Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - The 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies: Day II – The Toadies Wrap Up Their Festival with One Last Run Through Rubberneck
The gates at Panther Island Pavilion were set to open at three this afternoon, and unsurprisingly, there weren’t many people there at that time.
Still, there were a little more than a dozen people already lined up; and once they finally did open the gates, it became clear everyone either already had a wristband from attending the first night of Dia de los Toadies or they had their tickets for the day already printed out.
It was a die-hard bunch right there.
Of course, the bands weren’t slated to start until 3:40, meaning there was a lot of time to kill. Time that was best spent either checking out the food trucks that were there, or just sitting at the tables around said trucks, resting up for the long day that lie ahead.
This was my fourth Dia (all have been consecutive), and the weather was nicer this day than any of those in years past. The clouds were keeping the sun at bay, to the point it looked like rain may not be out of the question. That also kept the temperature more than bearable. In fact, a jacket didn’t hurt, even in the early afternoon. This is Texas, though, so those conditions didn’t last forever.
The event got started over on the smaller stage, and since it was in Fort Worth, it was appropriate that a hometown band like Blank-Men would be the first to play.
They stood apart from everyone else this day in the fact that they relied heavily on electronics/synthesizers.
Vocalist and bassist Sam Swanson, guitarist and vocalist Alex Atchley, drummer Joey Kendall and synth player Emily Thompson opened with an instrumental piece, rocking out for a few minutes before Swanson counted to four, leading them into their next number.
“It’s all coming together now,” the bassist remarked after one of the songs off their Fact or Fiction? EP, “Radio Silence”. They were definitely in the groove now, as they kept pumping out one song after another, alternating between Swanson and Atchley handling the vocals, and even co-singing at times.
“This songs about,” Swanson said, pausing briefly to think, before giving a nod to a Fort Worth venue, “Spending all your money at The Boiled Owl.” They even joked about their merch at one point, saying they had “small circular things for sale” and that they wouldn’t mind if everyone bum rushed the table and just took whatever they wanted.
“Here’s one for all you hardcore kids,” Atchley said before one song. It was heavier from what they had done thus far, especially with the intro on the moog Thompson was responsible for.
Blank-men’s style of music was quite different from what I typically like, but by the time they finished, I was rather enjoying it. They play it very well, blending both the rock and electronic genres nicely.
You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and see them live on November 4th at Three Links in Dallas.
People now headed over to the main stage, where another Fort Worth-based band — The Longshots — were about to get started.
They were the first of many bands this day whom I had seen previously, though they looked a little different. They were a four-piece now, something I had evidently missed, assuming the news was even shared on any of their social networks whenever it may have happened.
Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing them again.
The fact that they were down to two guitarists/singers now didn’t seem to inhibit them much, though they did focus on a different set of songs from what I recall from the other shows I had seen. “The Chase” got their 32-minute long set off to a good start, with some killer riffs, while the beats Brady Hamilton was dishing out were perfect to bang your head to, as Joey Gorman handled the singing.
Many of the bands this day used these stages to try out some new(er) material, and The Longshots were no exception. “…We appreciate being able to play on this stage with our friends…” Gorman said after singing another song. He then realized he didn’t want to exclude anyone, and extended that to include everyone who was playing on this field, saying, “we’re all homies.” Fellow singer and guitarist Alex Zobel now took the reins, as they did another cut from their self-titled debut they released earlier this year. “Back to the Rio Grande” showed off more of the bands garage rock sound; while the track that followed highlighted the harmonies both Gorman and Zobel are capable of, as the latter chimed in on each chorus.
One of the lines from that song was about “medicine”, leading Gorman to say afterwards that the song was about “the legal distribution of medical marijuana in America and their opposition towards it.” He said it so deadpan, you might have thought he was serious, though he was more being extremely sarcastic.
They debuted a brand new song to the people, a song that got off to a softer start, before getting more intense. Hamilton counted them into “Uppercut”, which boasted a sweet instrumental jam, complete with some nice riffs, with the drums and Kris Luthers’ bass also having their moments. The rhythm section then really got to shine on their final number, which had a heavy instrumental breakdown.
