It was a beautiful day in central Texas this Labor Day weekend when day two of the fifth annual Dia De Los Toadies roared into action as a celebration of great rock music, nestled in the rural waterside area of New Braunfels. The sun was shining, the music was loud and rocking—there was even a gentle breeze and occasional cloud cover to make for a mild (in Texas terms) day. The Toadies and every band that preceded them put on a fantastic performance, providing the best music experience of the summer in central Texas.
Upon entering the festival The King Bucks were performing on the main stage, providing great outlaw country that only a rugged bunch of Texans could provide. There was no pop country gloss here—just a bunch of guys in western shirts pouring their hearts out about life, love and heartache in earnest. It was the perfect music for a sunny summer day and a cold drink. Once King Buck’s set ended Cartright started immediately on the smaller Biergarten stage. One thing that must be mentioned is how smoothly this festival ran. Each stage’s bands and sets ended like clockwork, pinging back and forth between the main stage and Biergarten stage, providing an easy move from one stage to the next with no boring downtime. Cartright played jaunty indie rock that sounded like Delta Spirit’s bratty kid brother who listened to some Frank Zappa and Dashboard Confessional . Their set was fun and the vocals had a nice grit reminiscent of Tim Armstrong from Rancid.
Performing their second show of the weekend, Day 1 openers Sixteen Deluxe took the stage for a show that was literally like night and day compared to the previous evening. Whereas night one’s set was a little more “quiet and pretty” as singer Carrie Clark said, today’s performance was energetic and drenched in guitar squall and feedback. The band went from delicate Mazzy Star ballads to sounding like a female-fronted Smashing Pumpkins circa-Siamese Dream. Guitarist Chris “Frenchie” Smith (who also produced this year’s Toadies album) was a man unleashed, jumping around, slinging his guitar in the air and shredding like crazy. If you weren’t sold on the description of them from last night, then rest assured this cemented them as an incredible band worth checking out.
Helping keep the energy high in the middle of the day, The Phuss brought the intense kinetic energy of a punk band but infused it with garage rock swagger. The vocals were raw and involved plenty of screams similar to Jet or Buckcherry, but with the frenzy of Jack White. They introduced a few songs in their set as being “especially proud” of them because Toadies frontman Vaden not only produced their latest album but also mentored their songwriting during the process. The songs were fast and powerful and Toadies’ influence was in full effect. Lead singer Josh Fleming told the audience it was his birthday and he wanted everyone to scoot up. The audience obliged and crowded around the stage rocking out to their fiery set.
The Phuss’ “Stupid Girl”
It was almost as if the Riverboat Gamblers saw The Phuss’ show and felt the need to top their energy, because they put on one helluva show. One of Austin’s best and brightest young bands, Riverboat Gamblers brought incredible showmanship to the stage, jumping around the stage and singing passionately. Lead singer Mike Wiebe was a man possessed, crawling on stacks of amps, jumping into the crowd and leaping from high places as he sang propulsive songs of discontent. Taking things down a notch The Soldier Thread wooed the Biergarten stage with synth-heavy indie dance pop to bop along to. The female vocals were beautiful and sounded very J-Pop to these ears. It was a great dance-y break from the intense rocking so far.
The dance music was only a brief reprieve from the rock as alternative rock/metal veterans Helmet put on a bone-crushing set of heavy favorites. Song after song was just so intense and expertly performed. Opening with their biggest hit “Unsung,” they showed why it didn’t matter that it wasn’t the original lineup—this was a band primed to remind everyone just how great they are. Some newer songs were played but mainly the setlist stuck to their classic mid 90s material; almost as if to get into the spirit of the era, the day’s first mosh pit formed, as shirtless guys danced around in a circle pushing each other. While that’s one part of the 90s that can stay gone, Helmet is welcome to stay as long as they like, providing ultimate heavy riffage and thoroughly enjoyable music.
