The Hold Steady has spent the past five years playing a spirited brand of neoclassic rock embraced by the hipster set.
Whereas most indie bands attempt to recreate the fractured sounds of Pavement or the sweet harmonies of the Beach Boys, the Hold Steady delivers gritty bravado that recalls Bruce Springsteen or vintage Thin Lizzy. This bold approach has made the group critical darlings and popular enough to sell out clubs nationwide — their concert July 2 at the Ritz Ybor will be filled to capacity.
Ragged-but-right vocalist Craig Finn spits tales of often drug-addled kids in desperate situations. When you write about people on the fringes of society, though, you're bound to cultivate an audience that reflects the characters in your songs. Especially in these parts.
Ybor City is mentioned in four of the band's songs, including their most popular, Killer Parties ("Ybor City is tres speedy, but they throw such killer parties"). The Hold Steady closed with that when they last played Ybor in January 2008 at a sold-out Czar. Dozens of concertgoers rushed the stage.
"Yeah, for like a while, we were kind of encouraging that kind of ending to the show," Finn said by phone from his home in Brooklyn. "At some point, it started to get to be a little much. And things started to go missing from the stage. People started grabbing me inappropriately — things like that.
"So now we have put the complete kibosh on it."
Interestingly, Finn started including Ybor City references in his songs before he ever actually visited our famed party district. He had buddies in New York from Tampa who told him wild tales of attending punk and hardcore shows in Ybor during the 1980s. The Hold Steady finally played the small room of Masquerade (now the Ritz) in February 2006. Ybor City (and Tampa) are name-checked again in Slapped Actress, one of the strongest cuts on Stay Positive.
"When I was listening to music growing up, I always really appreciated specific references in lyrics," the 37-year-old said. "Like when the Ramones sing about Rockaway Beach or 53rd and Third, kids are kind of like, 'Yeah, that's ours.' "