The Hold Steady may have made a career making songs about the screw-ups and ne’er-do-wells of the world. But in truth, they are absolute professionals in every way, which is why they made ideal band to kick off a delayed and weather-beaten second day of the 2023 XPoNential Music Festival. Of course, The Hold Steady were not planning on being the first band to grace the River Stage this afternoon but, this being the live music business, things happen, and the band was gracious in their flexibility, taking the challenge head on. Though they haven’t yet, you can almost imagine Craig Finn and company writing a song about falling in love at a rain-soaked music festival, rain poncho, muddy boots, and all, and if he did, the audience that packed close to the stage on Saturday afternoon would loudly sing along.
It’s here where I have to commend not only the band on stage but the XPN fans that made their way to Wiggins Park on Saturday. There are not many things in this world where people are willing to endure a rainstorm and hours of uncertainty to attend, but clearly XPoNential is something that means a lot to a lot of people, as hundreds packed the bowl at Wiggins Park’s River Stage. And, in the case of fans at The Hold Steady set, the crowd was enthralled by the band as they made their way through some of the best songs in their catalog, including favorites like “Stuck Between Stations,” “Sequestered In Memphis,” and “Massive Nights.” It was clear that many in the audience were not at their first Hold Steady show and as Finn and company wound down, he reminded everyone that “we are all The Hold Steady,” before exploding into the show’s final crescendo with the hundreds in attendance in raucous agreement.