It was a really good set, though it was different from my past two Longshots experiences.
While they did have those raw rock numbers, they also had plenty of slower songs mixed in. Personally, I enjoyed those styles of songs, though it did make for an interesting mix. However, the biggest difference was how restrained they were.
These guys are usually jumping all around the stage, and while it would have been impossible this day, even jumping off it and mingling with the crowd while shredding. That same energy just wasn’t there this afternoon. I highly enjoyed hearing the music, but the show… Maybe it was just an off day for them.
If you want to check out The Longshots music (and you should), you can find it in iTUNES.
Scott Beggs (co-owner of the Dallas venue Three Links) was introducing all the bands this day, and before the next act on the smaller stage, he pointed out that all the bands had been handpicked by The Toadies, making this their own “personal playlist” of sorts.
The stage was then given up to Residual Kid, a trio who had made the short trip from Austin.
Their music was a mixture of grunge and punk, grunge in the fact that it had a dirtier sound to it, and punk in the way that some of their songs were just a couple minutes or so.
They managed to fit 10 songs into their 34-minute set, getting their first two done quickly, and bridging them together so seamlessly that it was fairly hard to tell they had started “Friend”. It was the lone track they did off their Faces EP, and was pretty catchy to boot.
“This one’s brand new,” stated singer and guitarist Deven Ivy before the group continued. “It’s not so chilly up here,” he mentioned afterwards, then tacked on, “with a jacket,” to that sentence. He, bassist Max Redman and drummer Ben Redman kept the blistering pace up with songs like “Names” and “Glue”, which were as short and to the point as the titles were. It was kind of nice, because they didn’t bother stretching the song(s) out, rather, just say what they wanted to and then finish it.
One song they did was about Sonic Youth, and during it, Ivy ran his axe along the top of his cabinet, creating some nice tones. Throughout the show he had mentioned who they were, and as their time on stage drew to a close, he joked, “We’re still Residual Kid.” Their final song had a heavy break down during it; and in its final moments, Max took his bass off and let it fall to the floor. He then flipped it over, with the strings now being visible, grabbed the mic stand he had occasionally used this day, propped his bass up at an angle, and then ran the whole stand up and down the neck. It’s was pretty rock ‘n’ roll.
I knew many of the bands on the festival this day, but Residual Kid was one that was new to me, and they proved to be a good surprise.
Of course, there are still bands that play some sort of punk or grunge rock out there, but it was good to see a younger band who knows the importance/significance of those styles and has incorporated it into their sound.
You can find their EP in iTUNES. As for shows, they have one coming up in Austin on September 23rd at The Palm Door.
It was later in the five-o’clock hour now, and the sun had not only made an appearance, but it was getting pretty warm at this point. That’s Texas for you. Still, at least it wasn’t unbearably hot.
The main stage now belonged to Somebody’s Darling, who just a few weeks before this had played a big CD release show for their new album, and those new songs were expected to be in full force this day.
In a switch up from how that CD release show went, though, they opted to get a couple of slightly older songs out of the way first.
Frontwoman and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris jumped around to the beats Nate Wedan was producing, as they built up to their first song. “Put your cold hands in my warm jacket. Keep ‘em there to we leave…” the singer than crooned, as they got “Cold Hands” underway. The roots rockers had their own little fan base out this evening, and they were happy to clap along once Farris began to do so. “Alright, here we go! Let’s do this!” she yelled as they amped the song back up; and lead guitarist David Ponder killed it with the closing guitar solo.
“We’re Somebody’s Darling and we’re happy to be here,” Farris stated over the mixed noise of the guitars, keys, bass and drums, which soon gave way to the other single spawned from Jank City Shakedown, “Wedding Clothes”. Both bassist Wade Cofer and pianist Mike Talley added their voices to the chorus of “Just waiting on my fever to break…”, which really strengthened it. Talley even stole the show for a moment when he quickly ran his fingers over the keyboard, starting at one end and going down to the other.
Before that second song, Farris also mentioned they were going to get warmed up. After that, I’d say they sufficiently were.
