By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
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By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
If you want your reunion tours full of spiritual enlightenment, regained perspective and mended relationships, go watch an Eagles DVD. You won't get those qualities from the Toadies' first concert since dissolving in 2001. In fact, you probably won't get a reunion tour at all.
The band's final lineup--Vaden Todd Lewis (guitar, vocals), Mark Reznicek (drums), Clark Vogeler (guitar) and Mark Hughes (the Baboon bassist who replaced original Toadie Lisa Umbarger for the farewell tour)--returns to headline the Dallas Observer's St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, and if the one-off gig seems like an unromantic, out-of-the-blue deal, the guys aren't doing much to change that perception.
Lewis says the reunion idea had been bounced around with other members recently as something that might happen years down the line. When Observer organizers pitched the idea for this week's parade as part of the paper's 25th anniversary, the guys had an open spot in their schedules--Lewis with the Burden Brothers, Reznicek with Eleven Hundred Springs, Vogeler with film-editing work on documentaries and shows like Project Runway --and gave it a thumbs up. "Should be a good time," Lewis says. "Good guys, good music, good chance to get together and have some fun."
Sounds...good. But really, a band like the Toadies doesn't need a high concept gimmick for a reunion, much like it never needed anything beyond their high-octane take on alternative rock (and platinum debut album Rubberneck) to reign as the area's biggest local draw during the '90s. Ticket sales still reflect that reputation, as the reunion show sold out quickly--and whipped up some controversy.
"I was surprised that it was 21 and up to begin with," Lewis says of the show's age restriction. So were a vocal set of underage Toadies and Burden Brothers fans, who rushed online to snag tickets as soon as they went on sale, only to find a note about the show being limited to drinking age.
But while many were surprised about the age restriction, the bigger surprise was how many minors were crazy about a band whose success peaked when they were in elementary school.
"When we found out it was 21 and up, we thought, 'Ah, that sucks,'" Vogeler says, "but I had definitely assumed all the people who were Toadies fans had grown up, 'cause it's been so long. Reading the MySpace page and the e-mails and all that, apparently there's a huge group of people whose older brothers or parents got 'em into the Toadies, and they want to see us. I'd love to play for 'em at some point."
While Vogeler floats the hope for another reunion show before too long (yes, an all-ages one), Lewis has a roadblock of his own--the Burden Brothers' next album, Mercy, which is currently being mixed and tentatively scheduled for release in May.
"There's definitely an interest in doing [another gig], but I just don't have the time," he says. "Not bogged down but totally preoccupied with this new record." That point is underscored by a frank confession: "Not to be a total whore about [the reunion], but I'm trying to raise more awareness about the Burden Brothers and make it a business thing too."
While on the subject of business, Lewis has bad news about Feeler, the unreleased Toadies album from 1997: "It's totally bogged down in red tape." Though Aezra Records announced plans to snag the master tapes and properly release it in 2003, Lewis says Interscope Records "can't find the masters," which he emphasizes with his own "quote, unquote."
Perhaps Interscope will notice the demand, evidenced by never-ending posts on the Toadies' MySpace page and the quick reunion sell-out, and get crackin' on that, but until then, fans will have to settle on this weekend's straightforward concert. The subject of past band members--Umbarger, Darrell Herbert--was swatted down quickly by Lewis: "There was no temptation [to invite them] on my behalf, no." And other than a potential cover and some Pleather-era songs, the set list will stick to hits and album cuts (sorry, no B-sides like "Joey Let's Go" or "Santacide").
The only question mark, then, is whether Vogeler is still up to speed, and he admits only one bit of apprehension: "I haven't even picked up an electric guitar since the last Toadies show." Luckily, the guy who burnt the fretboard on Hell Below/Stars Above has been practicing for two months and says he's ready to rock out again. And really, who needs a spiritual or romantic reunion? The promise of "I Come From the Water" is good enough.