I read the other day that Jann Wenner is throwing in the towel and trying to sell Rolling Stone magazine. This, of course, probably means that it is not long for this world. And I will never get to write for nor have a photograph published in its hallowed pages.
That it was unlikely in the first place is of no relevance. That Rolling Stone magazine hasn’t really been Rolling Stone magazine for at least the last ten years means little. That I wasn’t really born in time to have a shot at the Rolling Stone magazine that exists in my head? That I realistically never had a chance to work in a room with Hunter or Lester? That those giants quite likely walked on earth in ways that have nothing to do with how I think of them? None of that is anything I want to think about.
The fact is? This feels like an ending. This feels like Jann walking away. A chapter coming to a close.
. . .
Sipping cheap whiskey and diet coke tonight in the NorVa at the Toadies’ concert, I muse that this was never a band I paid all that much attention to. I’ve never really thought of them as possessing any striking significance in the long, tawdry tale of Rock and Roll. I know the one song, “Possum Kingdom.” I can sing a few lines of it if you point a gun at my head. It shows up in some of my Pandora stations from time to time. I know that they enjoyed a fair bit of success with that album, but I honestly didn’t think anyone cared all that much about the Toadies.
Apparently, I was completely wrong about this.
While the crowd in attendance isn’t massive, it’s a fair sight larger than I expected for a band that really only has the one hit. Filled mostly with folks in their mid thirties, who were obviously just the right age when Vaden Todd Lewis and his compatriots first broke big. I mean.. Let’s be real. This is Dad Rock. The people who bought these tickets had to pay for babysitters. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Lewis seems well aware of his role in the evening’s festivity. He doesn’t seem to have any illusions about either his age or the nature of his relevance to the people he’s playing for. This is an audience that loves this band for nostalgia as much as musicianship. There’s a bit of a contract here: “Hey. We’re gonna play some new songs for you because that’s what we do. And then we’ll play the stuff you came to hear.” Throw in an unexpected Tom Petty cover by way of tribute to what has gone before? You’ve got a perfect mix. Everyone knows their place in the story, and the night goes off well.
Of course, the Toadies put on a hell of a show. When you’ve been playing your instruments for two decades you tend to get good with them. There’s a blue-collar element to the group that I find enjoyable. A righteous Texas, ZZ Top meets Grunge kind of vibe I can dig. And while it’s undeniably Dad Rock? It’s weird as fuck Dad Rock. It’s Dad Rock about occult ritualists looking to pick up chicks, serial killers who hunt down Santa Clauses in seedy back alleys, and hatching plots to ensure your enemies all die in a horrific as fuck manner.
Overall? They’re a pretty kickass band. And the new album doesn’t suck at all.
. . .
I ran into local musician Rex Bonney at one point. He’s spent some time as the Wyteshayds fourth member and now that they’re on hiatus he’s kicking around with a new group that will open for the Feral Conservative’s new album release jam. He told me the name of his band, but by that point in the evening I was pretty drunk and it’s all fuzzy now — you’ll have to click the link to explore and grab the finer details.
We got to talkin’ about how much he loved the Toadies when he was a kid. That they were the first real concert he ever went to. And here he is some two decades later, rockin’ the fuck out to his childhood heroes. His story was echoed when I posted on my feed about heading out to this show by many of my thirty-something friends — there really does seem to be more love than I realized for these guys. Still, one wonders how long they’ll continue.
I guess bands don’t really break up anymore? So long as there’s fans willing to sport for mid priced tickets, I guess they don’t have to. Not in an age where groups no longer need the intermediaries of labels and agents to get the word out. Opening act Local H has been around since the late eighties. And the first band to hit the stage tonight, Pressing Strings, has been slogging since ’06 only to score their first measurable hit fairly recently. You have to admire dogged persistence, but I worry that so much of the mid-sized venue scene seems to be supported through nostalgia. That I rarely see a band headlining that hasn’t been around for fifteen, twenty years. I wonder what happens when that nostalgia runs dry.
Where are the young bands? Will there be a place for them on these stages one day?
. . .
I think the best endings are when you’re able to craft them. At a time of your choosing. In the manner you see fit. If the Toadies aren’t done yet? If Local H still has fun playing shows? If Pressing Strings still thinks they have an honest shot at making it big? Who the hell am I to tell them otherwise? And if Jann, horrible old bastard that he is, thinks it’s time to close the door on the most influential agent of music journalism that ever was?
Well.. We’ll miss him. We’ll thank him. We’ll wish him well on the journey.
And we’ll hope that something new is coming to fill the void.