Photographs by Ryan O’Shaughnessy.

Imagine Jarvis Cocker and Jim Morrison had a baby that grew up to front The Tragically Hip in Gord Downie’s place. That is Craig Finn, and they are The Hold Steady.

The Brooklyn-based outfit played their first of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern on Wednesday night, and the place was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. In preparation for this show, I’d been watching and re-watching The Hold Steady’s set on KEXP on YouTube; I loved it. But when the band emerged from backstage, they kicked the doors off of that acoustic, stripped-down set I had grown accustomed to in my head, and absolutely blew the place down like a pack of wolves looking for pigs in straw houses.

The Hold Steady is completing their four day residency in Toronto in support of their new album, Teeth Dreams, and the new songs went over like old classics. ‘The Ambassador’ and ‘Spinners’ stand out in my mind as highlights, while ‘Knuckles’ off of Almost Kill Me, The Hold Steady’s debut album, was probably the song of the night. 

And as The Hold Steady blew the roof off the place, The Horseshoe Tavern celebrated its 67th anniversary. Sixty-seven years – just think about that. When The Horseshoe opened, some of our grandfathers had just come back from World War Two. People still had milk delivered to their houses in glass bottles back then. The Great Depression was only a few years gone. Iggy Pop and David Bowie had just been born. Talk about an historic venue. Imagine the acts that place must have seen in sixty-seven years… it’s almost unfathomable. So, congratulations on the anniversary and kudos to The Horseshoe for holding up, and for continuing to be one of the best venues in Toronto.

But my night started hours earlier, at Free Times Café on College. An old friend was made as good as new, and ideas for a band, a podcast, and a couple of movies began to come together. All in all, a very good night.

The Hold Steady have continued to grow in the ten years that they’ve been together, and their latest offering, Teeth Dreams, has got to be up there with the best albums of the year. Looking forward to seeing what The Hold Steady conjure up next.