Toadies w/ USELESS KEYS and Blank Faces 05/19/12
The Roxy – West Hollywood, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
With thoughts of Tyler in a Paper Dress dancing in my mind, I knew it was going to be a good night when I entered the Roxy as Club Foot by Kasabian played over the sound system. I hit the bar and filled my cargo short pockets with cans of Does Equis before grabbing myself a spot right up against the stage. As soon as I cracked open the first can the curtain went up and we were underway as Los Angeles locals Blank Faces kicked into an explosive 30 minute set.
From the fiery number The Adolescent to the softer set closing Don’t Need You Around I was intrigued by the conflicting styles of guitarist/vocalist Kemble Walters and bassist Adam D’Zurilla. Walters looks like Urge Overkill, sounds like Catherine Wheel and from what I gather is steering this hard rocking vessel. D’Zurilla (who admitted that he drank one too many Red Bulls on numerous occasions) oozes post hardcore pre screamo machismo. It should be noted that while Walters place it cool D’Zurilla is a one man circle pit. While one could read those descriptions and could imagine a train wreck. Yet much like Chicken and Waffles these two opposites come together and the end result is straight up delicious.
A prime example of these mixtures of flavor was the song Cannibal. D’Zurilla’s thunderous bass paired with the drumming of Dicki Fliszar does not just support the fuzz drunk riffs of Walters as much as it serves as a massive injection of steroids. The band also showed that they like to have fun. When not covering Tom Petty’s Out In The Cold, D’Zurilla was updating the crowd on the Dodgers score (which then lead to a lil Giants/Dodgers trash talk between the two of us). Blank Faces made thirty minutes pass far too quickly and were the perfect band to start off the night.
I’ll admit I was bummed when I realized that the Toadies/Helmet co-headline tour was not coming to Los Angeles. That sorrow quickly went away when I realized USELESS KEYS would be opening for the Texas natives. Having first seen the band at the Roxy nearly three years ago we don’t hide our love for these Los Angeles locals. On this particular Saturday night I saw a new level of confidence in the band I had not seen before. Perhaps it was the return of bassist Guylaine Vivarat but the four piece really sounded as if they had been on the road as long as the headliner.
Opening with the hypnotic Sea Bells, the group had no problem winning over crowd that grew slowly but never to capacity. With only thirty minutes to work with the set consisted of mostly newer material. Taking a page out of the Phish playbook, Sea Bells segued perfectly into Verde Mann. I was shocked when the group placed White Noise in the middle set. The usual closer for the band this was one of the many examples of confidence shown over the course of the set. Further confidence was found in the fantastic new song End of Sleep Cycle. Guitarist/Vocalist Michael Bauer lays down some intense fret work over a thunderous wall of distortion. I really need to hear this one again (and again and again and again). Brighter Places confirmed that the USELESS KEYS had no doubt won over the Toadies fan base as fans jumped up and down to the final song of the set. I never get tired of watching this band win fans over and this particular set was without a doubt one of the best I have seen this band play.
The night took a peculiar and unpleasant turn as road crews prepped the stage for the Toadies. Shortly before the main event was underway a hideous creature stinking of menthol cigarettes and prominently displaying particles of dinner in her teeth decided to crash into the front row. Making things worse she decided that I was going to be her drunken hookup. After a dreadful conversation I assumed I was saved by the Toadies taking the stage with a rocking 1-2 punch of Heel and I Come From The Water but that sadly was the not the case. I had to stomp on her toes and shove her off of me as I tried to enjoy the show. The third song Keep That Hand Away felt rather appropriate as I had to fight off this disgusting land beast and her un-wanted wandering hands.
It was not just me having issues with this behemoth and her surprisingly attractive and equally inebriated friend. The duo were so gone they had no idea that they were moving the monitors around and nearly spilling drinks into guitarists Clark Vogerler’s pedal board. Thankfully the security team at the Roxy came to our rescue and removed the vermin from the front of the stage.
Able to finally focus on the music, the Toadies played an exciting set that covered their lengthy career while giving fans a sneak peak of what the future holds. It’s no surprise that fans react best to songs from their 1994 breakout album Rubberneck. Songs like Happy Face and Away got the crowd dancing early on. While it never found its way onto Rubberneck, one of my favorites from that era is Paper Dress and I beyond excited that the band is still playing it in 2012.
With a new album titled PLAY.ROCK.MUSIC set for release on July 31st the band found time to sneak four new songs into the set. Early on the crowd was treated to the bass heavy first single Summer of the Strange. Later in the night guitarist/vocalist Todd Lewis wanted our opinion on what he described as the “slower” Beside You. In my humble opinion it was the best of the four new songs played upon the Sunset Strip on a Saturday night.
It was around the time that Lewis joked that the band had been on tour forever that I was taking note and just how tight the Toadies sounded. The harder they brought it, the more the now sweat soaked crowd returned the energy right back to the band. Backslider, Song I Hate, and a cover of the Reverend Horton Heat rocker 400 Bucks all kept the crowd moving (and not to mention drinking). The set finally closed with the group’s biggest commercial hit Possum Kingdom. While many no doubt love this one for obvious reasons, for me it’s all about watching Vogerler create that fat wall of feedback only to twist and manipulate it with his guitars Floyd Rose bridge. Standing just a few feet as he makes those amps hum is pretty flipping awesome.
After what was quite possibly the shortest encore break in history, the band blessed us with another four songs. After kicking thing off with Hell In High Water the band played what I feel is their biggest hit. Sure you may not hear it on the FM dial during 90’s weekend, but ask any Toadies fan what the band’s best song is and chances are they will tell you Tyler. To stand front row and watch as Lewis belt out the song’s creepy bridge of breaking and entering and beer pouring is something I have waited nearly sixteen years to experience again. The show eventually wrapped with a percussion heavy take on I Burn and the final new song of the evening Rattler’s Revival.
I knew I would get a great rock show but this particular evening on Sunset Blvd far exceeded my expectations. With playoff games at Staples and flying pigs at the Coliseum it was no doubt the right place to be in Los Angeles on Saturday night.