Over The Weekend: Second Annual Dia de Los Toadies Festival

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Dia de Los Toadies
Rough Creek Ranch, Glen Rose
August 29, 2009

Better than: planting your ass at a sports bar in the asphalt jungle. 

Rough Creek Ranch is a scenic patch of olive Texas prarie centered around a modest swimmin' hole. To the north, a shallow creek babbles in. To the South? Rolling hills dotted with brush. It's all very clean, comfortable and serene.

To see a festival stage erected on the east shore must be an odd sight in these parts.

Especially one with two massive, inflatable sheep off to one side.

But it's the unnatural torrent of two worlds colliding (sometimes harmoniously, sometimes not) that tends to make for great festival showings--and that's what you got at the Second Annual Dia De Los Toadies.

In a nutshell, it was a laid back study in chaos.

For instance, the opening act of the show turned out not to be a band at all--rather, it was a pretty nasty dust devil that kicked up at stage right just before showtime, violently hurling two day tents up into the air and knocking over gear onstage, including a rack of guitars.

Thankfully, no one was hurt--and the inflatable sheep were unaffected.

And, also fortunately for the attendees of this day-long event, the music was staggered cleverly enough.

The Boom Boom Box, a terse wake-up call for the quiet countryside, started things with a roar rather than a moo, bringing a percussion-heavy set of swirling, sonic noise to horse country. The newest band on the lineup and featuring members of area greats like Pleasant Grove and Baboon, the band's set was progressive, experimental and interesting.

A maricahi band surprised audiences, sporting powder-blue tuxes and dresses, and wandering into the middle of the crowd to cover Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire", much to the audience's approval.

Eleven Hundred Springs then appeared, picking at its instruments and grinning about whiskey and beer, after having been aptly introduced by a country radio DJ as "the best country and western band in Texas," with which I, for one, concur--you can always count on a Springs show for concise playing, and fun outlaw cowboy stories that get better with each can of Lone Star.

Ben Kweller, himself a country artist these days, next performed--a little more thoughtfully, too--with only an acoustic guitar and an electric piano. His new songs, including "Wantin' Her Again," from the February-released Changing Horses and which just cracked CMT's video countdown show, bridged the gap nicely for what was to come.

Bowling for Soup then blasted its brand of smart-ass, cityboy pop punk at the hillside, and they did it, as always, with no filters: "The P90X tip of the day is, HYDRATE, ladies!" quipped frontman Jaret Reddick. Guitarist Chris Burney, second only to Sarah Silverman when it comes to shock-rocking on Twitter, followed: "Seriously, you P90X faggots can suck my fat white...", well, you get the picture. In between the band members' blue-humor, cussin'-heavy banter with the crowd (offending some, garnering roars of laughter from others), they treated audiences to two new songs, "My Wena", and "Hooray for Beer," among a set of well-knowns like "Ohio (come back to Texas)", which no doubt, earned them some new fans, possibly even from the pool of offended.

Secret Machines waited out the day at the backstage bar, dressed head-to-toe, ankle-to-wrist, in snug, goth-y black attire--impressive in 90 degree weather. Nighttime certainly seems the bands' forte setting, but the band fared well sound-tracking a breathtaking sunset.

The night, however, clearly belonged to the Toadies. One of the more dramatic intros to a headliner--intended or not--was laid with Zeppelin's gorgeous "The Rain Song" playing over the field's PA, followed by the return of the Maricahi players. This time, though, the players were illuminated by the colors of the nighttime stage lights--and a howlingly excited crowd.

The Toadies, nobly, kept rather quiet and let the music do the talking. They, like Secret Machines, and The Boom Box before them, came out of the gate with a punch to the mouth--a raw, angry gem from the Rubberneck LP, "Quitter"--before playing crowd favorites, but not without diggin a step deeper, too; the set was dotted with the swampy, dark tracks of their newest offering, No Deliverance, and ended strong, by pulling up a handful of female background singers for Hell Below, Stars Above... an almost subconscious cue to end the night that cast the crowd's eyes towards the Glen Rose night sky, painted with what looked like literally billions of celestial twinkles.

Essentially: While it lacked the crowd of 5,000+ of its inaugural event, Dia De Los Toadies still remains a very special event, sketched out with lots of TLC, and careful consideration to exceptional scenery, and fiercely diverse music variety.

A nice day in the country, to say the least.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
The Secret Machines are a longtime personal favorite of mine.

Memorable Stage Quotes:
"I'd really rather not leave here without impregnating some women. I have plenty of semen to go around." --Bowling for Soup's Chris Burney

"The electric piano is a little fucked up, sorry about that!" --Ben Kweller

"Dude, can I smell your neck?" --Bowling for Soup's Erik Chandler, to a guy with a bikini girl on his shoulders.

"We will be offering free tongue kisses after the show! We will, however, be checking IDs and health records." --Bowling for Soup's Chris Burney and Jaret Reddick.

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