I’ve now convinced 40% of The Hold Steady to pose for a picture with me, as evidenced by this fine shot of Tad Kubler and me. Tad, manic 70s influenced guitar virtuoso, was gracious enough to stop nipping riffs from Manfred Mann to let me grab this shot. Speaking of shots, he asked about a local watering hole within walking distance from the venue and I suggested an easier way to get shot. Start yelling, “I heart McCain.” Tad decided to “catch a ride,” which I think means listen to more Carlos Santana. No doubt, though, the Hold Steady are the most awesome, and possibly loudest, band working today. They played their asses off and we had front row seats. The only disappointment: no drinking in the theater! What a way to see a “bar band.”

Kubler, I should add, is also an accomplished photog. Check out tabkubler.com and book him for your next wedding. If you’re wondering where The Hold Steady’s 2008 release “Stay Positive” is going to fall in our Best of 2008, well, if history is any indicator (and it is), I’ll probably post the Best Of Lists in February. But, as I would have told lead singer/beat poet Craig Finn if weren’t so damned elusive, “it’s Top 5 material.”

Speaking of Top Stuff in the world of the arts, you owe it to yourself to see the No Name Players presentation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Wonder of the World.” This is it’s final week at the Open Stage Theater and it is laugh until almost black-out funny. Former Miracle Player, Gab B. (pictured) plays a suicidal drunk and what could be funnier than that? Perhaps a homicidal clown? Yes, this play has it all. Tickets are only $10 (cash, please – don’t take any plug nickels – hee haw and merry christmas). Call the box office today!

Golly, but why did my sisters give any thumbs up to the “The Family Stone?” I literally spent an hour and half yelling at the television, “why did this get made?” As far as dramedies go, this movie has little to offer in the way of laughs or tears. There are way too many stock characters who are only differentiated by their abilities to annoy. And Luke Wilson? I’m guessing Wes Andersen spoiled him for real work. He mailed in one of the laziest and braindead performances ever. Ever! And Sarah Jessica Parker remains easy on the eyes. Stevie Wonder’s eyes.

Finally, Huzzah to Congress for bailing out the Big 3 auto makers. Finally, a union that won’t be crushed because of incompetent management. Now let’s all show our support by buying a brand new SUV. C’mon, gas is cheaper now than it was 20 years ago.