Dear Hold Steady,
Hold on a second … how could you go on tour without stopping in Ybor City?
That would be like James Taylor skipping North Carolina or Eminem dumping Detroit. Would Randy Newman cheat on L.A.?
Yet, you'll do shows in Orlando this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday — but nothing in your beloved Ybor, a place you mention in at least three songs?
You used to list Ybor as a home city on your website even though I know you guys are really from Minneapolis and Brooklyn. Maybe, you think you've outgrown us since you're everywhere now: on the Late Show with David Letterman last month, the Colbert Report last week.
But I can tell from your latest Heaven is Whenever album that you're pretty much the same. Still banging out hard-charging, beer-swilling tunes, still sort-of-rapping, sort-of-singing about religion and nostalgia and drinking, creating that infectious and anthemic energy.
Ybor loved the indie cred that you bestowed. It seemed like a perfect wedding in a whiskey still, joining Tampa's hard-partying entertainment district with the "best bar band in America," according to NPR.
In the song Most People are DJs, you spoke to Ybor and its penchant for parades: Well hold steady Ybor City. You're up to your neck in sweat wet confetti.
I cheered when the Huffington Post used your lyrics to Killer Parties last week to describe Tampa after the city won the 2012 Republican National Convention bid.
I grin every time the New York Times or some other outlet asks you to elaborate on your love for our little cigar town.
Remember this one?
"At first, it was just a name I saw on the map and liked the way it sounded," Craig Finn told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "So there was the song on the first record, and sure enough when we started touring, people in Ybor City said we had to play there. When we did, a bunch of hardcore Hold Steady fans showed up and even flew down. Since then, we've played a couple more times, and it has kind of taken on a mythology all its own."
I was there in 2006, when you played in a dark, dank side room of the former Masquerade. I went in skeptical, brought by a friend from Minneapolis, and left in awe along with the small turnout.
I was at the Orpheum months later when the crowd doubled. I saw you graciously grab a couple of drinks with the crowd before the show and then win everyone over with staccato verses and finger-points like a fervent preacher.
I was at sold-out Czar in 2008, when you famously invited everyone to the stage during the finale. And I was at the sold-out Ritz last July for your free show, where I chuckled watching Craig's jowly, smiling face mouth messages to the crowd while Tad Kubler launched into cataclysmic riffs.
But now no Ybor?
What did we do? Bad Cuban sandwich last time? Panhandlers push you away?
I can't seem to get any answers. Your publicist, Rob Krauser, hasn't answered my calls or e-mails for the past two weeks.
Carla Vaughan handles concert bookings for the Ritz and said she'd love to have you back, especially since your last show sold out. But she never heard from you or your promoters.
Maybe you wanted to expand your fan base to all the tourists in Orlando, she guessed, or your tour radius was limited by a travel budget.
I asked Asa Palmer of the Social club in Orlando if he knew why you chose the other side of Interstate 4.
"I wish I had more insight into why HS is not hitting your area again," Palmer e-mailed back.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but we're feeling a little jilted, like a wife waiting for you to come back home.
And yet, I know we still hold a special place in your heart. According to the Orange County Register, you told a crowd in California that your favorite show was right here, in Ybor City.
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.