Indie band shows its musical evolution tonight


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mp3 sample: The Hold Steady

"The Sweet Part of the City"

The Hold Steady members are steadily maturing.

It's been seven years since they formed the group, and in that time, the band has released five inventive albums. While the group's first album recorded songs about "killer parties," its latest, Heaven is Whenever, explores ideas in a different light.

"The idea behind Heaven is Whenever is the relationship between struggle and reward," vocalist Craig Finn said. "It's somewhat about embracing that struggle, a universal idea about being human in this world."

The Hold Steady will play at 7 p.m. today in the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave. Playing along with the group will be Chicago indie-rock band Company of Thieves. Admission is $16 in advance, $18 at the door.

Seven years ago, the Hold Steady was in a similar place to Company of Thieves, in that it just came off the release of its first record. Company of Thieves dropped album No. 1 digitally in 2009, which grabbed the attention of UI student Drew Davis.

"I heard about them from my brother. He said, 'Hey you should check out these guys,' " Davis said. "I was checking them online on their live videos. Good energy, lots of fun. Definitely apparent even in the videos."

But for now the spotlight is on The Hold Steady. Finn said he's proud of his group's ability to release the records on almost a yearly basis.

Since the latest album's release in February, the band has been touring the states. The band will end its tour with shows in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago.

"We wanted to finish the year in the Midwest. A couple of us are from Minnesota, and some of us are from Milwaukee," Finn said. "It's become kind of like our second home. We have a lot of family out there."

But with a new year comes a new tour.

In 2011, the band will head overseas for a European tour. And after that, Finn and his bandmates will travel Down Under, playing gigs in Australia. Finn said he's looking forward to the voyage with a group that has "great chemistry." The band includes Bobby Drake, Tad Kubler, Galen Polivka, and Finn.

Finn describes the group's concerts as "celebratory." The audience members are drinking and singing along, and the guys are on stage having fun.

The maturity of this last album is seen not only in Finn's lyrics but also in the music composition. All facets of the Hold Steady are improving musically.

Finn said the band's creative process often works best when one of the guys comes in with a new riff or melody he's able to place his lyrics over. Seven years into it, the method has proved itself. Having success in both the United States and abroad, the group is looking to what the future holds.

"I think we'll continue to do what we do — make records, playing shows," Finn said. "We're having a good time, and I think what we're doing now is what we'll keep on doing."

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