04/12/14 Chicago, IL Metro / Smart Bar
04/13/14 Milwaukee, WI Turner Hall Ballroom
04/15/14 Louisville, KY Mercury Ballroom
04/16/14 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue
04/17/14 Cincinnati, OH Bogart's
04/18/14 Detroit, MI Magic Stick
04/19/14 Cleveland Heights, OH Grog Shop
04/21/14 Pittsburgh, PA The Altar Bar
04/23/14 Boston, MA Royale Nightclub Boston
04/24/14 New York, NY Irving Plaza
04/25/14 Asbury Park, NJ Stone Pony
04/26/14 Philadelphia, PA Theatre/Living Arts
04/27/14 Washington, DC Black Cat
05/07/14 Corpus Christi, TX Brewster Street
05/08/14 Helotes, TX Josabi's
05/09/14 Houston, TX House Of Blues
05/10/14 Homegrown Music & Arts Festival
05/11/14 New Orleans, LA Tipitina's Uptown
05/13/14 Nashville, TN Exit / In
05/14/14 Atlanta, GA Heaven At The Masquerade
05/15/14 Tampa, FL The Ritz Ybor
05/16/14 Fort Lauderdale, FL Culture Room
05/17/14 Lake Buena Vista, FL House Of Blues
06/12/14 Oklahoma City, OK Diamond Ballroom
06/13/14 Brazos Nights
06/14/14 Austin, TX Stubb's Bar-B-Q
Portland foursome Battleme started things off with a dirty psych-rock stomp. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Drenik, who looks like the lovechild of Joseph Arthur and Frank Zappa, stalked the stage, trying to rev up an attentive, but far-too-polite Minneapolis crowd. Thankfully, Drenik is a confident performer and the band had lots of energy. So while the crowd response might have seemed lackluster, it wasn’t on account of the band. Near the end of the set, the drummer and bassist left the stage and Drenik and his other guitarist dedicated a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” to Chris "Chango" Von Streicher’ (the Supersuckers drummer) whose dog had recently passed away.
Speaking of Supersuckers - plenty of rock bands site ZZ Top as a major influence on their sound, but nobody seemingly carries the torch quite like Tuscan’s veteran country-punk quartet Supersuckers. Their live show playfully blurred the line between tongue-in-cheek and utter earnestness; the songs were fast, the guitars were huge and the antics were over-the-top. (Singer/bassist Eddie Spaghetti and guitarists Dan “Thunder” Bolton and "Metal" Marty Chandler would stand in formation at the front of the stage and swing and thrust their instruments in unison like a rock ‘n roll chorus line) The band’s breathless set included an awesome Motörhead-style cover of Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again.” Eddie mentioned that it was Chris’ birthday and listed all the gifts we, the audience, could offer to him: Booze, money and street drugs. Although I was skeptical at first, Supersuckers eventually won me over and I was nodding my head and pumping my fist with everyone else.
By the time the Toadies took the stage a short time later, fans were revved up and ready for what would be the most epic and slightly disturbing sing-alongs I’ve ever participated in. The current lineup consists of original members drummer Mark Reznicek, guitarist Clark Vogeler, vocalist/guitarist Vaden Todd Lewis and, replacing original bassist Lisa Umbarger, Doni Blair. The band sounded solid as they effortlessly ran down the Rubberneck tracklist starting with the blistering album opener “Mexican Hairless.” Playing an album in its entirety is bound to get boring, even for the most enthusiastic musician, but the Toadies seemed to relish in the performance and even looked stunned at the crowd’s violently happy reaction.
Rubberneck’s music is so driving and infectious, that standing still was simply impossible. And dark anthems like “Tyler” and the righteous “I Come From the Water” had even the most intoxicated folks singing in sync with Lewis and acknowledging all the rhythmic cues. “Possum Kingdom,” that monumental rock radio staple, a song I’ve probably heard more than any other song in my life, still packs a punch, especially when 1500 people are yelling, “Do you wanna die?” Even more bizarre and amusing was hearing fans screaming the searing verses “You hurt me you f***!” and “You hurt me you c***!” from “Velvet” and watching the space in front of the stage erupt into a mosh pit. My favorite tracks on the album, “Backslider” and the simmering “I Burn,” sounded phenomenal. The latter bolstered the percussive breakdown in the middle of the song with a two guys smashing an extra pair of floor toms and snare drums set up behind Lewis.
Lewis is such an unassuming fellow; dressed in a salmon button-down shirt and sporting Buddy Holly frames and closely cropped graying hair, Lewis looks like the science teacher I secretly crushed on in high school whose almost hidden tattoos hinted at a more wilder existence. Fittingly, Lewis’ passionate vocals roar like a friendly darkness summoned and channeled from his soul. Time and again, he’s proven himself to be one of hard rock’s great underrated vocalists.
Rubberneck’s music is so driving and infectious...
The highlight of the evening came as things were winding down. Lewis gently beat out a rhythm on the body of his guitar as Voleger strummed out the melody that would blossom into “Dollskin,” a slow-burning jam off of Hell Below/Stars Above and one of my favorites. No doubt plenty of people came to this gig for nostalgia’s sake. But the Toadies used this opportunity to prove that they are much more than just a great 20 year old record.
Toadies at First Avenue, Minneapolis (04/10/14)