April officially begins concert season in Austin. Everyone has recovered from South by Southwest, and national touring acts are back out on the road. Big names from all genres and eras of popularity are prosperous in this mega-festival period. Bands whose most popular albums came out in the ‘90s still have legions of loyal fans that not only listen to their music but also attend their concerts, regardless of ticket price. This is the case for Texas’s alt-rock icons Toadies who still have fans that want to hear Rubberneck over and over again, the bands’ now classic debut from 1994. Fans at the sold-out Toadies concert got just that and then some Saturday night at Stubb’s.
Before Toadies took the stage, two Austin indie rock bands opened, which I found interesting since Toadies aren’t close to what I’d consider indie. I wasn’t sure how the bro-heavy audience in attendance would respond to music only hipsters knew and loved to this point. While I have seen Toadies on multiple occasions in my younger days and enjoyed myself, this is the reason I wanted to attend this particular concert.
Opening the night’s show was Boy + Kite, a melodic indie-pop band that formed in 2009. Their gal-guy vocal combination and soft sound seemed to have thrown the audience a curve ball, probably expecting something more in the alt-rock or blues genre. For the first few songs, they were not impressive at all. The word “boring” came to mind. Perhaps it was nerves or something having to do with the sound, but then they seemed to just play better songs and step up their energy level mid-set. It was evident by the crowds’ applause and cheers getting more enthusiastic the more Boy + Kite performed. I still wouldn’t go as far to say that they were a good compliment to Toadies, but certainly a good opener for the next band.
I looked forward to see how the Toadies crowd reacted to the indie power-pop trio Ume. This was, after all, an alternative rock radio audience, not the blog readers of the world who have adored Ume for a few years. Ume opened with their two best songs: “The Conducter” and “Captive.” With her flailing blonde hair and rapid guitar shredding, frontwoman Lauren Langner Larson had all eyes on her throughout the entire set. I’ve seen Ume perform locally on multiple occasions throughout the last few years and that is what always seems to happen. Seeing Ume on their way to the next level at Stubb’s outdoor stage was quite the experience. They held the crowds’ attention and received loud cheers. Most of their set came from their latest release, Phantoms. Chances are they might have sold a copy or two Saturday night after pumping up everyone for Toadies.
Armed with yet another new lineup since the last time I saw the band perform, Toadies wasted no time by kicking things off with their popular radio hits “Heel” and “I Come From The Water.” That hooked everyone instantly and got the pit going shortly thereafter. As to be expected, more tracks from Rubberneck followed along with a couple of new tracks thrown in. Ninety percent of the set list was predictable but certainly crowd pleasing. Even lead singer Vaden Todd Lewis joked about playing “two and half hours of new material” followed by “we wouldn’t do that to you guys.” He knows his audience and what they paid to hear. Of course everyone loved all of it and Toadies proved why they are the alt-rock kings of Texas.
The surprise of the night came later during the encore. Yes, “Tyler” was part of the encore, but nowhere in any press releases or previews that I was aware of did it say Toadies were going to perform a song with Austin’s Hardproof Afrobeat. Most know Hardproof Afrobeat as the horn section for Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. The song backed by Hardproof’s horns was a new song called “Rattlers.” Fans seemed to love it, but seemed to love the familiar even more when Toadies closed the night with “I Burn.” It’s hard to argue with closing with a fan favorite, but Toadies know what their fans want and give it to them. That is one of many reasons they always come back to them. That, and local alt-rock station 101x plays the hell out of Toadies.