Now they got to their new stuff, tackling the lead track (and single) from Adult Roommates, “Bad, Bad”. “We’re excited to be on stage with The Toadies!” Farris remarked after they had finished that song. She encouraged everyone to get drunk for them, though added, “Stay sober enough.”
She cleaned up “Vowels Flow” for any and all young ears that may have been listening. “…While the girls at the mall rack the bills, while their daddy screws us all…” Farris belted on the first verse (you can use your imagination as to what word was changed and from what). It’s nearly impossible not to get into that feel good song; and after the second chorus, Farris tried to pull any stragglers in, yelling, “Alright, Fort Worth. Let’s go! Come on,”
The stirring “Come to Realize” brought the mood down slightly, though the song about the demise of a relationship and pondering what caused it was a highlight of their set (and I’m not just saying that because I’m incredibly partial to it). It really did result in an amazing moment. “Let’s do this!” Farris said aloud, before Wedan hammered out the beats for “Set it Up”, which was another one that had Ponder doing an excellent solo.
Off to the side of the stage, there were some booths set up, and one of them had a giant moustache in front of it. The funny thing was it was seesaw; and before going any further, Farris pointed it out, along with the people who were currently on it. “Everyone needs a good seesaw now and then,” she laughed, before they busted out the second single from their new record, “Generator”, which had a handful of people (just that I could see) singing along to it.
That was a sign that their 37-minute long set was nearly over, but they still had a little something left to give.
“We’re gonna slow it down now that you got all rowdied up,” said Farris, who now had an acoustic guitar in her hands. They jumped to the final two songs on the album; and “Smoke Blows” isn’t quite as slow as it was made out to be. Neither was “Keep This Up”, which again utilized the three-part harmonies between Cofer, Talley and Farris, and proved a good one to end with.
The energy from the crowd may have been vastly different from the near capacity show they played a few weeks back, but the bands energy was every bit as vibrant as ever.
That’s not to say the audience wasn’t into it, either, but the band wasn’t able to get all the sing alongs going like they can at their usual shows, where they’re the main act.
Since they didn’t have much time, they had to keep a fast pace, and pretty much launched one song after the other at the onlookers.
Basically, Somebody’s Darling was responsible for what was one of the best sets of the day.
They’ll be at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands on October 9th, and then have a couple of short tours planned later in the month, where they’ll hit Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee. They’ll also be playing Charlie’s Backyard Bar in Marshall, TX on November 7th and Lee Harvey’s in Dallas on November 8th. Full info on all their shows can be found HERE. Don’t forget to check out their albums in iTUNES, either.
The massive field that is Panther Island was really starting to fill up now, as more and more people arrived, and several of them seemed excited to see The Quaker City Night Hawks.
“Good evening Fort Worth, Texas…” Sam Anderson sang in his rich tone, as the roots rock outfit got started. It wasn’t just a welcoming, but also the first line of their first song. The first of many new songs they did this evening, and it had been perfectly designed to be the opener, with the first few lines quite fitting of the day. Bassist Pat Adams and drummer Matt Mabe were responsible for a pretty heavy rhythm section on that song, as well; and you could already tell Mabe was thoroughly enjoying being up there, as he was giving it 110%.
“What’s up, Fort Worth?” Anderson asked, during a momentary pause before they fired up their next song. “That’s a new one,” he informed the onlookers when they had finished. “We’re glad to be here,” the singer and rhythm guitarist told everyone after another jam, before commenting on the weather. “Thank you… whoever is responsible for that,” he said, prompting one guy in the crowd to shout that he was the one behind the cooler, cloudy day. “That guy!” Anderson exclaimed and pointed, telling the crowd they should buy that man a beer.
Sans some backing vocals, David Matsler had been rather quite so far. However, he now took over on the singing duties, as they did “Fox in the Hen House”. It was the only old jam they did this night, and you could tell who was a fan of the band, because some people got quite excited when they began it. The best part was the harmonies. Everyone except keyboardist Andrew Skates sang on the chorus, “…‘Cause the fox is in the hen house now.” That number came to a mighty finish, due largely to the drums.
