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"I got bored when I didn't have a band, so I started a band, man. We're gonna start it with a positive jam."
Craig Finn

Your songs are known for their kind of narrative arc, they're stories, you have characters who recur, you're telling these stories about Minnesotans...You realize that you've become a kind of younger, hipper Garrison Keillor, don't you?"
Peter Sagal, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

A highly-acclaimed 21st-century bar-rock band, known for the complex and intertextual lyrical mythology woven throughout their albums, following the adventures of an (occasionally) apostate streetrat, a quasi-Rastafari delinquent, and a ne'er-do-well pimp, through the eyes of various narrators, mostly extreme hedonists, and built over old-school epic riffs.

  • Almost Killed Me (2004)
  • Separation Sunday (2005)
  • Boys and Girls in America (2006)
  • Stay Positive (2008)
  • Heaven Is Whenever (2010)

The Hold Steady provides examples of:

  • Age Progression Song
  • Anachronic Order: The Myth Arc
    • The songs on Stay Positive are organized so that they flow together musically and the actual plot is slowly and cryptically revealed song by song, and each song isn't necessarily taking place directly after the one before it. If the album were to be rearranged in chronological order, it would go something like this: "Joke About Jamaica," "Lord, I'm Discouraged," "Yeah Sapphire," "Both Crosses," "Constructive Summer," "Sequestered in Memphis," "One for the Cutters," "Slapped Actress," then "Ask Her For Adderall." "Navy Sheets" seems to be a reflection on the events of the past summer and takes place at an unknown point in time after "Ask Her For Adderall." "Stay Positive" and "Magazines" are essentially I Am Songs for the main characters, and "Navy Sheets" seems like .
  • BSOD Song: "Crucifixion Cruise".
  • Call Back: Holly, Gideon, and Charlemagne all make appearances in "First Night" and "Ask Her for Adderall", providing neat epilogues to Separation Sunday.
    • Occurs across albums: in "Killer Parties" from Almost Killed Me, Finn sings "If they ask about Charlemagne/Be polite and say something vague." On the next album, Separation Sunday, the song "Don't Let Me Explode" contains the line "He asked what happened to Charlemagne/She just smiled all polite-like and said something vague."
    • "Certain Songs" contains the line "the hard drugs are for the bartenders." "The Cattle and the Creeping Things" includes the lyric "Silly rabbit/Tripping is for teenagers/Murder is for murderers/And hard drugs are for bartenders/I think I might have mentioned that before."
  • Cliff Hanger: The last we hear of Charlemagne on Stay Positive is that he's "hiding from the gentlemen/with the same tattoos as Gideon."
  • Continuity Nod: Very often.
  • Concept Album: Most notably Separation Sunday. Stay Positive is loosely based around a murder mystery; the others are more thematic in concept.
  • Epic Riff: Lots of them.
  • Epic Song: "Constructive Summer," which opens "Stay Positive" and (to an even greater extent) "Slapped Actress," which closes the same album.
    • And the frequent concert closer, "Most People Are DJs".
  • Hakuna Matata: "Constructive Summer."
  • Hookers and Blow
  • "I Am" Song: "Chips Ahoy" establishes the character of the psychic.
  • Metaphorgotten: "Multitude of Casualties": "She drove it like she stole it/And she stole it fast and with a multitude of casualties."
  • More Popular Spinoff: The Hold Steady was formed by the singer and bassist of cult band Lifter Puller.
  • Motor Mouth: Craig Finn can spew rough-but-gorgeous prose-poetry in a fairly fast fashion; the many internal rhymes and consonantal musicality intensifies it, though, often making it sound as if he's tripping over his own words.
  • Murder Ballad: The story arc of Stay Positive.
  • Not Christian Rock: The Hold Steady write songs about Catholicism, but they're not a Christian rock band. It's all mixed up in drug taking, sex, and teenage rebellion anyway...

 "I guess I heard about original sin, I heard the dude blamed the chick, I heard the chick blamed the snake. I heard they were naked when they got busted, and I heard things ain't been the same since."

  • Rockstar Song: "Rock Problems."
  • Shout-Out: Lots. Referencing poets, books, old and current bands, and lines and characters from their own songs and others', often in the same song, is standard.
  • The Song Before the Storm - "Joke About Jamaica" is a soft, nostalgic ballad just before the climactic "Slapped Actress."
  • Title Drop: "And I got bored when I didn't have a band/So I started a band, man/We're gonna start it with a positive jam/Hold Steady"
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The non-linear narrative of Separation Sunday is best appreciated with in-depth knowledge of both Biblical mythology and Irish-American Catholic heritage.
    • Arguably, everything the band does.
  • The Woobie: Holly.
  • The Wiki Rule: A band this reference-heavy needs one: