Craig Finn’s last visit to Albany’s The Hollow was with The Hold Steady and was packed to the gills with barely any room for concert goers to dance and move around the venue. On Friday night the crowd may not have been as thick, but Craig Finn played with enough energy for a festival crowd. Craig also treated WEQX, a local radio station, and some contest winners to a pre-show acoustic set before the doors opened.

Once the crowd started to trickle in, Esme Patterson kicked the evening off with a nonstop set of rock that had a twinge of the musical landscape that Annie Clark created, mixed with song delivery of Kurt Vile. She doesn’t have the presence of either of those two indie rock icons yet, but one can see that it is in its infant stages of slowly emerging. The approximate 45 minute set showed a lot of potential for the up and comer. She has a new album coming out in the early part of 2016 and it should not be missed by anyone.

Craig Finn then came on stage with all his gusto and new band, and tore right into “Christine,” “Maggie,” and “3 Drinks” before really welcoming the crowd and thanking them all for coming out on a Friday night. Not only is Craig a great songwriter and performer, but he is an excellent story teller, with wide ranging topics such as polling the audience on new band names, 9/11, and the 70’s rock band KISS. His reminisced back to 2nd grade when a friends’ moms thought that rock and roll was the devil’s music. Though rock and roll might be the devil’s music, Craig said, “everyone really gets scared when there is a song about Jesus,” and launched into a song about the man titled “Western Pier”. Usually at concerts it is the songs that make you feel every emotion under the sun, but Craig makes sure that the stories he tells do the same job.

The band he has backing him now move the music into a more indie rock vibe than what The Hold Steady usually does behind the great lyrics Craig produces. It was great to hear a different landscape help push Craig and his lyrics in a new direction. “Trapper Avenue” ended the set and was followed by a couple of solo acoustic songs by Craig. Before the band came back he thanked the crowd for not staying home and coming out to enjoy themselves, a drink, and some good company. According to Craig, and I think he’s right, it’s very easy now a days to stay home and forget to interact with other humans, and as time marches forward it could only get harder. Craig urged us to keep coming out to shows, whatever the music may be and to always be part of the experience.