“We’re gonna play some new stuff for ya,” Anderson announced, before Matsler went back to singing. The percussion was so heavy on it that Mabe lost his beer because of it. “My whole beer just spilt cause of the vibrations,” he told his band mates in a very disappointed tone. He shook it off, and they got to another new song. One so new, it had never been played live before.
“Back in the winter of fifty-three, the mean ol’ devil had it out for me…” Anderson sang at the start of that dark, but engrossing track, which again had Adams, Matsler and Mabe providing some harmonies. A couple more followed, and once it was all said and done, Anderson thanked everyone who had paid attention.
“We are Quaker City Night Hawks, and we love you,” he told everyone.
Their 34-minute long set went by too fast, and if they had been able to play longer, I don’t think anyone would have had a problem with it.
This was my third time seeing these guys, and quite honestly, I think it was the best. Even topping the hour long or so set I saw them do last year, when I first caught them live.
Quaker City Night Hawks are as solid as they come, and it’s far too easy to see why they have not only became a favorite of many here in North Texas, but also established themselves as a heavyweight in the music scene.
They’re different from a lot of bands out there. Different doesn’t necessarily mean new, but they’ve found a style that they excel at and can pull off exceptionally well. They’re definitely one to keep an eye on, as they may be the next big thing to come out of the D/FW area. The potential is certainly there.
They have a gig in Roswell, New Mexico on September 19th, and then one in Amarillo, Texas at Hoots the following night. On October 24th, they’ll be marking their 5th anniversary as a band with a show in Fort Worth; and then on Halloween night you can catch them at Granada Theater in Dallas. As for albums, they have a few in iTUNES.
Next up on the schedule was something that was a real treat to the festival goers, and one band I was excited to see: Pleasant Grove.
It was only earlier this year when I first heard of them, when they performed a reunion show, which was anticipated by many. From what I later learned, the band was part of the old guard of the North Texas music scene, going back to the late 90’s, before breaking up in the mid-2000’s. Luckily for the scene, they haven’t stayed dead, and are now beginning a renaissance.
Just like many of the other bands on the bill, Pleasant Grove played a lot of newer songs they’ve cooked up.
Marcus Striplin and Bret Egner (both of whom were also the guitarists) traded off on singing during their set, with the former taking the first song, and the latter the second.
That second song also had Chris Mayes moving to the lap steel guitar that was attached to his pedal steel. Those instruments fit (and helped make) their sound, which was often melancholy, though never quite depressing.
“Thanks y’all. What’s up?” Striplin asked upon finishing those songs, before doing another that featured some duel singing from the vocalists. “The sunset’s beautiful,” Striplin then remarked. Indeed, it was. They had gotten a good time slot this day, and while a glare from one of the buildings way off in the distance had been reflecting back at them for part of the show, the sun had set enough now that it wasn’t too bad.
“Only a Mountain” was one of their classics they did this day, coming from The Art of Leaving LP, and to me, it was one of the most striking songs of their set.
Their 35-minute long set allowed them a few more, including another brand new song, titled “Pleasing You”. “…When you have the first laugh, then you can have the last dance, baby,” Striplin sang early on in it, with the rest of the song being just as creative and interesting.
He wished the crowd a “happy Dia!” after they finished, then sent everyone on their way.
These guys, which included bassist Tony Hormilosa and drummer Jeff Ryan, were another standout act of the day.
Of course, everything they did was new to me anyway, though the very little old stuff they did play still holds up nicely, and the new songs were every bit as good. Honestly, you have to wonder why these guys never “made it” and broke out on a national level back during original time together, especially considering that happened to several Dallas bands during that time. Perhaps they were just a little ahead of their time, especially with all the craze that currently surrounds genres that incorporate some folk elements to them.
However, the thing I liked most about Pleasant Grove wasn’t the music, but the lyrics. Every song was deep and highly emotional, two qualities you don’t always see together, though they make a potent mix.
If you want to stay in the loop about shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE. They also have a couple of albums you can purchase in iTUNES.
The job of closing out the second stage went to Ume, who became the first band ever to play Dia for a second time.
“Hey, Fort Worth! We’re Ume,” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson told the crowd in a warm, friendly tone once they stepped on stage. That was about the extent of talking she did this night, though, as they focused primarily on their music in the 36-minutes they had.
