Two semi-local bands have big news but, at this point anyway, no local shows on the schedule.
The Hold Steady have announced an Aug. 16 release date for “Thrashing Thru the Passion,” their first album in five years. And Motion City Soundtrack have reunited for tour dates with an uncertain future after that.
Formed by former Minnesotans Craig Finn and Tad Kubler (both of Lifter Puller), the Hold Steady turned heads across the country with their 2004 debut album “Almost Killed Me.” While based out of Brooklyn, the band earned instant notoriety here thanks to Finn’s extensive use of Twin Cities references in his songs.
The Hold Steady spent much of the next decade touring heavily and recording five more albums, including 2014’s “Teeth Dreams,” which found a mixed reception among fans (and to a lesser extent, critics). After touring the record, the group slowed down their activity and began playing three-night residencies in cities rather than embarking on more traditional tours. Finn also released his third and fourth solo albums, including this year’s “I Need a New War.”
In 2017, the band released “Entitlement Crew,” the first of five singles they issued over the next two years. Those five songs, paired with five new tracks, make up “Thrashing Thru the Passion.” The first single, “Denver Haircut,” is out now.
In a news release, Finn singled out Franz Nicolay (piano, accordion, harmonica) for reinvigorating the group. Nicolay joined in 2005, but left five years later saying at the time: “I felt I completed the work I needed to do with them. I’d prefer to think of it as a closed book.” In 2016, he hopped back on board.
“I’ve been saying for a few years now – since Franz came back – that this six-piece lineup of the Hold Steady is the best band we’ve ever been,” Finn said. “The new songs recorded by this version of the band are super exciting to us. It’s been a very fun and creative period for the Hold Steady.”
The Hold Steady have announced three-night stands in Seattle, Chicago, Boston and Nashville later this summer. It seems likely they’ll work in local shows at some point after that.
As for Motion City Soundtrack, the core members – singer/songwriter Justin Pierre and guitarist Joshua Cain – founded the band in Minneapolis in 1997, although their bandmates have lived elsewhere. With their unique take on pop punk and emo rock, the band broke nationally with 2005’s “Commit This to Memory,” which was produced by Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus. They went on to work with Ric Ocasek (the Cars), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Eli Janney (Girls Against Boys) on the follow-up, 2007’s “Even If it Kills Me.”
In 2010, MCS reunited with Hoppus for “My Dinosaur Life,” their sole album on Columbia Records. They went on to release “Go” and “Panic Stations,” and announced in 2016: “We have no idea what the future holds, but for now we are done.” Last year, Pierre issued his solo debut, “In the Drink,” which he made with help from Cain.
Last week, the band surprised fans by revealing they were getting back together for a tour that starts New Year’s Eve in Chicago (the closest they’ll get to the Twin Cities) and wraps Jan. 28 in Seattle.
In an interview with Alternative Press, Pierre (sort of) explained: “I don’t think any of us know what’s happening. If I had to guess – and this is just for me, I haven’t talked to any of the people about this – it’s that we had a plan. We were doing stuff, and we had a thing. And then we all reached a freak-out moment and had to step away for a little bit. I don’t know what this is: I think if I had to guess, there is no real plan. That sounds like we don’t know what we’re doing. … All I know is that we’re doing a tour, and there’s nothing beyond that. That doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be, so there’s no way to give you a concrete answer.”
New outdoor concert series in Lowertown
Colorado jam band Leftover Salmon headline the new Big River Summer concert series Friday night outside of Big River Pizza on Fifth Street East in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood.
The same venue will host reggae star Stephen Marley (Bob Marley’s second son) on Aug. 16 and San Francisco’s Melvin Seals (a longtime member of the Jerry Garcia Band) on Sept. 13.
Tickets for Leftover Salmon are $25 general admission and $60 VIP (includes preferred seating, free drinks and an afterparty with the band). It’s $30 to see Marley and $15 for Seals, via mjgpro.com. The promoters said, based on advance ticket sales, they’re anticipating large crowds.
Leftover Salmon formed in 1989 and spent the next decade perfecting what they called “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass,” a sound combining bluegrass, country, Zydeco and rock. By 2004, the guys figured it was time for a break and spent several years on hiatus before returning to play short tours off and on in the late ’00s. In 2012, they returned to full speed with “Aquatic Hitchhiker” and have followed it up with three more albums, including last year’s “Something Higher.”