The Gist

He Left the Hold Steady for Mongolia

Journeyman musician Franz Nicolay had done the big-band thing. He wanted to go solo. And he wanted to see Ulaanbaatar.

Keyboardist Franz Nicolay performs with the Hold Steady in 2009 in Columbia, Maryland.

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

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Franz Nicolay made his bones playing with big bands, in size and in popularity (the Dresden Dolls, Against Me, the Hold Steady). But Nicolay longed to strike out on his own and master the “practical craft of the old vaudevillian.” So he packed his banjo (and accordion and guitar) for a string of tours across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Nicolay’s consequent book is The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground From Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar.

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