“The Conductor” started their set, and right from the start, Lauren began demonstrating what a superb guitarist she is, taking the axe at one point and raising it up and behind her, where just the guitars neck was behind her neck, while she continued to shred away on it.
They threw in a couple of older songs, but mostly, they focused on Monuments, which was released earlier this year; and now drummer Aaron Perez established the steady beat that begins “Too Big World”, while Eric Larson hung back more at first, before really getting into it on the chorus. She used the instrumental break to kneel down and shred on her axe; and once she stood back up, she did a little backbend, before twirling in circles right at the tail end.
They wound it straight into “Burst”, which saw the fiery guitarist pumping her fist in the air, almost as a call to action to the onlookers, before striking the body of her guitar. After some brief silence, the trio suddenly erupted into “Embrace”, which kicked things up several notches; and afterwards, they delved more into their shoe gazey style of rock with “Hurricane II”, which is often as mesmerizing as it is raw. She again sank to her knees at one point on that track, holding her guitar vertically as she viciously picked at the strings.
While Eric and Lauren tuned, Perez started up the drum roll that begins “Oh, Fate”, a song that gradually builds, before striking with a fury. They had pretty much every set of eyes glued to them by now, and “Until The End” and “Chase It Down” further ensured that no one could turn away.
After that, Lauren took a moment to thank The Toadies for having them out, saying they were one of the first bands who ever gave them a chance, so you got the feeling that they [Ume] have immense respect for them.
They were almost done, and now reached back to 2005’s Urgent Sea and pulled out “Baby Xie-Xie”. It’s a beast of a song, especially live, with Lauren kicking the air at times, as she coordinated all of her moves perfectly with the music. The song also contained what was the best moment of their set, and it came when she fell onto her back, letting her guitar slide onto the stage beside her, before rolling somewhat on top of it, never missing a note.
All that was left now was their single, “Black Stone”, which delivered one last quick punch to the ears of the onlookers.
I’ve seen Ume half a dozen times now, and this was the best show I’ve seen them do.
Since releasing Monuments, they’ve been pretty busy making the most of the traction they started going with that single that has come from it, and all their time on the road has led to an incredible tightness. Even Perez, who has only been with the band a few months, looks like he has been a part of the outfit since the start.
The energy they pack into their shows is crazy, while their stage presence this night captivated many. Next to all that, the thing I enjoyed the most was that the vocal levels were turned up higher than normal, making every word crystal clear.
Ume’s next show will be in Houston at Fitzgerald’s on October 24th. Be sure to check out all their albums in iTUNES, too.
The main support band was one that has been around almost as long as The Toadies have, and in Texas (especially D/FW), they’re every bit as much of a staple. I’m speaking, of course, of Old 97’s.
I’m probably one of the few people left who had never seen Old 97’s before, and I was looking forward to that finally changing.
The band was all smiles as they were introduced, and then quickly got to work, coming out swinging with the upbeat and catchy “If My Heart was a Car”, off their debut, Hitchhike to Rhome. It was immediately clear they had their own fans out this night, as many sang along with singer and acoustic guitarist Rhett Miller.
“Barrier Reef” came next, and they didn’t allow any downtime between the songs. Instead, they just kept pushing themselves, with Miller putting on quite a show, even though he was often stuck behind the microphone, while lead guitarist Ken Bethea — who wore a poncho for these first few songs — raced about the stage. I was also quite impressed with the slick moves Murry Hammond worked in to his bass playing.
Two songs in and I was already questioning myself in how and why I had never seen these guys before.
“How y’all doing tonight?” the friendly Miller asked, adding that it was a beautiful night, while some mangled guitar chords set up their next number. It was “Dance with Me”, and the semi-dark song had a real sense of urgency to it. Before hitting the second verse, Miller proceeded to jump around some. He clearly had a lot of energy pent up, and he still had plenty of time to work on getting it all out.
As they stopped, the vocalist made everyone aware that it had also been twenty years since they released their debut record, at a time when he was roommates with Clark Vogeler, who later went on to become The Toadies lead guitarist. “That was a lot of fucking years ago,” he said rather simply, before their attention shifted to the recently released album, Most Messed Up, doing the lead track, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”. The song that somewhat chronicles their adventures over the last couple decades seemed to come at just the right time in the show, helping set the stage for the rest of their set.
