By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
And then there's the politics.
"You know, I don't expect Obama or anybody else to be Superman and to have the magic pill that fixes all our problems and saves the world," Hood says. "I just want to stop the bleeding. Touring overseas, there's a different version of the news over there, and it's just alarming to see how Bush makes us look. And meanwhile, Europe has readjusted themselves and their economy and kind of embraced some of the new ways of looking at things—green stuff and all of that—in a way that America has not embraced, and because of that, they're moving into this century as, you know, the dominant force, and we're kind of lagging behind, because we're still worshipping at the altar of Ronald Reagan."
Finn agrees: "I'd never traveled that much outside of the U.S. until roughly when Boys & Girls came out. It's changed me as a person in a way. You see what's out there and, you know, to put it really simply: In order for us to get competitive in the world, we need to act differently. And be led differently."
Which is not to say that either musician, though rarely at a loss for words, feels comfortable pontificating from his onstage pulpit.
"It's something that I can honestly say that the band has not talked about—our stance as a band," Finn says. "But I know all the people within the band, and how they feel about the current administration, and what they want to happen in this election. And it isn't something that I've talked a lot about from the stage, but it's something that, as you sort of think about what you are and what you can do—I used to be really, not so much careful, but sort of against, ah, speaking out about, you know, personal views to people at a rock show."
"Believe it or not," adds Hood, "I'm probably more with you there than people will think, too. I mean, I've never really been comfortable talking or making big, grand political statements onstage at the rock show, you know. Certain things just come out, particularly in the context of certain songs. For starters, I think that everything is kind of political."
If not politically active, Hood and Finn are at least politically attuned. "This is the first election that I'm infuriated," Finn says. "Like, this is the first one that I've had nightmares about. Like, literally. So, I take this one harder. Because, I mean, I'm trying to be an adult, even though I'm in a rock band. And I have responsibilities to the people I love and whatnot. But to see how this stuff affects you and actually what it means, you know, it can actually get me angry."
Hood, a native of the land of Wallace, says he was "a little freaky kid" watching the Watergate hearings every day after school. "There's definitely a pretty wide spectrum politically in our audience," he says. "Particularly in some parts of the country, it's definitely not like you're up there preaching to the converted. There are a lot of Republicans who really like our band, and they generally seem to know where I stand and where we stand on issues, but they come see us anyway."
Winning, of course, will result in these two NYC shows transforming into a rock 'n' roll party eight years in the making. But, as Finn says, "It's just more how we handle it if it doesn't go our way." So what if McCain improbably emerges victorious? Note that the Hold Steady's new album is called Stay Positive. "It's not like it's just about an election," Finn adds. "I mean, it's not like, 'Oh, the election's done. Well, we lost.' It's not like a football game where you just go home. I think you have to give people a chance to let it out, you know. Let their frustration out."
But are we talking about the audience, or merely the members of two politically invested bands who maintain more than a passing interest in the first Tuesday of November? "I'm talking about both," Finn says. "In most cases, it's going to be both. Probably start it from the stage, because we've got the amps and the microphones."
The Drive-By Truckers and Hold Steady play Terminal 5 November 6 and 7