This past weekend, my friend Craig gave me a priceless gift: he flew me out to see one of the most influential bands in my life, Toad the Wet Sprocket. Craig really deserves his own post (which I hope to get to soon) for being an incredible friend to me for the last decade or so, but I'll do something out of the ordinary here and keep things brief.
I took this photo with my fancy phone; I was probably six feet from the stage. Now, if you were born in 1989, you probably have no idea who Toad the Wet Sprocket is, and that's kind of a shame. Completely understandable, but a shame, really. If you're into measuring success by unit sales, they had two platinum albums (Fear and Dulcinea) and a #1 hit on modern rock radio ("Fall Down" from Dulcinea). So there's that. But as I sat on the plane out (alternating between listening to Toad albums and the South Carolina announcer's feed from the UGA - South Carolina game), I was reminded why this band mattered so much to me, and it had nothing to do with how many albums they sold or how cool they were. Toad became a part of my autobiography because they actually wrote about things I cared about. Not surfacey stuff about girls or getting your heart broken (though relationships and heartache are in those songs) but about the deeper longings and bigger questions that we all have. The kinds of things that need more than 140 characters or a "Like" button.
Those records hold up, even twenty years later. When my friend David and I started a band in college, I basically made every attempt I could to write like Glen Phillips. I failed, of course, but those Toad the Wet Sprocket albums set a very high bar for me in terms of songwriting that I'm still trying to hit.
I don't know why Toad didn't last longer or have greater success. Maybe it was because they weren't from Seattle or they didn't sound like Korn. Who can say? But I can tell you that back when I was 17 and drove a blue Chevy Cavalier and made mix tapes to jam in my cassette player, you could always find some Toad the Wet Sprocket on both sides of the tape.
Seeing them do one of their annual reunion shows could never be like seeing them on top of the world in 1994, but it doesn't matter to me as long as those songs stay alive.
Craig, thanks so much, man.
These are my favorite Toad songs - I would seriously encourage you to take a listen for yourself sometime or buy them here:
1. Windmills (from Dulcinea)
2. Whatever I Fear (Coil)
3. Dam Would Break (from Coil)
4. Crowing (Dulcinea)
5. Nightingale Song (In Light Syrup)
6. Rings (Coil)
7. Something's Always Wrong (Dulcinea)
8. Are We Afraid (In Light Syrup)
9. All I Want (Fear)
10. Fall Down (Dulcinea)