“Cheers!” Hammond yelled afterwards, though he raised a bottle of water to the sky, an action that caught a little flak from some of the patrons, who wondered where his beer was. He paid them no mind, though. “I was born here. Grew up in the sticks out that way,” he said, pointing towards the general direction. He let everyone know the only reason he every even got to Dallas was to see a Dead Kennedys show, and then thought to himself, “I’ll stay here and do this.” It worked out for him.
He now took over on the reins, singing the very country sounding “West Texas Teardrops”, which was followed by what Miller called a “straight up love song”. “It’s called Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On!” he announced. It may have been another new song, but it was one fans have apparently quickly taken to, as many threw their fists into the air at the chorus, shouting along, “Let’s drink whiskey and do it all night long! Let’s get drunk and get it on!
Drummer Philip Peeples got a shout-out from his band mates as he got the next song going, which happened to be “Four Leaf Clover”. The very Western sounding track saw both Bethea and Miller leaping into the air when they could, with Bethea eventually making his way over to stage left, where he and Hammond worked off one another as they picked away at their instruments. They then returned to their debut record, doing a slightly more intense version of “Stoned”.
“What a great night!” Miller said excitedly, later on mentioning how pumped up he was to see The Toadies, and that he made sure to bring his ear plugs just so he could stand right in front of the speakers for them. They weren’t quite done with their new record yet, and now did “This is the Ballad”, which was quite deep. “A State of Texas” appealed to everyone’s Texas pride (at least I know it did mine); and Miller flat-out killed it on his acoustic for that one.
“This is off the new one,” Hammond simply said, before singing another tune, this one being “The Ex of All You See”, which was one of the most infectious things they did this night (and that’s saying a lot). Miller chatted with the audience for a bit, again thanking them, before doing another oldie, “Big Brown Eyes”, which was instantly followed by “Nashville”, a song that had some laughing as he (with the help of Hammond at times) sang the opening line, “I married Caroline back in May of ’99. It was fucked up at the time, but I figured we’d keep trying…” It was far from a humorous song, though, and is instead a reflective number about trying to figure out why nothing ever works out.
Upon finishing “Rollerskate Skinny”, Miller climbed atop his amp, stretching his arms towards the sky. You could tell they were building to something. He then got some serious air when he jumped; while they ripped into the final song of their 54-minute long set, “Time Bomb”.
The song about infatuation brought their performance to a roaring finish, with Miller waving goodbye and exiting the stage once it was done, while the rest of Old 97’s threw some picks at the crowd, before doing the same.
Seriously, how have I been a fan and avid supporter of the D/FW music scene for nearly a decade, but never seen Old 97’s before? I don’t know how I screwed up so badly.
I thought their performance was extraordinary, to the point they almost, almost unintentionally stole some of the thunder away from The Toadies.
From start to finish, their set was explosive, as they tackled a variety of songs, some of which almost sounded like a cross between country and rock (and at times even punk), while others more fit the lines of your typical (and true) country songs.
They’ll be on the road from the end of September through mid-October, and their tour dates can be found HERE. You can sample all of their albums in iTUNES (and I know I will soon start adding them to my collection.)
The day had been long, but with nonstop music, it passed quick; and now, it was finally time for the band of the hour: The Toadies.
After being on the road in support of the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck for much of the last five to six months or so, this was going to be the final gig of the tour. For me, this show was also going to complete a trifecta. I had seen their Dallas stop of the tour back in May, and in July I made the jaunt up to Denton, when they kicked off another leg of the tour. And now, I was excited to hear Rubberneck front to back once more, and for perhaps the final time ever.
It was 9:53 when Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler walked onto the stage, waving and smiling at the fans. Most had gathered around the stage for a good view of everything, while others watched from a distance, relaxing in lawn chairs or just sitting on the grass.
