IF YOU GO
What: Codfish Hollow Barnstormers Barn on the 4th Concert featuring The Hold Steady, The Whigs, Hunterchild, the Bellfuries, Matt Pryor, The Josh Berwanger Band and Sacco
Where: 5013 288th Ave., Codfish Hollow, Maquoketa, Iowa
How much: $25 in advance, $30 at the gate
Information: 563-321-0172 or CodfishHollowBarnstormers.com
Also on the Web: TheHoldSteady.net
If you notice a hip-looking stranger walking around your neighborhood this weekend, try not to be too alarmed. It might be Craig Finn, looking for inspiration.
The singer/guitarist of The Hold Steady, which plays Friday at the Codfish Hollow Barn near Maquoketa, Iowa, for its Barn on the Fourth of July concert, gleans the ideas for his epic story-songs from a variety of muses: books, touring life and even odd treks about the towns he visits.
“Sometimes I’ll just wander around residential areas and look at a house and think, ‘I wonder what’s going on in there,’ ” the amiable Finn said with a chuckle. “I really gain inspiration from a lot of different sources, just thinking out of the box and thinking ‘What if …?’ a lot. If I just wrote about my own life, I’d be singing a lot of songs about going to the post office and the grocery store. It wouldn’t be too exciting.”
Finn is being modest. One of the most critically acclaimed and musically beloved groups to emerge in the past decade, The Hold Steady has been holding in an upward trajectory since its debut album, “Almost Killed Me,” in 2004. With a big, panoramic Springsteen-esque sound and erudite, witty lyrics, the band broke through with the release of its third disc, “Boys and Girls in America,” which featured the hit single “Chips Ahoy” in 2006. The group just released its sixth disc, “Teeth Dreams,” inspired by dreams of anxiety and the late author David Foster Wallace, in March.
“It’s probably our heaviest album to date, which is really cool, actually,” Finn said. “I’m 42 now, and usually about this time you see musicians pulling out the strings and slowing things down, but we’re doing the opposite. It’s kind of like we’re saying, ‘Hey, just because we’re 40 it doesn’t mean we have to be lame.’ ”
Currently on the road for the new album, the band — Finn, Tad Kubler (guitar), Galen Polivka (bass), Bobby Drake (drums) and Steve Selvidge (guitar) — will be hitting the U.K. for a tour and fulfilling another dream by opening for The Replacements in New York City this fall.
“For a boy who grew up in Minneapolis and now lives in New York, you can’t get any better than that,” Finn said. “They were my favorite band growing up. It’s a dream come true.”
However, the entire ride of the band has been amazing, he said, living up to its beginning goals.
“The whole thing started when I saw the movie about The Band, ‘The Last Waltz,’ back in, I think it was 2002,” he said. “I had gotten out of a band and was thinking about playing again, and I watched that movie and it just seemed like they were having so much fun, like the whole thing was so much fun. I wanted to have that. Then I went to see a Drive-By Truckers show and they were having a blast onstage, and that pretty much sealed it.”
It’s been a wise path to follow. The group has yet to release an album that hasn’t sold well, it’s been lauded by critics, its fan base is rabidly devoted and it’s appeared on stages and TV shows around the world.
“It feels great. I’m really proud of everything we’ve done. I’m a lucky guy. We all are,” Finn said. “I think we’re beyond being happy about what we’re doing, and beyond that it’s rewarding to see the community it’s created between fans.
“It’s great being back out on the road. I love playing show after show after show and seeing all the different people and different places,” Finn said. “It’s always exciting to go to amazing places, and even after 10 years, there are places we’ve never been to, like Davenport. That’s cool.”
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