The Toadies played the Roxy last week, 13 years after the band's first showcase at the historic LA venue. (Crystal Kelly)

Echoes And Reverberations: On The Toadies' Return To The Roxy Theatre

In February of 1995, Interscope Records packaged two of their “baby bands” together for a tour of the US.

Our beloved Toadies and Bush were apparently on two different trajectories; the headliners were enjoying the MTV push behind the breakout success of their first single “Everything Zen”, while Todd Lewis and his band mates were struggling to scrape together enough dough just to keep their van on the road.

It was a safe bet to say that everyone in the audience that night was there to see pretty boy Gavin Rossdale and his unfortunately-named band. “Possum Kingdom” had yet to catch on with Los Angeles radio, and the label had already considered pulling the band’s tour support. The pressure was on to deliver an amazing performance.

After a blistering opening set, the astonished crowd demanded an encore--a rarity for any opening act in LA. In the matter of 45 minutes, the Toadies had converted a room full of shallow skeptics into rabid believers.

Meanwhile, after Bush made the mistake of playing their only radio hit halfway into their set, the place began to clear out shortly thereafter.

But the front sidewalk of The Roxy was abuzz about this amazing band that nobody had ever heard of prior to that night--a little band from Fort Worth, Texas, that had walked into one of the toughest showcase rooms in Los Angeles and stolen the show from their heralded label mates.

Last week, the band returned to the scene of the crime. Thirteen years later, Toadies and Bush are label mates once again, only this time with Dallas-based indie Kirtland Records. While Bush, as an entity, appears to have dropped off the pop culture radar altogether (Gavin Rossdale recently released a solo disc), the re-invigorated Toadies are currently riding a wave of momentum inspired by the recent release of the No Deliverance album. Judging by the inordinate amount of Baboon t-shirts in the crowd, this sold-out headlining show last Thursday was a Texpatriate homecoming for many of those in the Toadies orbit; besides longtime tour manager Sean Bailey and fellow former Trees staffer/sound tech Edo Levi, former Tripping Daisy/MC 900 FT Jesus drummer Mitch Marine was in the house; along with former Hagfish drummer Tony Barsotti (supporting former band mate Doni Blair, now playing bass with the Toadies), and former Q and the Black Martin/Caulk drummer Joe Fulginiti. John Kirtland, Dale Brock and Tami Thomsen were all there reppin’ Kirtland Records, too, and photographer and Southlake grad Crystal Kelly was on the scene documenting the proceedings. Thomsen was especially thrilled that singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams was on hand to catch the show.

The band is clearly hitting its stride after the recent Lollapalooza appearance and a string of sold out shows in the South. Guitarist Clark Vogeler and Lewis traded short snippets of moldy classic rock riffs between songs for comedic effect. Drummer Mark Reznicek was, as usual, rock solid behind the kit. The entire Roxy audience provided inspired backing vocals for “I Come From the Water”, “Quitter” and “Backslider." Meanwhile, new songs like “I Am A Man of Stone” and “No Deliverance” were epic and brutal. “Song I Hate” resonated with the familiarity of radio-ready hit single; and both “Tyler” and “Doll Skin” sounded majestic and emotional as encore selections. Nobody in the building wanted this performance to come to an end.

After the show, Roxy Theater owner Nic Adler stood among the sweat-drenched fans out on the front sidewalk and said, “This was easily one of our top ten shows of 2008. I’ve loved the Toadies for years--I’ve been looking forward to this show for months. We have a lot of different artists from all over the world kickin’ every single style you can imagine, but rock shows like this are what The Roxy is all about. This night made me feel about 10 years younger.”

Great music should have the ability to make time stand still. Thirteen years after the band made its Los Angeles debut at this legendary venue, the Toadies returned to bring this story full circle.

And Bush? Maybe next time Adler will know which band to call if he needs an opening act for a Toadies show. --Jeff Liles

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