Maybe you are lucky enough to have a close friend from back in the day. Life and circumstance dictate that you can’t get together very often, but when you do there are hugs and laughter, memories and maybe a few tears as well.
Sunday night at the Kessler, 500 of us got to catch up with our dear friends known collectively as Tripping Daisy, and all those emotions were on display. We left slowly, soaking in the afterglow, wanting more but knowing in our hearts that life and circumstance are unpredictable, and we are better off just appreciating the moment as it unfolds.
Tripping Daisy at the Kessler Theater in Dallas. Aug. 28, 2022
Halfway around the world in Japan, late August is the time for the Toro Nagashi Festival, where lanterns are lit and released into the water to make it easier for ancestors to find their way home. At the Kessler, Tripping Daisy became a similar touchstone, taking us back to a time when anything seemed possible, when bands like Tripping Daisy, The Toadies and The New Bohemians made evident that Dallas was more than the Sixth Floor Book Depository. Listening to the band's psych pop-rock songs in 2022 involves nostalgia, sure, but the bigger point is that the music is good. It’s fun. It holds up 25 years later and it deserves to be taken off the shelf and played occasionally.
A new duo named John and June opened up the show. It's composed of the talented and insanely busy John Dufilho and his 11-year-old daughter June. Drummer Jeff Ryan helped out on a single, muffled snare. What could have been a family-night variety show oddity turned out to be a highly polished, immensely engaging act and cuter than a basketful of puppies. If you were starting to wonder if there were any articulate, talented, engaging families left in the world, you have your answer. There was not a single person in the house who did not love these two.
As Tripping Daisy rolled through the set, a tribal energy took over the room. The transformation had begun and a portal to our musical past had been opened.
Drummer Bryan Wakeland and bassist Mark Pirro said they felt that weight, before adding sardonically they did not achieve this same state of consciousness while running through the set for the 100th time in rehearsal.
Practice was not without its own emotional moments, though. In 1999, the band lost founding member and guitar player Wes Berggren. The tragedy stopped the band in its tracks, and in a matter of months Tripping Daisy officially disbanded. Almost two decades later, when a reunion was announced, Nick Earl was brought in to cover Berggren’s guitar parts. Earl plays them so well and so faithfully that Wakeland and Pirro occasionally look over to make sure it's not Berggren. There are no floating lanterns in play, but it seems impossible to discount that just maybe
a portal has been opened to a consciousness outside of the normal boundaries of time, and we are all finding a path home.
Just 24 hours before, frontman Tim DeLaughter had stood in the lobby looking pensive. Not nervous or worried, just in the midst of thought. Sunday’s show had just been announced, giving fans less than a day to buy tickets and make plans. The guitar parts that DeLaughter might have played in the '90s had been reassigned. Lyrics designed for a 20-year-old voice had been rehearsed. Only one unresolved issue remained on the list: coming to grips with the memories of the close friend and bandmate whose loss had overshadowed all of Tripping Daisy’s success.
The concert was a joyful touchstone for those of us in the audience, but for its creator, the music will always be bittersweet.
After the show, DeLaughter smiled broadly, posing for pictures and shaking hands with old friends and new. I asked him how he feels now, and his answer was simple and honest. “I feel happy," he said. We all do, Tim. Thanks for the memories.
The Toro Nagashi festival can be large or small, personal or communal. It is also called the Festival of Recovery. It’s an apt metaphor for a Tripping Daisy concert. This isn’t a band that tours relentlessly, sucking every dime out of hits from 20 years ago. Tripping Daisy is a band that plays when it needs to, when we need them to. It’s a cathartic celebration, and it's good for all of us.
Tripping Daisy's Tim DeLaughter
John and June at the Kessler Theater, Aug. 28 2022
DeLaughter jumps, or maybe he's levitating, before the crowd a the Kessler this weekend.
Tripping Daisy at the Kessler Theater in Dallas. August 28, 2022
A set list from Sunday's Tripping Daisy reunion