It seems like I’ve been fortunate enough to plan a few good concerts in the earlier part of 2011. I got to see Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, the Bouncing Souls and Toad the Wet Sprocket, performing with Deep River at the 9:30 Club.
Here are my thoughts on the matter. First, the opening band, Deep River, is really excellent, if you like easy and rootsy folk rock. The singer emanates a good energy, plays the harmonica and sounds like a hybrid of Trisha Yearwood and Sarah McLachlan. Their song “Virginia” made me a bit teary-eyed, but I’m still in a rough patch being without my dear Snakies (the cat.) Maybe it also had to do with the fact that I was in beautiful Virginia, beside my lifelong best friend, after a turbulent year. You should give this group a chance. The singer, Rachel, is energetic, plays a drum and harmonica and incites the audience to dance and clap and groove. Her beautiful harmonies matched the voices of her bassist and guitarist and their songs left me feeling peaceful. They are definitely a good opener for a Toad show. Check out more about Deep River here: http://www.myspace.com/deeprivermusicva
They are also very crowd-friendly and hung around to talk to fans and sign their CD, which I bought and recommend.
Toad the Wet Sprocket. Where do I begin? A lot of people who aren’t familiar give you a confused look when you say the name. Let’s clear up some confusion: The band drew its name from the Eric Idle monologue “Rock Notes” on Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album from 1980, although the name is featured in a parody of The Old Grey Whistle Test on Rutland Weekend Television in 1975. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toad_the_Wet_Sprocket)
You can read more there about them by using the link above. Toad (the loving abbreviation given to them by fans-from-the-early-days) give one heck of a show. They are always good to their fans and often come out and sign items and chat with fans up to the point of being kicked out of the venue. They afforded such a kindness on Saturday evening, as well. They are currently working on their first album since Coil, in 1998. Since 1998, they still do intermittent touring and those are the shows where the true fans shine. We are the type that will drive four hours just to catch them again.
This particular tour finds them with Jonathan Kingham, a friend and fellow musician who toured with Glen in 2009. He is playing mandolin and keys for them, as well as playing guitar and providing supporting vocals. To learn more about Jonathan and his varied and exceptional talents, go here: http://www.jonathankingham.com/file/splash.html
Saturday found Toad singing old favorites with new variations, like the ever-popular “All I Want” “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Good Intentions.” Glen played one track from one of his (three?) solo albums, “Finally Fading.” If you like Toad you definitely should check out Glen’s solo stuff. It falls into a more mellow groove, but feels like you’re listening to an old friend share his life and advice for yours, with you. I highly recommending walking in the park with him.
What I find incredible about the band…well, are a few things.
1) Glen was only 16 when the band got rolling and they are still a tight unit all these many years later
2) The drummer, Randy Guss, who is afflicted with Osteogenesis Imperfecta http://www.oif.org/site/PageServer?pagename=AOI_Facts has been living with this condition since the before the band began. His brother gave him a drum set to ease his suffering and bring joy into his life. That subsequent joy became Toad the Wet Sprocket. One thing I noticed, in particular, about Randy is his pure joy during the show. Over the drum kit you can see the eyes closed-playing-his-heart-out stance and a bright grin so big you’d think he was a kid on Christmas morning.
3) You can see their sense of comraderie and feel good because of the good relationship that is evident on stage
4) Glen always plays barefoot.
5) They are incredibly good to their fans, ALL THE TIME!!!
I happened to tell Randy after the show my insights on his joy and how it emanates off the stage. I had envisioned writing their story for the longest time (and I’ve mentioned it more than once) and I told him it should be written down. We always hear about pitches in Creative Writing sessions but when it comes down to it, you can practice your head off, but what comes out, will come out naturally. He told me I had pretty eyes, as I introduced myself and my proposition to him.
The music started blaring (the club trying to kick us out for the rave about to take place) so we went to the stairwell where he expressed that he’s always wanted to talk about his story with OI and Toad and the drums, but wasn’t a writer. I told him I’d gladly help him tell his story and he put my number into his phone. It felt a little surreal. I’ve met some famous people before but this was more exciting than any of them. The idea that I can help him write about triumph through music? That’s what my story is about, and I think I could write his well.
Meanwhile, if you are a Toad fan, send me your comments. If you aren’t, check them out. I’m pretty sure you will be in no time.
Be well and rock on,