Dia de los Toadies comes home to where it all began

by User Not Found | Sep 13, 2013

By Preston Jones

For the first time in six years, Toadies, one of the biggest rock bands to ever roar out of Fort Worth, is bringing its namesake festival home.

However excited those planning to attend the two-day Dia de los Toadies event at Panther Island Pavilion might be, odds are low anyone is as amped as the band itself.

“It is a high point of the year,” says drummer Mark Reznicek, taking a brief break from the second day of rehearsals in Dallas. “It’s always cool seeing 10 of your favorite bands before going to play [your] own set. It’s something we look forward to all year.”

Assembling the lineup, which ranges from Gary Clark Jr.’s fiery blues to the Cush’s psychedelic-tinged pop-rock, is handled by the band and its representatives. The process sounds akin to assembling a mixtape — a living, breathing one.

“We usually start with a long list of bands,” Reznicek says. “As we contact ’em and find out who’s available and who’s not, we narrow it down to what would make the best lineup and what would make the most sense.”

This year, in particular, the lineup skews heavily local, plucking several bands, like These Machines Are Winning and Burning Hotels, from the sizable DFW scene. Many performers taking the stages at the Panther Island Pavilion have personal ties to Toadies and Reznicek, in particular.

“This year, [there are] a lot of my friends’ bands, people I’ve known 15 or 20 years in the local music scene,” Reznicek says. “ Baboon — I used to share a duplex with two guys in that band.Matt the Cat Trio — I played in Eleven Hundred Springs with those guys for six years. These Machines Are Winning — their singer Dylan [Silvers] is an old friend of mine and I’ve played in sessions for various bands he’s had.”

In 2008, when Dia de los Toadies was first launched as a one-day, five-band event at Possum Kingdom Lake (because, duh, it bears the name of the band’s biggest hit ever), west of Fort Worth, the original plan was to move the festival to a different Texas city each year.

For the last three years, however, Toadies threw its party down in New Braunfels, at itsWhitewater Amphitheater.

“Even though we love it down there — it’s a beautiful location — we thought it was time to move it somewhere else for awhile,” Reznicek says. “What better place than our hometown?”

Like the Fort Worth Music Festival, the Untapped Festival and the Ranch Bash, Dia de los Toadies organizers and the band itself fell in love with the Panther Island Pavilion set-up, so deciding where in their hometown to host such a shindig was easy.

“It’s cool because there’s the awesome Fort Worth skyline right there next to [Panther Island Pavilion],” Reznicek says. “It’s practically in downtown but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s an outdoor setting; you get the best of both [worlds]. People don’t have to drive an hour out into the country to see us.”

What modesty precludes Reznicek from saying is that people absolutely would drive an hour — or more — to see Toadies play. The band has a ferociously loyal fan base, which has been cultivated over more than 20 years.

Along with bandmates Vaden Todd Lewis, Clark Vogeler and Doni Blair (the latest incarnation, if you will, of Toadies; two founding members, Darrel Herbert and Lisa Umbarger, split in 1996 and 2001, respectively), Reznicek has spent the better part of two decades pounding out heavy, sinister rock songs that, beginning with 1994’s Rubberneck, struck a chord at home and elsewhere.

The band exploded out of North Texas in the mid-’90s, before running headlong into corporate indifference and internal discord while creating its sophomore LP, Hell Below/Stars Above (an aborted version of the second record, originally titled Feeler, was revived and released to critical acclaim in 2010). The ensuing decade saw Toadies scatter, before reconnecting and becoming arguably as prolific, if not more so, than in its heyday, beginning with 2008’s seething comeback album, No Deliverance.

Once the dust of this year’s Dia de los Toadies has settled, the quartet will get back to work on marking a major milestone in its existence: the 20th anniversary of its platinum-selling, major label debut Rubberneck.

“I hope I’m not letting the cat out of the bag [but] we’re hoping to remaster the album and put a bunch of bonus material on there and do a national tour where we play the album all the way through,” Reznicek reveals.

Beyond that, Toadies also have plans to head back into the recording studio in a few months’ time to create what Reznicek calls “a studio version of a Friday night at Dia de los Toadies,” scheduled to come out after Rubberneck’s birthday has been properly celebrated.

“We call it ‘the chill set,’” he says, “[and] it’s not totally acoustic, because there are still amplifiers, but it’s stripped down and rearranged versions of our songs.”

That so much time has passed in an instant is “amazing” to Reznicek and his bandmates, all of whom are a long way from the sweaty, hungry days in the late Kelly Parker’s Axis club in the early ’90s.

“Honestly, when we were recording Rubberneck, most of us figured this is our one shot for an album, and we’d end up going back to our day jobs,” Reznicek says. “The fact that 20 years later, people still come out to see us and we’re still active and playing — I feel amazingly lucky and blessed to be able to do that. All of us do.”

Reznicek is also keeping busy co-writing, with Donny Cates, the comic Buzzkill, drawn by artist Geoff Shaw and published by Dark Horse Comics, which follows the misadventures of a superhero who is only effective when he’s completely drunk.

The four-part miniseries arrives in stores Wednesday, but Reznicek, along with Cates and Shaw, will be signing advance copies of the first issue (which will be available for purchase) Saturday at Dia de los Toadies.

“It’s been crazy — it’s sort of a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid,” Reznicek says. “I’ve been reading comic books my whole life. Just the fact that anybody wanted to put out this little comic of mine, seems like … people I know that I’ve let read the first issue that are not normally comic people, they all really like it and want to see what happens next. I think that’s a good sign.”

Indeed, ask Reznicek if there’s anything left to cross off of his bucket list and he chuckles, softly, before muttering, “I don’t know, man.”

Toadies has come farther than anyone, including the band, might have ever guessed they would, way back in the days of the Clinton administration. But just as the band from Fort Worth has evolved into elder statesmen of a sort, so, too, has the scene which spawned them become more robust in the intervening years.

In fact, it’s possible to look at Dia de los Toadies’ return to Fort Worth as little more than further validation this city has one of the most exciting music scenes in all of North Texas.

“Fort Worth is an awesome place and they’ve always been really supportive of all the arts,” Reznicek says. “It seems like bands, when we were coming up 20 years ago, it seemed like a really tight-knit music community and I think that’s still pretty much true today.

“I really like that feeling. Instead of all these bands competing against each other, they’re working together to bring the whole scene up.”

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones