Many Houstonians make no secret of their disdain for Dallas. Hell, the bio at the bottom of this article has received its share of vitriol, and it’s not because of my love for little dogs. But I digress.
Point being, all one has to do to earn the ire of a devoted Houstonian is to claim Dallas as home, to support the Mavericks, the Rangers or, God forbid, the Cowboys. The DFW Metroplex’s own Toadies likely won’t single-handedly change that perception, but they’re certainly doing their part.
In addition to being one of the finest mainstream rock outfits of the past 25 years to emanate from Texas, and one that still receives considerable radio play in Houston to this day, the Toadies have been donating some proceeds of their current tour to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. That includes proceeds generated from a show on December 29 at House of Blues.
“I’ve got family in Houston who, fortunately, were not directly affected by the hurricane, but everybody certainly got scared as hell,” Toadies frontman Vaden Todd Lewis said recently. “Shit is still going on every day (with regard to Harvey relief efforts), but we’re from Texas and we’re gonna stand up for our own. That is our cause for this tour.”
Now, to be fair, the Toadies, despite rumors to the contrary, aren’t technically from Dallas. Rather, the band hails from Fort Worth, which as anyone who’s ever visited the city, knows is a bit more laid-back and far less pretentious than its DFW sibling.
Lewis admits that in his efforts to spread the band’s name in the '90s, he might have somehow perpetuated the notion that his band hailed from Dallas proper.
“When we started, we said we were from Fort Worth, but then we’d go outside of Texas and people would be like, ‘What the hell is Fort Worth,’ so we defaulted to Dallas,” he said. “But I did live in Dallas for a time in the late '90s, and back then, Fort Worth vs. Dallas was a big rivalry, kinda like Austin vs. everywhere else in Texas is now.”
Added Lewis: “We always receive a great reception in Texas; that’s our bread and butter. Texas is home, and it’s always exciting to come home.”
There was a time when many in Texas wondered if they’d ever get to see the Toadies live again. The band burst out of the gate with 1994’s Rubberneck. Thanks to hit singles like “Possum Kingdom” and “Tyler,” which you can still hear on the BUZZ to this day, Rubberneck eventually went Platinum.
The band re-entered the studios a few years later to record its follow-up, Feeler, but Interscope Records rejected the finished product and the Toadies went back to the studio. The result was 2001’s Hell Below/Stars Above, which made nary a dent on the charts. From there, Toadies called it quits and Lewis moved on to form another band, Burden Brothers.
However, some five years after the break-up, Toadies reunited for a one-off gig. A year later, they upped the ante a bit with a small tour that included Houston, Dallas and Austin. A year after that, No Deliverance – which rivals Rubberneck in terms of quality and showcases the band’s more mature sound – peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart.
The full-blown reunion, Lewis admits, wasn’t totally intentional.
“We (Toadies) had been getting back together off and on between 2001-2005, doing various festivals and stuff, but I had Burden Brothers going at the same time,” he said. “I got home from a Burden Brothers tour, sat down and started writing, but it sounded like a Toadies record, not a Burden Brothers record. Four songs in, I called the guys and talked about it. We moved forward from there.”
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Here is where things get interesting. Having seen Toadies three or four times since No Deliverance dropped, I can attest that a number of fans come to hear the hits of Possum Kingdom. I can also attest, however, that many in attendance not only seem familiar with the band’s catalog post-No Deliverance (the Toadies have since released four more proper albums), but sing along in unison to tracks that never even sniffed radio.
“I’m sure nostalgia plays a role in it, but it’s weird, because new fans keep showing up,” Lewis said. “Some of them went from being in their 20s and 30s, now they’re older and bringing their younger siblings, or even their kids with them. It’s great.”
As the band’s fanbase has grown, so too has Toadies' comfort level as a band. That comfort not only stems from maturity brought on by 25 years in the music industry, but also from the fact that Lewis and crew legitimately seem to be enjoying themselves again.
“Well, I never wanted to get a desk job; it didn’t fit me,” Lewis said. “I equated that to some of my friends getting square jobs and bitching about people at work. I didn’t wanna do that. Even now, I still feel that if you’re going to be in a band, you should have a good time. You shouldn’t be doing it because it’s a job; it’s a lot of work, but it should be fulfilling too. If you’re not enjoying it, then fuck it.”