Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reincarnation Song (Part 1 of 2)

Mercy Lounge = House of Toad. Their reincarnation is complete. Saturday August 13, 2011, the continuously popular 90s Alternative/Modern Rock band, Toad The Wet Sprocket made their triumphal return to Music City; performing together in Nashville for the first time since 1997 and rocking a packed Mercy Lounge. From left, bassist Dean Dinning, drummer Randy Guss, lead vocalist/guitarist Glen Phillips, and lead guitarist/vocalist Todd Nichols did not disappoint; delighting the sold-out, standing room crowd. (Photo: Nancy Neil/

I Will Not Take These Things for Granted
As Toad the Wet Sprocket took the stage a week ago Saturday night at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge, lead singer Glen Phillips strode to the microphone with a grin on his face as wide as the Pacific Ocean. The group’s primary singer/songwriter was drinking in the sold-out, standing room crowd’s rabid applause as if it was a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day. The band was playing their 70th out of 74 appearances on the first leg of of a blistering initial tour to mark their full-fledged return to the contemporary music scene.

“I am SO happy to be an artist, playing Nashville, Tennessee WITHOUT a current song on the charts,” he announced, to further hoops and applause from the adoring masses. Phillips knew this group of fans was there for the right reasons. He and the band have nothing new to sell yet, really — and certainly nothing to prove. Each and every member of the audience knew why they were there; they were already completely sold.

Over the next three glorious hours, what ensued was much less a concert than it was choir practice, as the vast majority of diehard fans in attendance sang every word to every song with such fervor, that even from my position within the mass of humanity pulsing just a few feet from the stage, the sound of Phillips’ voice was nearly indistinguishable from that of the crowd’s.

If you remember the last time I reviewed a Glen Phillips show, you’ll know why I captured this song: Stupid, from Toad’s 1994 release, Dulcinea.

The band hails from Santa Barbara, California, a place far enough removed from L.A. to hardly be considered Southern California proper, but close enough to engender all of what we consider magical about life on the left coast. The surf community has always been a big part of the city’s mystique, and for me, as with most people I’d imagine, the beach is an integral part of anything that’s SB-related.

For my wife, Michelle and me, Santa Barbara is one of our favorite spots on earth. She attended college at University of California, Santa Barbara, and that time in her life is a part of her youth that can never be replaced. It’s also where we spent on our wedding night — in a little motel right on the beach, of course — en route to a two-week honeymoon trip up and down the west coast; thereby instilling in it for me a sense of romantic nostalgia that’s equally irreplaceable.

However, I take this little detour not to proclaim my affinity for Toad as merely based on where four former San Marcos High buddies grew up, forming a band in their teens that would become one of, if not the most endearing and successful of the Alternative Folk/Modern Rock era.

No, my appreciation for their music goes much deeper than that; the Santa Barbara connection is just an added bonus.

The reason I mention the beach and Toad in the same breath is in part because that’s where their music takes me, emotionally. The freedom; the soul-piercing clarity of thought; the sense that you can be one among a crowd of people, yet feel that the sole intended recipient of each song’s message is you and you alone.

Oh…and there IS one other reason… Glen Phillips came in looking as if he’d actually just come from the beach.

Crowing Although standing three feet from the stage definitely has its advantages, I’m beginning to realize that some of those advantages are better applied to a man considerably younger age than myself. This was the first ‘stand-up’ show I had been to in at least two years and as I indicated a month ago, sadly, I can no longer ignore the effects of Father Time on this ol’ bod ‘o mine.

Dude, I was sore!
Nonetheless I had a great time, and being so close as to get a shot of Glen’s set list (left) — and knowing that being situated in the second row of people standing in front of the stage, that there was no way in hell that the couple directly in front of me wouldn’t nab it first — was the next best thing to receiving it as a souvenir myself.

The 23-song set included all eleven tunes from their newly re-recorded greatest hits album, All You Want, released this past April, on the band's original, self-financed label, Abe’s Records, through which they also originally produced their initial project, Bread & Circus, before being picked up by Columbia Records that same year. The set also included a number of additional early Toad hits (from B&C, Pale, and their breakthrough release, Fear), which Glen openly dedicated to those diehard fans who had indeed been with them from the beginning.

The re-recorded greatest hits album (available for just $12/Digital or $15/CD at it NOW!). It is the band’s rightful effort to re-acquire the licensing rights to the songs from their Columbia Records catalog still held by their former record company.

