Friday 4th February 2011 – The Hold Steady w / Wintersleep at University of Southampton Student Union

In mid 2010 I developed some health issues, possibly stress induced. This, in turn, caused me to suffer from anxiety and depression that lasted throughout the rest of the year. As anyone who has been through anything like this will know, it’s a vicious cycle. I include this here for context because I think this gig was a turning point for me regaining some confidence. 

I started to feel uneasy waiting for The Hold Steady’s set to begin, the same horrible feeling I’d been having for months that started in the pit of my stomach, then made my chest feel tight. The next step of this normally would be to start to panic. As the band walked on stage, some rationale kicked in.

Going to gigs, playing gigs, booking gigs, promoting gigs, these were the things I did. For better or worse, it was what had defined me for years and I wasn’t going to let these issues take the place of that. I’m not romanticising this here to say that I took a literal step forward toward the stage and told my body and the thoughts in my head to do their worse. Fortunately they did fuck all and I felt back in control.

The Hold Steady is all romance though. Not hearts and Valentines Day romance, but the theatrics of the lyrics and the storytelling that have always been so easy for me to allow myself to get caught up in and find ways to write even the most specific of Craig Finn’s lines into my own life (or perhaps myself into his stories).

The band were touring on their album released the previous year, Heaven Is Whenever. I loved how religion weaved through The Hold Steady’s music, particularly when the connection between music and religion was made self-evident.

“Heaven is whenever we can get together. Sit down on your floor. And listen to your records.”

An honourable mention for the support on this tour Wintersleep. I enjoyed their set and bought their single ‘Weighty Ghost’ on 7” vinyl from Square Records in Wimborne later that year. It looks as if they’re still active but I’ve never got around to checking out an album.

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