Retrospect: Toadies at The Magic Stick

To those of my detractors who may say, "At age 29, 5'7", and 135lbs, Roy is too old, too small, and too skinny to mosh," I can only reply by screaming, "I find a window in the kitchen, and I let myself in..." whilst barreling 'cross the room, shoulder lowered at unsuspecting rib cage.

The Toadies concert last night at The Magic Stick was absolutely boffo baby! I wear my scraped Achilles tendons and bruised forearms with a glowing pride and great personal satisfaction! I haven't been to a concert so damned good in... ever. So let's get to it:

Despite my deep satisfaction with the evening's entertainment I can't but be harsh with the local opening band, whoever they were. They lowered the bar substantially at the show's onset with a barrage of, albeit ably-performed, light-rock schlock more suited to an Emily Osment concert than a deep, down, dirty, 90's grunge experience like the Toadies. (And if you don't get the 'Emily Osment' reference, Wikipedia that shit -- I'm proud of it.) Perhaps they were simply out of place, and suffered for it; but we, the crowd, suffered more, through an entire set's worth of musical predictability. The songs were simple, unlayered, open-chord 'meh,' relying wholly upon the lead singer's vocals - and perhaps a popularity amongst teenage girls - to interest the audience; which they did not.

American Idol: yes. Toadies concert: no.

The real opening act - the touring opening act - came on stage as 'Gringo Star,' and proceeded to kick ass for an hour or so. Starting off with their highly palatable single, "All Y'all," Gringo Star didn't really fit the grunge, 90's mold laid down by the Toadies either. But they deftly overcame the natural affinities and discriminations of the crowd with a historically relevant, vocally cultured sound and brand of American music that I, at first, find hard to categorize. ...That and a great quantity of sweat sprayed o'er stage by a shaggy, profusely perspiring, guitarist.

I pause here to say: It's nice to go to a show of this caliber and not be force-fed the genre and sub-genre of the lead act all night in the form of carbon-copy opening performers. I appreciate the variety. May this trend continue.

Every man in Gringo Star served as a vocalist of some measure and all passed the performance by perpetually passing their instruments off to one another: swapping drummers, keyboardists, guitars and vocal duties as was their wont. You've got to be impressed by a rotating band! All the moreso when they sound as good as these guys.

In describing Gringo Star's sound I can't avoid that glaringly obvious reference, try though I might to protect my ever-faltering self-image as word-smith. They really do sound like an early era Beatles, with hints of 50's beach rock, Van Morrison's jazz, and modern lo-fi punk. But whatever you call it, call it "good," because that's what it is and that's what it was last night.


But onto the main act. That's what we're here for, yes? As Gringo Star retires the stage to a hail of cheers and applause; as I retire to The Magic Stick's outdoor, rooftop seating for a breather and a beer, an anticipatory crowd tightens and throngs at stage's edge. Sound check... "Randall!"

The Toadies opened with a crowd-pleasing performance of "Happyface" off their '94 album 'Rubberneck,' reminding us, lest there was ever any doubt, just what these guys do for a living: growling, squealing, disharmonic, minor-chord beauty. (And heavily-veiled songs about stalker-rapists.)

In the interests of fair disclosure I should say that Toadies ranks in my top five all-time bands. The energy inherent to the music, placed alongside my personal history with their mid-nineties catalogue: those youthful memories of frothing teen angst, my early high school years; it all resounds of a time in my life that was...

Really kind of horrible, actually.

Despite that, the Toadies have never ceased to sate my sensibilities, nor to answer any call I might sound for a thoughtfully raging, musical psychopathy. This is grunge, hardcore, and in its most purely distilled state.

But I'm maybe making them out to be heavier than I should. For you can certainly bang your head to the Toadies, but it isn't head-banger music. And yes, I found many an opportunity to present the two-fingered salute at their show last night; but you might as often have found me, eyes closed, listening intently, picking apart the subtleties of thoughtfully constructed overlapping guitar riffs, or taking note of the Toadies' trademark shifting time-signatures. Mostly though, you would have found me making friends and dodging elbows in the mosh pit. (...At least when not uncouthly straddling the girl in the leather jacket standing in front of me at stage's edge whenever the crowd lunged suddenly forward. "Nice to meet you," I say as my pelvis cups her ass.)

Toadies presented a number of songs off their new album, 'Feeler:' An album, I'm told, was written some decade ago but kept from the presses by evil, nasty, cold-hearted record label bastards. Feeler, in its present state is supposedly a distinct reworking of that original intellectual property, so as to avoid the aforementioned capitalist, pig-dog, swine's claims that they own it, and no one plays with their toys but them! Yeah, suck on it Interscope.

Without being further exposed to the new album's content I can say that what I heard at The Magic Stick last night was, more or less, more of the same. And we're all quite pleased at that. May the Toadies continue to epitomize grunge! They need only keep it up for another five years or so. At which point the 90's will have finally edged the 80's out, becoming a retro fad. Wherein the Toadies can again reign at the top of the charts, where they so deservingly belong to be.


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