Setlist Amplification
And just in case you can’t figure out the Toad Code of song title shorthand and chord/key designations, or perhaps you counted the songs in the photo and suddenly realized that ol’ AJ’s math isn’t quite right, here’s the set list in its entirety, including the album on which the tunes first appeared (and yes, there is indeed an extra tune the boys slipped in that wasn’t on the set list):
  1. Something’s Always Wrong (Fear – 1991)
  2. Whatever I Fear (Coil – 1997)
  3. Crowing (Dulcinea – 1994)
  4. Fly From Heaven (Dulcinea – 1994)
  5. Good Intentions (In Light Syrup – 1995)
  6. Stupid (Dulcinea – 1994)
  7. Inside (Dulcinea – 1994)
  8. Windmills (Dulcinea – 1994)
  9. Is It For Me? (Fear – 1991)
  10. The Moment (NEW! Yet Unnamed Album – 2012)
  11. Friendly Fire (NEW! Yet Unnamed Album – 2012)
  12. Way Away (Bread & Circus – 1989)
  13. I Will Not Take These Things for Granted (Fear – 1991)
  14. Come Back Down (Pale – 1990)
  15. Nightingale Song (Fear – 1991)
  16. All I Want (Fear – 1991)
  17. Crazy Life (Coil – 1997)
  18. Finally Fading (Glen Phillips solo release: Winter Pays for Summer – 2005)
  19. Brother (In Light Syrup – 1995)
  20. Fall Down (Dulcinea – 1994)
  21. Encores
  22. Come Down (Coil – 1997)
  23. Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie: The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & Spiders From Mars – 1972)
  24. Walk on the Ocean (Fear – 1991)
Bootleg Medley
Still don’t believe me? As I touted this piece in my previous blog entry, this post is a truly multimedia effort, And given the fact the Toad has always encouraged fans to record live shows if they’re so inclined (Glen has referred to the band as having a very “taper-friendly” policy), I decided to bring my hand-held digital voice recorder to the show. I was originally only going to use it to record snippets of each song so that I’d be sure to have an accurate account of the setlist. However, once I realized that I could actually get a photo of said list, i decided to do a mini bootleg of the entire show.
However, be forewarned, this audio ain’t exactly archival quality. Remember that thing I said earlier about this affair being akin to one really huge choir practice? Well, as you can imagine, when everyone in the house is belting out every Toad lyric in as high a volume as they can muster, in whatever divers pitch their little vocal muscles can squeeze into a sound, abetted by liberal amounts of feel-no-pain-inducing liquid refreshment, and I'm sure you get the picture.

But to be honest, after listening to and formatting this recording, I was surprised at how little major interference there is in the thing. You can certainly hear the guy standing directly behind me who unfortunately couldn't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow (yes I know the expression is ‘carry a tune in a bucket,’ but that’s how bad this dude was — trust me) but I'm here to tell ya, you won’t hear him nearly as well as I did (yikes).

Also, in addition to some decent-sized chunks of songs, I was fortunate to capture several choice bits of Phillips’ interaction with the crowd that I think you’ll enjoy. My favorite comes at the very beginning of Crowing (track #3), in which Glen offers a very entertaining lesson in physics, much to the chagrin of one very LOUD member of the audience. :)

The audio is mashed-up in medley format and condenses more than two hours of the concert down to 50 minutes, 9 seconds. However, I did decide to record in their entirety the two new Toad songs that will appear on their upcoming album due out next year. Thankfully, they're pretty much the only ones that the crowd shut up for, so they actually sound pretty good.

Note however, that the inline audio player below is flash-based, so you won't easily be able to directly download the MP3 file for offline listening. However, if you’d like a copy of my ‘mini-bootleg’ for yourself, feel free to leave me a Contact message (located in the navigation bar in the AYBABTU header) with your email address and I’ll be happy to send you the direct download link. It’s a fairly large file (58.7 MB), but shouldn't be too much difficulty for anyone with a good Internet connection to download . Enjoy.


Toad the Wet Sprocket  |  Sat. 08-13-11  |  Mercy Lounge  |  Nashville, TN

And of course, it would’t be multimedia without still photos, so from the Flickr Photostream below you can click through to my Flickr account and view the set of images I’ve uploaded from the show.

More to come
With all the added stuff, this post is getting long. You’ve probably got enough to keep you occupied for awhile with the audio, video and pics from this great Toad experience, so I’ll just let you play around with that for now. I’ve got lots more to say about Glen and the boys but I think I’m gonna save it for a followup entry a little later. Type atcha then.

Next: Stories I Tell
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