Most of you know I’m a native Texan. I come from north central Texas, born and raised. No matter what genre of music you listened to, if you lived in North Texas two decades ago, you had at least heard of the Toadies, if only to wonder why the hell the group of strange looking, screamy young people from the big city of Fort Worth (NOT wearing Wrangler jeans or Roper boots, dafuq!) would make beloved Possum Kingdom Lake seem so fucking weird in that damned video of theirs. Where the hell is Garth Brooks when you need him?!
If you were like I was, you thought there was something special about the Toadies “weirdness”. You enjoyed seeing an ordinary area lake you’d visited in your own childhood made mysterious and dangerous in a video which aired almost incessantly on MTV at the time. Yeah, kids, MTV actually used to play vidoes but that’s a whole other blog post.
For those of you needing a refresher on Toadies history, here’s a great video on it. It is 23 minutes long but if you care anything about the Toadies or were raised in north Texas, you’ll appreciate it.
After listening to these songs hundreds of times over the last 20 years, I have formed my own take on them, my own background stories that spring to mind when I hear each song, which is what Vaden Todd Lewis states he wanted fans to do in the video below. Even with those deeply embedded personal visions, I tremendously enjoyed hearing the origins of all the songs from Lewis’ perspective. In my opinion, his original intent only adds to my own take on each song.
If you made it to the other side with me, I don’t need to recap Toadies history now. Fast forward two decades as I read my Twitter feed. One of the local concert venues announced that the Toadies were coming to Birmingham to play Rubberneck in its original entirety to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album’s release. I could not buy tickets fast enough.
I kept in touch with the four albums and the handful of live albums that came after Rubberneck but like most things that change your world, you never forget that first one. I’m talking strictly music here because music means more to me than any former boyfriend does or ever could. Rubberneck stuck with me through the decades, through a few entire seasons of life. You can’t say that about many albums, at least I can’t. Either you outgrow those bands/albums or they just don’t apply to your life anymore and you drift away.
In my case, I grew into Rubberneck. It got better over time for me. Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe I’m guilty of glorifying a “local” band too much, much in the same way native New Jerseyians do with Springsteen but I don’t think so. I think that novelty wears off eventually if a band doesn’t “fit” you, local or not. Yes, I feel a connection to the Toadies due to our Texas roots but if I feel it’s bad music or isn’t my thing, the band’s geographical connection doesn’t sway me or hold me for two days, much less two decades.
Despite the fact that I never could relate to Springsteen and honestly think he’s way overrated, I understand the tremendous influence he and his music had and still has on New Jerseyians. The Toadies are to me what Springsteen is to a lot of New Jerseyians but minus the bandanas and working man songs that sound exactly the same. Don’t send me hate messages and flaming bags of your own shit, Jersey. It’s cool. You do you, I’ll do me, baby. It’s just my opinion. Come back later if you need to but put the knife down, Jersey.
I keep a close eye on the local concert schedule and unlike the other ones I’m attending the rest of this year, the Toadies concert never did sell out, which baffles me. After attending the Rob Zombie concert a couple months ago in the same jam packed, sold out venue, I realize in hindsight that this less than sold out show was the absolutely best way to hear and truly enjoy one of my favorite albums of all time played live.
Black Pistol Fire opened for the Toadies and although they were good, I don’t want this recap to get bogged down by them. Sorry, Black Pistol Fire. Put the knife down.
E and I got to the front row, stage left and settled in after my traditional three pre-concert beers and enduring the ritual of a random stranger asking to touch my hair. I shit you not. Happens every damned time. Yes, I let them touch my hair. It’s just easier that way.
As was expected, the Toadies came out and played Rubberneck but I always look up the setlist before I attend a concert and save it to my Spotify account so I know what’s coming. I like spoilers, what can I say? One of the encores was supposed to be Dollskin, which I was majorly looking forward to, but someone from the audience had yelled “Sweetness” earlier in the evening and they honored that request and did not sing Dollskin. I’ll live.
They sounded great and just delivered the album and fucking rocked. They sang two covers, “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Stop It” by Pylon. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the Pylon cover. I was looking forward to the Blondie cover but it was the Pylon cover I jumped and screamed along with. I absolutely loved it. The video I linked is the best quality I could find but I don’t think this particular crowd really understood what Todd was trying to do. At the concert I attended, it went over really well and we were subdued on the quiet parts, when Todd is shaking his head no and wagging his finger at us to “no rock and roll now”. Then when it got loud and he told us to “now rock and roll now” the place went crazy. I wish I could have captured it on video.
The highlight of the show, however, came with “I Burn”, when two additional drums and drummers were brought out. I started to video but realized I wanted to be fully present and not wasting the highlight of the concert on what would be a shitty video anyway. I did manage to find a YouTube video of another performance. There is another drum and a couple more drummers but the effect is the same. It blew me away.
Before I knew it, the concert was over with Todd announcing that the band would be at the merch table. I had to go to the bathroom (remember the traditional three beers?) so I missed the band coming out from backstage but E got to shake hands with them. I will add this event to the list of ways that E has stolen a fan girl moment from me but I’m not bitter or anything.
Here are a few pictures from this awesome night.
After the bathroom, I promptly hauled ass to Todd’s line and E went to buy a tee shirt for me. I chose the one with Texas on it because I like simple but also because this band means “Texas” to me just as much as Pat Green does. The end result was this:
I know! Fucking awesome, right? This is the first tee or ticket I’ve ever had signed by a band or artist. And like I said, you never forget your first.
I meant to ask Todd if he was a preacher’s son because so many of his songs have religious references. Backslider describes an exact scene from my formative years. In my nervousness, I forgot to ask him but the 23 minute video answered my question.
Thank you to the Toadies for stopping by Birmingham, to a less than sold out show, when you sell out every Texas venue you play. Thank you for taking the time to sign everything thrown at you by eager fans. Thank you for not kicking my ass off your raised platform when I climbed up to get a picture with Todd and Clark. Thank you to E for buying me the tee shirt, remembering to get the ticket out so the band could sign it and for running back into the venue after we realized in the car that I forgot to have Rez sign the ticket. This is one I won’t forget.