Lewis approached the edge of the stage, still grinning at the fans, before starting them off on “Mexican Hairless”. The instrumental jam sent fans jumping about and cheering, while others banged their heads along to the aggressive piece. Right as it ended, Vogeler launched them into “Mister Love”. “Are you gonna save me? Can you save me?” Lewis growled in a raw, gravelly tone throughout the track. His voice sounded even more striking (and at times even terrifying) than at either of the other shows I had seen this year, making it clear that this performance of the album was going to be a cut above the rest. On top of that, the singer was constantly making different gestures with his hands or waving his fingers around; and at the final, “Can you save me?”, he stretched his arms out to the side, almost like he was basking in the love from the fans.
While they were busy playing the music, several beach balls had been tossed out in the crowd, which may be stereotypical of festivals, but all the same was fun, as people kept batting them away whenever they got close.
The band wound it right into “Backslider”; and as excited as fans were to hear that rocking number, it paled in comparison to the reaction “Possum Kingdom” got, which was not just screams and yells, but also people turning towards their friends and high fiving them. It was pure ecstasy for everyone as they sang right along, “And I promise you, I will treat you well. My sweet angel, so help me, Jesus.”
The string of beloved songs just kept coming, with “Quitter” sounding even angrier than normal as Lewis spit out the lyrics; and the hefty rhythm section of Reznicek and Blair continued to show their teeth during “Away”, which ended with Vogeler rocking out by his amp, getting the guitar tones as good as they could possibly be.
As Lewis has said at the past shows, he doesn’t like to speak during this portion of the set, as he wants to keep this live experience of Rubberneck as authentic as possible. That also extends to the usual sing along parts in the songs, like “Away”, which instead was handled completely by the band. However, one song where they couldn’t get away with that was “I Come From the Water”. Everyone knew the drill and didn’t even have to be told what to do as they hit the chorus, and the throng of fans shouted at the top of their lungs. It creates a moment that’s quite bonding for Toadies fans.
The most interesting part of the night came during “Tyler”, which was memorable to say the least. Shortly after singing, “I stumble in the hallway,” The Toadies blew out the speakers. The look of confusion on the faces of the band members as well as the crowd was hilarious in hindsight, as everyone was left scratching their head and looking around for a second, like, “Wait. What just happened?” Even without the amps, you could still somewhat hear the bass, drums and guitars, and the band went on playing, though they looked unsure. That was when fans showed their mettle. It was like instinct, everyone knew what to do, as they began singing the final noises from the tune, “Yeah-eh-a. Oh-oh-oh…”. It was far more audible than any of the instruments, and it was concrete proof of not only people’s love of these songs, but also their love for this band.
“I think we broke it,” Lewis said after they got it fixed, which happened as soon as the song ended. For the record, having the speakers blow is how you know you’ve seen a killer concert; and they were still just getting warmed up.
They got back on track, racing through the final three songs, as Reznicek bridged them from “Happy Face” into “Velvet”, and they only stopped long enough for Lewis to get a twelve-string acoustic guitar, before concluding the Rubberneck set with “I Burn”. “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain,” Lewis sang, using his bullet mic for a couple of lines, as he placed his left palm into the air, before clenching his fist.
38-minutes was how long it took this night to run through those eleven songs, and they were far from done.
“That was the Rubberneck set,” remarked Lewis, also mentioning how “fucking crazy” it was that it has been twenty years. He was equally amazed by the fact that Dia de los Toadies was now in its seventh year. “This is the most fun one I think we’ve had yet,” he said of the festival, before saying if everybody was down, they’d do some more songs.
“Push the Hand” got the remainder of their 64-minute long set going, and it seemed to reinvigorate the crowd, as well as the mosh-pit, which was small, but had been going on throughout the show. During the last brief instrumental break, Blair and Lewis walked towards one another, interacting a bit as they jammed. The subsequent track from Hell Below/Stars Above, “Little Sin”, came next, though they axed the extended outro they often give the song. Instead, they jumped right into “No Deliverance”, which I thought sounded even better than normal this night. For example, there was something about the line, “I saw black monsters twisted in love,” and the way Lewis sang it that was just quite gripping this night.
“Are we still having fun?” he asked afterwards, a question that was answered by a resounding amount of cheers. They took time out to thank all the bands who had played, including the Old 97’s, who Vogeler joked would surely be going somewhere.
