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“I fucking love playing D.C.,” Craig Finn said at Rock & Roll Hotel last night, “I have so many friends here.” Playing apart from his band, The Hold Steady, in support of his second solo record, Faith in the Future, Finn was his usual chatty self. The audience got lots of interesting stories: How Finn feels the best band for introducing one to rock music is Kiss (“if you can get past their flaccid music”). How four of the ten songs on Faith in the Future involve a woman’s name (“If I give the character in the song a name, I feel I can relate better”). How he and his then-boss drank beer as they watched the Twin Towers burn and fall on 9/11 because it all just seemed so surreal. The new songs are more about Finn’s personal introspection than it is about Hold Steady characters like Holly or Gideon these days, but they’re still songs one can dance to, so Finn and the audience did.
Opener Esme Patterson was an incredible find. Patterson and her drummer have a heavy, hook-filled low-fi sound that’s not overwhelming enough to obscure her lyrics. And you want to hear her lyrics: They’re beautifully crafted from various perspectives. Patterson’s 2014 record Woman to Woman was a “concept album on how I thought female characters in songs would respond.” (Last night, we heard from Jolene, Eleanor Rigby, and Billie Jean). I think that if the Velvet Underground was fronted by June Carter Cash, you’d have the sound and vision of Esme Patterson.