Solo albums #6

17 01 2009


Saw Franz Nicolay at the Triple Rock on Friday and I was very pleasantly surprised. He is, of course, the keyboard player for the Hold Steady (who happen to be one of my favorite bands, and is definitely my favorite to see live) and I like to try to support members of bands I like when they take on a solo project.

It was a solo show by every sense of the word. The stage basically looked like it does in the picture below plus an acoustic guitar. Every song done by just the man himself. He was a true performer and I must say I was captivated.

Franz was hilarious and his humor was dry. He reminded me of Mitch Hedberg with his between-song-banter. Mitch, of course, being my favorite comedian. Here are a few of the things that had me in stitches.

“I’m working out the kinks, which I maintain should one day be the title of a Ray Davies exercise video.

– (after someone in the crowd said “You’re a funny guy…”) “You should have seen me in Buffalo. I was f_cking hilarious!” (definitely a Hedberg moment)

– (Lifter Puller was the first band to play at the Triple Rock Social Club. The singer and guitarist of the Hold Steady played those respective roles in Lifter Puller. Franz thanked Triple Rock for having him and an audience member said “I saw Lifter Puller here.”) “Yeah? I didn’t…AND I wasn’t in that band.”

“If any one has any suggestions on how to improve my show, please write them down on a piece of paper and hand them to Kat (singer of openers The G_d Damn Doo Wop Band), she will then hand them to Ryan at the merch booth. Ryan will set them on fire; the smoke will float to the ceiling and drift down to me where I will smell it and know what your suggestion was.”
During his next song, someone did as instructed and the merch guy set the piece of paper ablaze and waved it in the air.

Franz asked “What are you waving at me?”
“It’s on fire!” was the reponse.
“It’s on fire??”
Members of the audience started yelling “smell it!!!”
“Aaaaah. You’re going off my own joke from earlier that I’ve already forgotten”Cracked me up! Easliy amused? Yeah, maybe sometimes.

Before strapping on his banjo to play “Cease Fire, or, Mrs. Norman Maine” he said that Willie Nelson had, at one point, stated that the sound of a banjo makes people happy and that a sad song could never be performed on the banjo. “Apparently, he’s never heard ‘Rainbow Connection“, Franz pointed out and then went on to say that his next song was also a sad, banjo song.

One of my favorite moments was a song Franz wrote as a member of World/Inferno Friendship Society. The song is called “Trains”. “That was a World/Inferno song I decided to resurrect.” I loved it. I thought it was a great song. So, I went to the merch table after the show to buy the CD with that song on it, but was informed that it is unreleased at this time.


As I stated, the solo performance was bare bones, and I loved it. I think if it can hold up by itself without a band, it speaks volumes for the songwriting. The album has a couple of jazz numbers, a couple of songs with a sort of punk tendency and of course, a few songs that resemble the Hold Steady. I find this album incredibly refreshing. I love the music and I especially love the lyrics. I am big on good lyrics and I really love these lyrics. Well done Franz!!!

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