rock n roll, classic rock homage, and the occasional august ballad. But not every song can follow this dynamic and not every Craig Finn song can be a Hold Steady song, so here's Craig with a solo record (though he's the same old Craig - the body jerking, repeating himself off-microphone, giddy to be on stage to see you Craig).
A more countrified, somber sounding record than those of the Hold Steady, Clear Eyes, Full Heart lyrically seems to be the Contemporary Finn. He's singing of his age, if still not of himself (though presumably closer to himself than he ever has before...maybe). There's a definite sense of internal, not-quite-quarter, not-quite-midlife reflections in these songs. Mercifully, there isn't really any sense of crisis, despite the quote from his banter you read above. How does he always know what to say?! And how does he know how to say  it without sounding like, and making me feel like, a self-pitying first-world-problem child?
This went down in Park Sloping Williamsburg. I don't recall so many children in this neighborhood the last time I paid attention. And so many new giant condos! But I sure do recognize the fashion choices.  And I recognize the yakkety-yak of the Yuppies  in the crowd. But so did Craig. And what effectively drove me away from frequent concert going, the self-involved "I'm just here to be out, I don't even care who's playing", was met early on with a freight train of a stare from Craig. And what ensued was a respectful silence that I think I last heard on a visit to see the Hold Steady. As tempting as it is to turn any live show  into a trial of Gotham's nouveau elite denizens and the Midwest-Meets-San Fernando Valley cultural changes they've brought with them (judgment: Guilty), I can't do it again here. I was too caught up in Craig's songs and his backing band. And so was most of the crowd. Maybe it was the wise use of the pedal steel. Maybe it was because it was the right kind of country. Craig made the album in Austin and he was looking West. This is the big sky desert rock at night type of country that I like. It reminded me of the time the Volebeats did their cover of "Maggot Brain." And some of the best songs were the ones left off the album. "Going to a Show" may define just about everything happening here (thought the record's "No Future" may be the best song on technicalities).
Brooklyn's changed a lot. Craig and his fans can change, or rather evolve. Spread their wings a bit. Which means they can identify what has made their life what it is. Right down to remembering the politics of what it was like to go to a rock show when all you wanted to do was go crazy and meet people. Capturing in a nutshell what it meant to have lightning in a bottle. And other such banality put into much better words by Craig Finn.

The Virgin Forest - way too 80's. And not always in a good way. And that's not too surprising.


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