I’ve hardly had a free second since last weekend to describe my feelings about the Toad show. Whenever I did have one, I was struck by the futility of trying to capture the emotion of the whole thing in words. I apparently need an alternate option, because words are failing me here, or I am failing them. Whichever. I feel wholly inadequate to the task.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. But it can also prove awkward, or even disappointing. This past weekend was nothing like that. It was damned near perfect. I became a Toad fan in the early 90’s, but for some reason I didn’t find my way to a concert until 1997, right before they broke up. I started meeting other Toad fans after that, one by one. I was lucky enough to meet a very social Toad fan right at the beginning, and over time we became close friends. She in turn introduced me to her friends, many of whom she knew through Toad. It was a slow progression, but a lasting one. There were several reunion shows over time, and this introduced me to still more fans from other places. Friendships were forged. Many of these people have become part of my life, and they matter to me. However seldom I see them, they all have a place in my heart.
If all of this sounds too sappy, sorry. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s all about the people. Toad could never be just another band to me. Partly because I’ve gotten to know them over the years (and if you aren’t calling the members of your favorite band by their first names, or they don’t know yours, you’re following the wrong band), but primarily because some of the most important people in my life I’ve met through loving this band. It’s not just the music; it’s the relationships. This past weekend, because of the Toad show, I got to spend every day hanging out with great friends, several of whom I rarely see because geography gets in the way.
It all started with a lunch on Friday afternoon. My mom is in town, so she watched my kids all day (and into the next one… thanks, Mom!). She needed the car, so my friend came by to pick me up, driving about half an hour out of her way to do so. (Thanks, friend!) There were seven of us at that lunch, three of whom are from out of state. We had a very happy reunion lunch, and way too much food. (I didn’t eat again until almost 1 AM.) After lunch we went to separate locations to hang out and get ready for the show. We stopped by Target and picked up mini-bottles of bubbles, which we later blew towards the stage during “Windmills,” a favorite Toad song. I may post a picture of this here… the bubbles definitely added something, and Glen was smiling so hugely it’s a wonder he could sing. Lovely moment. Totally perfect. Anyway, hanging out and getting ready was as much fun as the rest. I love these people; they make my life infinitely better. Yes, more sap. My heart was full all weekend long, so bear with me. I am trying to recapture this as much for myself as for anyone else.
The show itself was amazing. I was thrilled to have Chris to share the experience with (although at a distance – he prefers to stand back far enough to have balanced sound, whereas I prefer to be close enough to the stage to feel like I’m on it, almost). Even more of our friends were there (too many to count, and I won’t try), and there was something in the air. There was so much joy. Everyone had gathered to celebrate the release of “New Constellation,” the first Toad album in 16 years. The album itself was funded by the fans via Kickstarter. The band had been hoping for $50,000, and that goal was met in less than 24 hours. They added a stretch goal of $250,000, and ended up getting over $260,000. If this doesn’t illustrate how much love the fans have for this band, I don’t know what will. These are not distant, untouchable rock stars. They are our people, part of us. We don’t just celebrate their success – we contribute to it. We weren’t there to be part of some nostalgia tour, we were there to see people we love, and hear music that would fit nicely on several current radio stations.
The new album is brilliant. It’s still Toad, but they’ve evolved along with the rest of us. The new music sounds fresh – they aren’t just rehashing their old sound. But back to the show… the mood was just incredible, and the excitement palpable. The band felt it too, and that was evident. They had family in the audience, and that added to the emotion filling the venue. At one point Glen’s daughter took a picture of our group for us (jumping in because she wasn’t satisfied with her mother’s efforts). That’s the kind of evening it was… everyone there felt connected, was connected. So much love was in the room. I can try to describe it, to capture the feelings, but I’d have better luck trying to bottle a rainbow. It was an amazing night. The music (old and new) was phenomenal, but the people made it what it was, both the audience and the band themselves. Remarkable. An evening to remember.
Luckily for me, there were two more blissful days to follow. Saturday we went to the beach with three of our friends (and our kids). We watched pro beach volleyball and just relaxed. We met up with other friends later at someone’s house. We had dinner and we talked some more. Oh, and we sang, too. Toad sing-alongs are quite common in our group, although some of us are more talented than others. (I am not counting myself among the talented. I sit firmly in the middle… I won’t make anyone’s ears bleed, but no one has ever suggested I take my show on the road, either.) Still, it’s a lot of fun. I do have a handy ability to remember most lyrics, which helps. Yes, I am a complete geek. To me, there’s little that’s more fun than singing with a group of friends, even if some of us sing off-key. It’s funny, I am typically fairly self-conscious, but I love to sing and am semi-comfortable as long as I’m not doing it by myself. I once was hanging out with friends and members of a different band (yes, I realize this statement makes me sound like an absolute groupie, assuming you weren’t already convinced). We were sitting around singing, and that included the band’s own material. I felt fine, relaxed even. I have tried but failed to imagine doing something similar with Toad. I think it would be a blast, but…. I love them all, but somehow that still seems intimidating.
Sunday we had what was pretty much an all-day brunch with friends. It was potluck, it was delicious, and we were hanging out – and eating – for about seven hours. More singing occurred. It was awesome; I have the best group of friends ever. I do wish some of us lived in closer proximity, though. I do a lot of vicarious living via Facebook, trying to stay connected.
This week I have been suffering from a bit of post-vacation let-down. Okay, it wasn’t technically a vacation, but it felt like one. Part of me very much wants to live in a world where all I do is go to concerts and hang out with friends. (Maybe I should go back to college?) I’m sure I’d get tired of the routine eventually. Right? Anyway, real life came back with a vengeance this week, and I went right back to school drop-offs, doctor’s appointments and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. It’s all part of life, and it’s all – okay, mostly – good. Life has its own magic, if you let it. Every day, every moment. It isn’t always as obvious as it was this past weekend, but I wouldn’t trade it. Not any of it.
To sum it up, here’s a quote from one of the new Toad songs (you know I had to do it, right?):
“And for everything you taught me, here’s the one I learned the best.There is nothing but the moment, don’t you waste it on regret.”
No regret here.