Thursday Night at Northside: Five-Year-Olds Dance, Grown Men Cry 

click to enlarge pow_wow.jpeg
So, day one of the first ever Northside is officially in the books, and as far as I can tell, things went pretty smoothly. Unless you count our Assistant Publisher getting our Publisher’s car towed, I guess, or the battery on my iPhone dying because I sent approximately 250,000 text messages and emails. And you shouldn’t, really, because, you know… totally not your problem.

I spent the bulk of the day at and around Festival headquarters, desperately trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone who I thought might ask me to carry something or solve a problem. For the most part, I paced around nervously and drank free Heinekens in places (the sidewalk) where people kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to. Fortunately, the cops were too busy towing cars to bother with me.

Much as I wanted to hit up the opening night party at Studio B, I had to stick around headquarters because at 7pm, we had the first of eight unannounced outdoor performances to take place at various locations throughout Williamsburg. The men of pow wow! brought out their acoustic guitars and a scaled back-drum kit to play a quick set of four songs, on the corner of N.6th and Wythe. I don’t know why I was so surprised that they sounded good unplugged, since their songs are obviously strong and for the most part simple enough to work in any setting, but I heard things a little differently — the harmonies between brothers Jeff and Eddie are much better than I’d realized, and Eddie suddenly sounded an awful lot like Bob Dylan to me. A good-sized crowd formed, including a mother and her young, probably five-year-old daughter, who danced the whole time. I hope she’s following us on Twitter, because I want her to be at all of them. You should also follow us on Twitter, obviously. There are two more of these scheduled for today, and we’ll announce them a couple hours in advance. Check back in later on for video from the pow wow! set. [UPDATE: Here it is.]

At some point after pow wow! played, I found myself wandering around a little bit aimlessly, and I recall starting to hum the “gonna walk around and drink some more” line from “Party Pit” by the Hold Steady. Now, more often than not, I’m humming one Hold Steady line or another, so this is particularly noteworthy, but it is rare that, moments after humming ensues, I can walk thirty feet to my right and see the band play live. I headed to Music Hall, where, correct me if I’m wrong, but no one seemed to be having much trouble getting in with badges. I don’t know if everyone just assumed it’d be impossible to get into so they didn’t even try or what, but it was a pretty pleasant surprise.

Anyway, last night was the last of four NYC shows this week, and predictably, the band seemed to be basking in a little bit of that strange mix of exhaustion and gratitude that always shows up at the end of a successful run of performances. The last time I saw them was at Terminal 5, and considering they just about blew the roof off of that considerably cavernous place, you can imagine what the vibe was like at the much, much smaller Music Hall. Beers were thrown in the air, fists were pumped, and choruses were sung by the entire crowd — pretty much exactly what everyone’s come to expect from the Hold Steady. The setlist, pasted below, had a few surprises, like “Hostile Massachusetts” and “Certain Songs,” which has been known to make drunk music editors cry in their beer. Check out photos here.

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