By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Charlie's Paradise Bar, 8:45 p.m. The green room at Charlie's is actually pink, and it's tiny--maybe six by seven. When last seen at the end of the sound check, it was full of beer, soda, cheese, and lunch meat. Now, it's full of semi-clad members of the Coors Light Texas Bikini Team, and security won't let anyone else in there, including the Toadies.
The Bikini Team was slated to be the opening act--"We're not touring with them, though," Lewis had assured earlier--but it turns out that they'll in fact be the headliner, and that an actual bikini contest, featuring audience members, will be the opener. The latter is being organized by a spindly guy who's running around with a walkie-talkie in his hand and several broomsticks up his backside. His overall comportment suggests that those broomsticks are a permanent fixture.
9 p.m. Temporarily unable to get in the green room, a few band members linger outside near The Ejection Seat. Seems that the ES is rigged with microphones that loudly broadcast passengers' reactions during the ride. Though the phrase "woahfuckyeahholyshitohmyfuckjesuswoohooshit!" is not in itself humorous, it is downright riotous when amplified to 90 decibels and accompanied by the visual of two yahoos getting flung spaceward. As it happens, this is funny no matter how many times you witness it.
Ken the Crazy-Ass Merch Dude heads over to the Copenhagen booth and enters a contest in which you get a free T-shirt if you can do 10 pull-ups. So confident is Ken that he attempts them with a cigarette in his mouth (a time-honored crazy-ass maneuver if there ever was one), which makes him look slightly silly when he can do only eight. Unfazed, he wanders to a nearby table and chats up Vicca, a Russian Penthouse Pet on hand to sign autographs.
Drummer Mark Reznicek sits at a picnic table and judges the Padre mise-en-scene "creepy. I thought it'd be funny, but I just feel...creepy."
9:30 p.m. Over at the band's merch booth, an official of the Texas Bikini Team regales several Toadies with a story from that day's Jerry Springer Show. His conclusion: "I'm like, damn."
9:55 p.m. Toadies bassist Lisa Umbarger has muscled her way into the green room, where she sits in the company of Texas Bikini Team members Vivian and Sonya, two women wearing far more hair than clothing. The room is now littered with feather boas, cowboy hats, and hot pants. When Umbarger suggests that the aforementioned bikini contest organizer could use a "kick in the balls," Vivian looks over and asks whether "we have some unhappy Toadies in the house."
Sensing the decreasing possibility of a Polaroid moment between the two entertainers, Sonya tries to defuse the tension by saddling up next to Umbarger and assuring her that "I tried to learn the bass once." The confession causes a certain intrepid reporter to giggle like a schoolgirl. Unfazed, Sonya starts to ask Umbarger if she's nervous, but is interrupted by Ken the Crazy-Ass Merch Dude, who wants to wish all the bikini contestants "good luck."
10 p.m. Excerpt from Bikini Contest rules, as posted in Green Room: "If a contestant shows any covered parts by...manually jiggling...she will be automatically disqualified."
10:15 p.m. Bikini contest. The crowd alternates between cheers of "We want tits" and "Toad-ies, Toad-ies." The most popular contestants seem to be Jennifer, who the emcee says "likes those frat boys, especially Sigma Nus," and Maggie, whose ambition is "sex in space."
10:45 p.m. Maggie wins. That's one small step for...
Q: "Where, in the hierarchy of acts you've played with, does the Coors Light Texas Bikini contest reside?"
Vogeler: "Just above Bush."
11 p.m. Line around the building. Gonna guess that 6,000 is a low estimate for number of people in attendance. Almost all of them look to be younger than 24, fairly affluent, fairly concerned with their attire, and completely unaware that sun-block products exist.
11:01-11:04 p.m. "Toad-ies! Toad-ies!"
11:05 p.m. Show begins. Band in full effect. Loud. Rock.
Crowd dancing, singing, drinking.
Q: "You a Toadies fan?"
Short Girl with a large "X" on her hand: "Woo-hoo!"
Q: "Would you say their sound was fully formed when they put out Velvet, or did it not coalesce until Rubberneck?"
11:30 p.m. "Possum Kingdom." You have not had the chills until you have stood on a stage and seen a room packed with thousands of drunken buzzards throwing ice and hats and chairs and whatever they can get their hands on, hurling themselves toward you and each other, screaming every last lyric in unison, jumping up and down and tearing stuff up and just generally going bananas all because of some little guitar part coming from your direction. It stops being about chords or melodies or art or lyrics or whatever else intrepid reporters like to carry on about; it becomes pure adrenaline, one huge body teetering between rapture and chaos for four minutes and 30 seconds.
To witness such moments from the stage end is to understand the lure of rock, to understand why people spend their lives in basements trying to attain such a thing, to understand why the Rolling Stones can only be carried offstage in a hearse. It is awesome and a little bit scary.