We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


“The ’80s almost killed me/Let’s not recall them quite so fondly.” So goes the opening song on the debut release from the Hold Steady, Almost Killed Me. Surely, those words ring true for anyone who would rather be gagged with a spoon than see another pair of Flashdance legwarmers. Not that the Hold Steady are above a throwaway pop-culture reference—witness these cringe-inducing lines: “I’ve been trying to get people to call me Sunny D/I’ve got all the good stuff the kids go for/People keep calling me Five Alive.” The band is a fairly recent transplant to Brooklyn (vocalist Craig Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler are from the Twin Cities’ Lifter Puller), and several songs on the disc can be interpreted as salvos against the shredded-T dance-punk set of their adopted city. In fact, with reverential references to Meat Loaf and Billy Joel, at times the guys seem to be going out of their way to be completely unhip. At one point, someone even busts out with a rooftop sax solo (think “Baker Street” or the final credits of Saturday Night Live). And, make no mistake, the brass flourish isn’t a winking gesture. Neither are Finn’s words, which, though caustic, have a Midwestern earnestness about them: “I got bored when I didn’t have a band/So I started a band/We’re gonna start it with a positive jam/Hold steady.” It’s not just a band name; it’s an exhortation. The Hold Steady plays with the Washington Social Club and the Carlsonics at 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 21, on the Black Cat’s Mainstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $8. (202) 667-7960. (David Dunlap Jr.)