Dia De Los Toadies Festival With the Toadies, Old 97's, Ume, Quaker City Night Hawks, Pleasant Grove, Somebody's Darling, Residual Kid, The Longshots and Blank-Men Panther Island Pavilion, Fort Worth Saturday, September 13, 2014
With apologies to the out-of-town artists that performed during Saturday's Dia de Los Toadies concert at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth, the event was indeed a parade of musical civic pride. And with further apologies to any attendees under 30 years of age, and there were a good bit of you there, you may have enjoyed the near flawless sets from such pedigreed acts as the Toadies, Old 97's and Pleasant Grove, but you likely did so without the nostalgic gut punch that most of us older folks experienced.
See also: The Old 97's Ken Bethea is Still Blown Away By the Toadies' Rubberneck The Old 97's Played an Impromptu Set at Twilite Lounge Last Night for Rhett Miller's Birthday Pleasant Grove Have Weathered Personal Demons and Are Ready to Bounce Back
From 5 p.m. until the Old 97's took the main stage at 8:20m, it was easy and rewarding to simply take in some fantastic performances. The sets from Austin's aptly named teenage garage rock trio Residual Kid -- easily the day's best surprise, as they blasted through a killer set -- the always soulful Somebody's Darling, and the similarly swaggering Quaker City Night Hawks impressed thoroughly. Another Austin trio, the dynamic Ume, simply tore the second stage apart just after the sun went down with the power of Lauren Larson's guitar and magnetic presence.
Just before that, though, at 7, a rejuvenated Pleasant Grove -- a group that, according to lead singer Marcus Striplin, had rehearsed for five straight hours on Friday night to be prepared for Saturday night's 40 minute set -- showcased why the recent news of a new album from them is such a big deal. Signaling that this was the group's legitimate comeback show, they played a new song, "Pleasing You," which featured a boldly raucous, cathartic midsection sandwiched by the elegant folk-rock-tinged style they've long been known for. "Only a Mountain," meanwhile, sounded equally fresh even though it's more than a decade old now.
But let's not kid around here. The main event began after those bands had packed up their gear. With the temperature sitting around 70 degrees, the Old 97's climbed onto the main stage, fully illuminated only by the colorful stage lighting and the distinctive Fort Worth skyline serving as the backdrop. Mixing in performances of "Stoned" and "4 Leaf Clover" from their 20-year-old debut Hitchhike to Rhome with material such as the hilariously foul-mouthed "Nashville" and "Let's Get Drunk and Get it On" from their latest effort, 2014's Most Messed Up, Rhett Miller and crew provided a joyous, if brief, career retrospective of their own. Triumphantly ending with trademark closing number "Timebomb," the 97's cleared the way for the night's musical hosts.
Indeed, the 97's set list was telling, as they will soon begin their own celebration of their debut album's 20th birthday. Miller, who owns the busiest set of hips not included in Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" video, let the throng know he had in fact been roommates with Toadies guitarist Clark Vogeler when Hitchhike to Rhome was being recorded. And yet beyond that tidbit of information, there's surprisingly little to tie the two bands together, save for roots in DFW and varying degrees of national success -- a scenario that offers an opportunity to ponder the definition of success and relevance in today's music industry.
The swooning alt-country of the Old 97's is on the other end of the spectrum from the menacing, homicidal wails of the Toadies' thrashing post-grunge style. That alone has made it rare to see these two bands share a stage. It's worth noting, too, that this year's Most Messed Up LP managed to increase the Old 97's already enviable national profile through enthusiastic reviews and some of the band's best sales numbers while the Toadies 2012 album, Play.Rock.Music, certainly an enjoyable effort and very much in line with what loyal fans would hope for, didn't have anywhere near the same impact for them on a critical or commercial level.
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With that in mind, it's safe to say the vast majority of the attendance rested in the age range of 35 to 55 and many even had children in tow. But that wasn't the only sign this wasn't the Toadies of 1994. At 9:50, the heroes hopped onstage and quickly proceeded to scratch out the opening notes to Rubberneck's opening head-banging instrumental track, "Mexican Hairless." As Lewis, Vogeler, Doni Blair and Mark Reznicek proceeded to tear through Rubberneck's fearsome, well-known track list in order for the last time this year, it was impossible to see the gaggle of girls happy-dancing near the back of the stage and the insane amount of giant beachballs bopping around the crowd and not think how times have changed. Such Jimmy Buffet-ness would've been unthinkable in the days before "Possum Kingdom" and "Backslider" lodged themselves into the consciousness of so many high school and college students in the mid- to late '90s.
Understandably, many non-Texans consider the Toadies a one-hit wonder and the Old 97's merely a random country band with a pretty lead singer, if they know of them at all. Another bet one wouldn't lose is that the Toadies likely couldn't pull off a large festival-style happening of this nature in practically any other state. Even with younger acts such as Somebody's Darling, Residual Kid and Ume slaying, while Pleasant Grove gave us something to look forward to, Saturday night still could reasonably be viewed as a simple nostalgia trip for old people. But if a graying, wiser band still offers impassioned performances of their oldest material while its dedicated hometown fans scream along, there's little need for justification for an annual love fest beyond that setting.
Before the post-Rubberneck celebration era of the Toadies could proceed, though, the night's best moment summed up all that was right about Saturday. As the Toadies were nearing the end of "Tyler," arguably their second-most-popular tune, the power abruptly shut off (for only a couple of minutes) and only the smack of the drums and the thumping of the bass could be ever-so-faintly heard. But that minor malfunction was no match for the good vibes emanating throughout the audience. Without missing a literal beat, the attentive fans began chanting the sing-along "Oh, oh. Yeah, yeah" chorus to the song while the band smiled and let the love come to them.
That moment alone was enough to surely make any who were there wish that Rubberneck could turn 20 every year.