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The Hold Steady's Craig Finn talks Ybor City and singing with Bruce Springsteen

Craig Finn, third from left, frontman of The Hold Steady, is a fan of Bruce Springsteen and Ybor City. In 2007, Finn got to sing Rosalita with his hero at tribute concert for the Boss.

Micah Schmidt/Special to tbt*

Craig Finn, third from left, frontman of The Hold Steady, is a fan of Bruce Springsteen and Ybor City. In 2007, Finn got to sing Rosalita with his hero at tribute concert for the Boss.

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.' "

They throw such killer parties

This is tbt*'s annual Ultimate Bar Guide, after all. So we couldn't resist asking Craig Finn if he has a favorite watering hole in Ybor City. Here's what he had to say. (For the full interview with Finn, head to our Soundcheck blog at the new tbt.com.)

Have you partied in Ybor City?

Yeah! At Masquerade. And we have played one other show in Ybor.

Czar, January 2008.

And there's one other. It was in the middle, it was in another club.

Orpheum, I think it was.

Orpheum, yeah. That was probably on the Boys and Girls in America tour.

Yes. It was.

So, we definitely partied there. In fact, we had a lot of friends come down for that show last January. We definitely went off.

So what's your favorite bar in Ybor?

Yeah, probably, Orpheum. We went to Orpheum after the Masquerade show and we played there once, too. So I think that's probably our favorite.

The Hold Steady

The band performs with GreyMarket at 8 p.m. July 2 at the Ritz Ybor, 1503 Seventh Ave., Ybor City. Originally scheduled for June 4 at Jannus Landing, the show will honor all previously issued tickets, but the concert is now at capacity. Get more info at ruxton.com/

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The Hold Steady's Craig Finn talks Ybor City and singing with Bruce Springsteen 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 4:11pm]

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