Few music lovers outside the Dallas/Denton area remember the glory that was Brutal Juice. Rising around the same time and touring with the Toadies in the early 90s, the band was self-proclaimed Acid Punk, providing frenzied instrumentation with sludgey vocals. They disbanded in 1997 but every so often they reunite. Today was one of those rare occasions as the band treated patrons to hard rock at its finest—coming off somewhere between an unhinged Clutch and methed-out gutter punks. The crowd responded in-turn, moshing and bounding around wildly as the singer did a headstand onstage. They completely lived up to their namesake and it was glorious. Fans of heavy music should make it a point to grab the few releases of theirs out there.
The sun set and it was time for something completely different, yet completely at home in the Lone Star State. Mariachi El Bronx took the stage, giving the moshed-out audience a chance to catch their breath, playing white boy mariachi music. Hailing from Los Angeles, the band performs music in the traditional Mexican mariachi style, but with English lyrics. The crowd was warm and receptive, dancing around to the beat of lively percussion and melodies soaked in the beauty of horn and violin performances. Lead singer Matt Caughthran did his best to keep the crowd pumped and motivated, reminding everyone it was a party and asking who was ready for the Toadies, which always got a huge response.
With only one band standing between us and the Toadies, Diesel and Dixie knew they had to put on great show to grab attention and they did not disappoint. Walking onstage looking like a biker gang, the band performed like a country-fried Pantera, playing a set brimming with punk rock energy and mayhem. They were lots of fun and full of stage presence, like some feral moonshine-sipping rockers your parents warned you about.
Diesel & Dixie’s “Grandma’s Jam”
By the time the Toadies took the stage at close to 10pm, the crowd was massive, sprawling out past the main viewing area back into where the side stage was. Just like the night before the band opened with “I Come From The Water,” but this time the guitars were loud and in-your-face, immediately sending the crowd into bliss. The set definitely included set staples such as “Possum Kingdom,” “Backslider,” and “No Deliverance,” but unlike last year’s set the leaned heavily toward these crowd-pleasers, with a new album out the band shook things up. They played new songs like “Sunshine,” which lead singer Vaden described as a song about stripper, as well as “Summer of the Strange,” “Beside You,” and “Get Low.” The latter had a surprise appearance from Burden Brothers/Rise Against guitarist Zach Blair, freeing up Vaden to prowl the stage free of his guitar, interacting with the crowd and having enough fun to make you wish he was tied down to his guitar less in concert.
The night also saw the appearance of deeper catalogue cuts like Feeler standout “Waterfall,” the incredible “Sweetness” and “I Am A Man of Stone.” The varied set didn’t stop the majority of the crowd from singing along however, as most within earshot were singing at the top of their lungs. During “Hell In High Water” (arguably the best song from No Deliverance), old school Toadies fans got a special treat—the reappearance of Mr. Pizza! Appearing in a short film shot in the mid 90s by guitarist Clark Vogeler and starring Vaden, the mascot-sized piece of pizza danced around the stage, rating certain band members’ performances with numbered cards. Some were laughing and excited by it while others were just plain baffled. Regardless, it was a thrilling and random encounter.
Perhaps due just how damn good it was the night before, the band got Sarah Jaffe back on stage to perform their cover of PJ Harvey’s “Down By The Water” again to the larger audience that received it with open arms, cheering ecstatically about the song’s appearance. The other big surprise of the night was immediately afterwards as the band launched into the first 20 seconds of Helmet’s “Unsung” to the audible surprise of the crowd. But it wasn’t meant to be as the band stopped abruptly, laughing. Vaden explained, “sometimes when you go on tour with a band you just have to fuck with them.” Closing the night on a powerful note was the one-two punch of fan favorites “Tyler” and “I Burn.” Vaden thanked everyone for coming and declared it the most fun weekend of the whole year. To end things with a literal bang, guest players brought large standing drums onstage for “I Burn,” creating a drum circle of sorts to match the primal sentiments of the song. This added touch created what was one of the most unforgettable performances of the song ever. This veteran band just seems to get better with age and their namesake festival, Dia De Los Toadies, grows and improves with each year. The band has created one of the best concert-going experiences of the whole year in Texas. Start watching your back now, ACL Fest.
Written and Photographed By:
Jarad Matula | Senior Writer
To read our thoughts on Dia De Los Toadies 5 Day 1, click here.
To read our interview with The Toadies’ lead signer Vaden Todd Lewis, click here.