Hold Steady/Dream Syndicate: Wall to Wall at the Space Ballroom

It’s always a treat, for audiences and bands alike, when an opening act draws as much attention as the headliner.  L.A. 80’s rockers The Dream Syndicate took the stage ahead of veteran Brooklyn by way of Minneapolis rockers The Hold Steady at the Space Ballroom at the Outer Space to great anticipation.  An early arriving sold out crowd made for an energetic opening set by the Paisley Underground pioneers led by Steve Wynn (The Baseball Project, The Minus 5).

Opening their set with “The Way In”, the lead track from their 2019 release These Times, had the foursome in control with the crowd thrust right into the thick of things from the get go.  Although the band reformed in 2012 for a handful of live shows and festivals it wasn’t until 2017 that Wynn and company would return to the studio to record new material for the release of How Did I Find Myself Here? on the ANTI- label.  Wynn was gracious throughout and was really feeling the relatively unknown Hamden, CT.
He thanked the crowd on multiple occasions and shared that most of what they’d be playing was “new stuff” to which the musically erudite crowd responded with a cheer.  It’s rare when a band reforms 35 years after forming to make music as relevant as when they began, but that is exactly the case with the beloved Dream Syndicate. Carving through tracks, one or two at a time, from How Did I Find Myself Here? and These Times with the exception of their final send off.  In their substantial 45+ minute set, the L.A. quartet finished with their most iconic track from their most iconic album “The Days of Wine and Roses”.  It was a sonorous send off to an appreciative crowd who appreciated the history as much as the present.

Up next were the sniffling indie kids, the clustered up clever kids, The Hold Steady. I shan’t overstate the fact that the Space Ballroom caps out at 300, and as one among the more than 300, sorry Hamden Fire Marshall, I can say I felt lucky to see a band of their caliber in a venue of this size.  The energy was shoulder to shoulder palpable with chorus shout alongs and sweat and spit doused front row attendees. With Craig Finn and co maxing out the small club stage, Finn spent much of his time leaning out over a sea of rabid fans echoing his words with shaking fists and shit eating grins.

As their set wore on from the opening “Positive Jam” to their crowd pleasing “Knuckles” the hits just kept coming. It’s almost better when a band is touring with nothing to promote but their back catalog of ball busting ass kicking cuts. Finn and crew were feeling the small intimacy of the space and the audience didn’t let them down as the symbiosis drove the energy to the next level.  The 20 song set came to a close with a frenetic frenzied crowd rabid for more. The little hoodrats returned for an encore to satisfy all encores. Starting with a cover of Frank Turner’s “Blackout” the Steady followed up with three more originals including “You Can Make Him Like You” and “Sequestered in Memphis” finishing with “Killer Parties” from the final jam off of their 2004 debut Almost Killed Me.  It was a quintessential Hold Steady sweatbox of a party despite being held outside of Pensacola or Ybor City.  Just what you’d expect from a Hold Steady gig, catch ‘em when and where you can.

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