Of all the different live show scenarios, all the varying combinations of performer and setting, there's nothing quite like seeing a band in their hometown. The sixth annual Dia De Los Toadies Festival, a Texas institution, was the perfect hometown hero live music experience. This year, the fest took place for the first time in Toadies' native Fort Worth. Along with its namesake, this Dia lineup included Gary Clark Jr, Eisley, Dirty River Boys, The Burning Hotels, The O's, Pinata Protest, Oil Boom, Baboon, The Cush, These Machines Are Winning, and School Of Rock band Dean's List. Panther Island Pavilion was an ideal and lush setting for a fond Texas farewell to summer.
On Saturday, the pre-sunset crowd was smaller than one would have anticipated. The grounds were about half full for The O's and The Burning Hotels set, and there couldn't have been more than 70 patrons tubing the river. There have been a couple of previous Dias held in popular tubing destination New Braunfels, but it seems for as beautiful as Panther Island Pavilion is, people aren't quite sure whether they want to sit in the Trinity River. Most attendees opted for some quad-pod soccer mom chairs while they perused the food truck caravan. Those who did their research ahead of time brought coolers full of canned beer. Those who did not payed festival pricing for Tecate with complimentary beer salt.
Dirty River Boys played a boisterous set for a growing crowd as dusk hit the overlooking Fort Worth skyline. The El Paso quartet got fans up on their feet, and lived up to their self-appointed designation of "outlaw folk" with a pretty high energy and action-packed outing. The highlight of their set would come with a cover of "She" by Green Day, setting the tone for the nostalgia to come after dark.
But first there was Eisley, who leaned heavily on newer material as the sun went down. Though diverse, the crowd was made up substantially of '90s babies who no doubt would've loved to revisit the Tyler-based family band's 2003 calling card "Telescope Eyes," or material from their sophomore EP, Marvelous Things. It's understandable that after a decade in the game, Eisley wants to prove that they've evolved since then. But we missed the hits.
Gary Clark Jr's incendiary guitar stylings shook up the night, without a doubt. The crowd could barely take their eyes off the Austin troubadour. He howled the blues and hypnotized patrons with his electrifying solos. Fan favorites and KXT regular rotation gems like "Bright Lights" and "When My Train Pulls In" actually got some hips swinging in a crowd that would soon prove very uncoordinated.
As the Toadies took the stage, the crowd (which had at least tripled in size) went wild and sent weed smoke billowing high above the city's skyline backdrop. Saving the hits for the second half of their set, The Toadies spent time warming up with the newer stuff, which was pretty much chattered over. It's too bad, because there are some good songs in there. Though the band gets lumped in with the grunge era a lot, The Toadies don't really get the credit they deserve for only growing tighter, cleaner, and more technical as they have evolved.
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This is a band that is aging well, which can't be said for many of their '90s-era contemporaries. During classics like "I Come From The Water," "Possum Kingdom," and "Tyler" the crowd went wild. It was hard not to feel about 15 years younger, as if we'd all stepped into some kind of sing-along powered time machine.
In an encore that had to be at least seven songs long, The Toadies really pulled out all the stops. They performed deep cuts like "Velvet" off 1994's regional classic, Rubberneck. A slew of special guests graced the stage including former guitarist Charles Mooney, Rise Against's Zach Blair, and James Hall (formerly of Pleasure Club). Lead singer Todd Lewis ribbed, "Here's a really obscure cover song" before counting down a version of "Rocky Mountain Way." The Joe Walsh classic went over well, but it would have been nice to see a more Texas-centric cover choice.
So the sixth annual Dia De Los Toadies was a success. It would be great to see it at Panther Island Pavilion again next year, as the regional nostalgia sounds all the more sweet bouncing off of Fort Worth's disjointed skyline. Dia may be a state institution, but Toadies themselves are the cultural property of Fort Worth.