Pop & Hiss

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Coachella 2009: the Hold Steady and Black Keys

April 18, 2009 | 12:39 am


It was obvious that something was askew when Craig Finn and the Hold Steady took the stage of the Mojave tent promptly at their scheduled set time. While the band was as powerful and tight as ever, Finn's voice was little more than a hoarse rasp, his face red with the strain of singing. The poor guy appeared to be deathly ill.

But as someone that fervently preaches the power of rock and roll, Finn never faltered. Blasting their way through live chestnuts like "Stuck Between Stations," he seemed to get stronger as the set went on, much to the delight of the surprisingly small but supportive crowd. Ending the set with the declaration "Stay positive, Coachella" (also the title of the band's most recent album), Finn and his cohorts' status as the best bar band in America remains pretty much unchallenged.

Although if anyone could take on the Hold Steady, it would be Akron, Ohio's Black Keys. While the duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are all but swallowed up by the massive main stage, they more than filled the desert sky with their fuzzed-out, down and dirty blues. "We're from the Midwest, and too cheap to pay someone to do this stuff for us," deadpanned Auerbach during a brief lull to tune his guitar. "Actually, we just can't afford it." I guess this recession is for real, y'all.

--Scott T. Sterling

Photo of the Hold Steady by Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times