Blair then switched to a different bass before starting them on “Summer of the Strange” — one of the only new songs they did this night. Not that anyone had a problem with that. “…This is our indulgent three and a half minutes, bear with us,” cracked Lewis before they busted out their rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song that they quite possibly played for the final time this night.
“Oh, shit! I’ve got to start this one,” Lewis said, sounding a little apprehensive. He bought himself some time by telling everyone that several years ago he had written a song that he was now regretting writing. “It’s the most difficult song I’ve ever written,” he stated, leading everyone to wonder what it could be. I was racking my brain trying to figure it out, and I doubt I was alone.
I was not expecting “Hell Below/Stars Above” — a song I had only heard live once, nearly five years ago — but that was what they did. It made for a truly surprising moment, catching every single fan off guard; and the best part came at the end, where one of their techs added his voice to the mix. He could sing, and it helped make that gospel-like ending more like how it sounds on the recording. The thing I like most about that title track from their sophomore album is how it changes midway though, yet it still sounds like the same song. As Lewis said, it’s a difficult song, but it’s also a beautiful one, and it capped off this main set fantastically.
They were gone all of a couple minutes, before the noise from fans brought them back out. “Do y’all want some more songs?” Lewis asked, acting as though he was shocked. “We’ll play some more songs,” he added, before they broke into the primal, “Sweetness”, which was another track that had the singer making different motions with his hand at times as he sang.
They had another cover planned, and Lewis went back twenty years, mentioning that some of the songs from the original Rubberneck recording session had been cut. One of those was a cover of Pylon’s “Stop it”, and for that one, Lauren Larson of Ume joined them, tearing it up on her axe. The fans and the band were really digging that one. For starters, each time Lewis began clapping along, the fans did, too; and on the second chorus, Vogeler began jumping around.
“You guys tired?” Lewis then asked, a question that was met with a forceful, “NO!” The band then returned to their second album, performing the final track from it, “Doll Skin”. It had sounded great acoustic the night before, but there’s something about the electric version. It’s not exactly an all-out rock number, nor is that soft. Still, out of everything they had done, it’s not what you would think would be a perfect crowd surfing song, yet that was exactly what one man did, as he had his friends hoist him in the air.
“You’ve been fantastic. Thank you so much,” Lewis told the attendees, before extending that to cover their crew who put this on and everyone who had any part of it. “I’m from Fort Worth, I’m a big fan of Fort Worth, and this is all fucking Fort Worth right here,” he finished, before saying they would be leaving everyone with this. “This” was “Rattler’s Revival”. Fans again clapped along whenever they saw the frontman doing it; and really, what a fitting song to end their 19-minute long encore with. Not just because it’s a hard-hitting number, but because it’s one of the newest things in their catalog, and after spending most of 2014 on the road, focusing on their twenty-year-old debut, why not look ahead to the future, and hopefully, another twenty years, or even more.
I was thinking about it this day and Dia was the eighth festival I’ve seen/covered this year.
I’ve really come to enjoy the festival atmosphere; but as fun as all of those others have been, there’s one thing that’s different about Dia de los Toadies, and that’s what made me enjoy it not only more than those other festivals, but also more than ever: it’s because everybody there has an undying love for The Toadies.
It’s really cool to go to something like this and know that the common denominator is that everyone enjoys the same band. It breeds a real sense of camaraderie, and that is a special feeling.
So, kudos to The Toadies for giving their fans something like this to congregate at once a year. Here’s to hoping it continues for many more to come.
As for their set itself, it was solid as ever. This is a band that has a real staying power, even more than twenty years into it, and that was clear once more this night in Fort Worth.
They do have a few more shows this year. One will be in Houston at the Untapped Fest on September 20th. Another will be in Pharr, Texas at the Pharr Events Center on October 19th, with an Austin date at Emo’s on December 26th. Let’s not forget about Dia de los Toadies 8, which should be happening in September 2015. As for their albums, the remastered version of Rubberneck can be purchased at KIRTLAND RECORDS, while everything else can be found at iTUNES.
(Read my review of night 1 of this year’s Dia HERE.)