The Toadies have been Fort Worth’s alternative rock heroes for decades, but they are hardly a thing of the past. Just last week, the four-piece group brought back its classic sound with a new album and kicked off a two-month tour with a sold-out show in Denton.
The band even has plans to return to Possum Kingdom.
And so a long career seems to be coming full circle.
“Rubberneck,” the Toadies’ classic 1994 debut album, shot the band to fame and led to years of relentless touring. Out of several potential hit singles, “Possum Kingdom,” a particularly creepy track about cult members inspired by Texas folklore, somehow became the band’s signature tune. In the post-Nirvana era, the song was in steady rotation on MTV, and radio stations all over the country played it for years. “Rubberneck” eventually sold a million copies.
Issues with the record label ultimately delayed the release of the Toadies’ sophomore effort until 2001, the same year the band decided to split.
But in 2006, the Toadies were pleasantly surprised by the rapturous response at a reunion show in Dallas. Old and new fans seemed to know the words to all their songs. Initially meant as one last performance for old times’ sake, the show reinvigorated the group. They decided to reunite, and resumed touring and recording albums.
In 2008, the band started Dia De Los Toadies, a daylong Texas music festival it headlines annually. The inaugural event took place at Possum Kingdom Lake, the setting for the Toadies’ best-known song, and it will return there this year for the 10th anniversary.
The past few years have seen the band’s profile continue to rise. The Toadies — lead singer and guitarist Vaden Todd Lewis, drummer Mark Reznicek, guitarist Clark Vogeler and bass player Doni Blair — headlined a show at The Bomb Factory and even collaborated with Martin House Brewing Co. on four beers named for their music. Seeing the group perform live has become a rite of passage, of sorts, for Texans.
Reznicek isn’t sure why the music still matters after all these years.
“When we get together it naturally sounds loud and heavy. We never tried to reinvent the wheel, follow trends, or jump on a bandwagon. But good rock and roll doesn’t age. AC/DC sounds like it could have been recorded 30 years ago or yesterday,” Reznicek says.
The group’s new album, “The Lower Side of Uptown,” bears this out. It’s riff-driven, heavy, and gritty. And it evolved organically. The Toadies returned to the studio with no plan and just a couple unfinished songs.
Taken from the lyrics of the opening track, “When I Die,” the album’s title references a back door to heaven or, perhaps, just a way to sneak into the afterlife. The Toadies even cover Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ eerie classic, “I Put a Spell on You,” on the new release.
Snarling, growling, and howling, frontman Lewis sounds newly possessed on the latest tracks. While the Toadies may be trying to get back to their roots, very little pop sensibility remains. The group has abandoned most of that Pixies influence in favor of ZZ Top. “The Lower Side of Downtown” is filthy rock with swagger to spare, and the riffs click.
The new tour in support of “Lower Side” had its beginnings in the summer of 2015, when fellow ’90s rock stars Local H played Dia De Los Toadies. Impressed by the duo’s high-energy performance, the Toadies wanted to bring them on the road. But it wasn’t to be.
Now touring together, in an era of ’90s music revivals, the Toadies and Local H have a disarmingly explosive live show. But this is not a nostalgia tour. Fans of all ages at the Denton show last week were singing along to songs like “I Come From the Water” and “Tyler.” The music sounds as vital as it did before the end of the century.
“It’s just as fun as it always was,” says Reznicek. “But it can be difficult now that we are older. There were a lot of drugs involved in the ’90s, but nowadays the drugs are more like aspirin, ibuprofen, and cold medicine.”
Dia De Los Toadies
Along with the Toadies and Local H, the lineup includes Riverboat Gamblers, The O’s, Oil Boom, and Quiet Company
- 3 p.m. Sept. 16
- Possum Hollow Camp
- 4801 Possum Hollow Road, Graham
- Tickets are $46 general admission, $150 VIP