The tipping point of any good summer is that one night when you step out of that lazy routine and find yourself somewhere new - still partying at sunrise; or across town at some pool party with people you barely know; or out on that roadtrip that just sorta happened at the last minute; or when this, that and the other somehow fell together and you met her.
It's those nights that you feel like you should've gotten caught or busted somehow and brought back down to Earth. It's those sublime moments when the impossible rises up like some salty mist to tap your shoulder and point: that-a-way to the action.
Those nights are the fulcrum of a memorable and self-fulfilling summer, smashing apart the sort of careful balance that keeps sanity in check.
The Hold Steady's "Constructive Summer" encapsulates all of that, and more. Craig Finn has miraculously captured the universal "this is gonna be the best summer ever" mentality that runs from the early teens to as far into adulthood as people will let it. That precious gem of possibility is at the core of the song: "Let this be my annual reminder that we can all be something bigger."
It's a rush of a song, fast and loud and jumpy, with a piece of solid dynamite for the chorus: "We’re gonna build something, this summer." And Finn gives you every bit of encouragement you need to light that fuse. This is full audience participation: not only do you get to shout out loud with the band, but that summer is also yours to break wide open, just so long as you "raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer."
The subtle biblical imagery is no surprise from Finn, and it's applied as enthusiastically as ever in "Constructive Summer." I'll gladly sign the petition stating that "Our psalms are sing-along songs." And as Finn's line that "We are our only saviors" - well, I've definitely felt that simultaneous late summer night feeling of being lost, frustrated and yet absolutely certain that I was on the right track, just unnoticed by most everybody else.
Stay Positive is a fantastic record: a praise album for the spirit of rock 'n' roll, a steady and surprisingly sober meditation on how time passes in the lives of those who refuse to abandon the rock 'n' roll spirit, a continuation of the inter-woven stories and characters that Finn has sketched over the Hold Steady's existence, an energizing statement on the faith that you can draw from everyday existence - in friends, in revelry, in nostalgia and in the possibility of a great summer.
So c'mon on down to the Rialto Theatre on Saturday. Join me up front. Sing loud.
The Hold Steady - Constructive Summer (live, Minnesota Public Radio)
The Hold Steady - Cheyenne Sunrise (live, Minnesota Public Radio)
Get the whole in-studio interview/performance as a zip file.