Sweeter Each Season

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Toad the Wet Sprocket

For my summer vacation I decided to follow two of my favorite bands around California. I’ve been loving Toad the Wet Sprocket since the early 1990s and their opening band Beta Play for the past three years, since I first saw them open for Toad at an unforgettable show in Fresno under their former band name Tommy and the High Pilots. This post covers four shows that I attended and will be a little more personal than my usual posts — part travelogue, part recap. The first show I saw on this road trip was at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, CA on August 2, 2017. The next night was at The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA and amazingly though I’ve been to that city a few times before, it was the first time I attended a concert at that historic venue. It was my favorite night of the four. On August 4, 2017, it was on to the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, CA. Then I took a night off while Toad headed to L.A. and I caught up with the two bands again on August 6, 2017 at the Libbey Bowl in Ojai, CA.  Both bands kept their set lists the same for all four concerts; I’ve listed the songs played below followed by my thoughts on each band at each concert.

Peforming with Beta Play — top: Tom Cantillon, Michael Cantillon, bottom: Mike Dyer, Josh Daubin

Beta Play

The band Beta Play is comprised of lead singer and guitar player, Tom Cantillon; keyboardist, backing vocalist, and sometime guitar player, Michael Cantillon; bass player and sometime keyboardist, Mike Dyer; and percussionist and occasional backing vocalist, Josh Daubin.  Their set list was as follows:

  1. Messin’ Around” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  2. Man of My Word” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  3. Tug of War” — new single available for purchase on iTunes or stream on SoundCloud, etc., video from The Fillmore at the link.
  4. Fire to My Feet” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  5. Heaven is Under the Sun” — from the Beta Play EP.
  6. Young Love” — new unrecorded song, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  7. Somebody Make a Move” — song from the album Only Human, from the band’s previous incarnation as Tommy and the High Pilots.
  8. Next to You” — new unrecorded song, video from the Golden State Theatre at the link.
  9. Do You Love Me” — from the Beta Play EP, video from the Golden State Theatre at the link.

Crest Theatre — I was with a friend in Row J for this show. We warned the people sitting behind us that we would be standing up and dancing for the opener and thankfully they were okay with that, so we did. After the second song in Beta Play’s set, Tom asked for some bright white lights shining on the stage to be brought down, adding “We look way better when you can’t see us.” Haha, no! It made taking photos of the band a little more difficult as the lights were pretty dark for the show and most of my photos turned out fairly grainy from trying to cope with the lighting. Half of the songs in the Beta Play set were completely new to me at this show.  On first hearing, “Fire to My Feet” was an immediate standout for its catchy chorus with perfect backing vocals by Michael and a highlight for Tom’s showmanship as he put down his guitar and cavorted about the stage. The sentimentalist in me was appeased by the beautiful melody, spine-tingling vocals, and sweetness of the lyrics of “Young Love.” Cool to see Jonathan Kingham joining them on slide guitar on “Do You Love Me” (link to video captured by someone at the show). After the show, it was fun being able to hang out in the lobby afterward and grab a picture with the whole band. I also met a fellow Beta Play fan who was going to be hitting the same concert stops that I was making.

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L to R: Josh Daubin, Tom Cantillon, and Michael Cantillon of Beta Play at The Fillmore

The Fillmore — Arrived early to line up only to watch half of the line disappear as the Toad OMG! VIP ticket buyers were taken inside early. A band member brought my new Beta Plan fan friend and myself  in to the theatre just in advance of the doors opening time and we were able to secure a spot at the front rail. This allowed me to get some up-close videos (maybe better for visual quality than sound quality) and decent photos at this show. The crowd was slow to build but by the time Toad took the stage the place was packed. Beta Play received a lot of love from this room and it seemed their were a few other fans of this band also in attendance. As it was GA with people standing on the main floor (a few seats were scattered around the sides and in the balcony), it was a lot easier to dance to the band, not that I was doing a lot of that here as I was shooting video and trying to be still. Tom introduced “Young Love” by saying that it had been inspired by his wife, who was his high school sweetheart, and that they’ve been together for fourteen years, having just gotten married last year. A few random cheers came from the crowd and then Tom added, “And you thought I was gay,” which got a laugh (you know people must have been thinking it, especially after seeing his sequined jacket and groovy dance moves).

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Tom Cantillon of Beta Play Performing at the Golden State Theatre

Golden State Theatre I spent the morning in San Francisco and then stopped in the San Jose area for lunch and to play tourist. With the heavy Friday afternoon traffic, I didn’t end up getting to my hotel in Monterey until almost 7pm. The show started at 8pm. I was very tired from the drive that took me twice as long as I expected (as well as being tired from the two prior late nights out) and had only eaten some snacks I had with me for dinner. I felt pretty out of it during this show, though I managed to befriend the lady sitting next to me. I was in the front row again, though this was a seated show, but stood up and danced for a few songs. Because of how I was feeling I was pretty lax about taking any notes or photos, but was glad to grab video of two songs I didn’t get at the Fillmore. The band won the crowd over pretty quickly once they started playing.

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Tom Cantillon of Beta Play Performing at the Libbey Bowl

Libbey Bowl — Learning from my travel error the day before, I left Monterey early, stopped for lunch in Santa Barbara, and got to Ojai about an hour before doors opened. The crowd was very slow to arrive for this concert and despite the venue being sold out, it was half empty when Beta Play took to the stage. I watched their set from my assigned seat in Row B, though should have stayed seated at one of the tables at the front where I had been talking with an L.A.-area friend before the show. My new friend who also toured around to these four shows grabbed the empty seat next to me and we enjoyed the Beta Play set together and we were probably the most enthusiastic people in the place. The sound was messy at the Libbey Bowl with Josh having barely any volume for his backing vocals and then when they finally turned it up, they were louder than Tom’s vocals. The crowd seemed indifferent to the band, though I enjoyed myself thoroughly and was happy to run into Beta Play’s former drummer in the audience.

Performing with Toad the Wet Sprocket — top: Glen Phillips, middle: Dean Dinning, Todd Nichols, bottom: Jonathan Kingham, Josh Daubin

Toad the Wet Sprocket

Toad the Wet Sprocket was celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album Coil on this tour, so brought out a few songs from that album that hadn’t been played in recent tours. On the road for Toad were Glen Phillips on guitar and lead vocals, Todd Nichols on lead guitar and backing vocals, Dean Dinning on bass and backing vocals, filling in for Randy Guss (who was out of commission due to broken ribs) on drums was Beta Play’s drummer Josh Daubin, and as Glen introduced him, “doing the work of three men,” on keyboards, lap steel, mandolin and backing vocals, was Toad’s regular utility player, Jonathan Kingham.

  1. The Moment” from New Constellation
  2. Whatever I Fear” from Coil
  3. All I Want” from fear
  4. Something to Say” from fear, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  5. California Wasted” from New Constellation
  6. Architect of the Ruin” from the Architect of the Ruin EP
  7. Windmills” from Dulcinea
  8. Good Intentions” from In Light Syrup
  9. One of Those Days” — new song from the upcoming Animal Crackers animated movie, video from the Crest Theatre at the link.
  10. Amnesty” from Glen’s most recent solo album, Swallowed By the New
  11. Desire” from Coil, video from The Fillmore at the link.
  12. Don’t Fade”/”Breathe” from Coil and appended with a short Pink Floyd cover
  13. All Things in Time” from Coil, video from the Crest Theatre at the link.
  14. Come Back Down” from Pale
  15. Nightingale Song” from Fear
  16. Crazy Life” from Coil
  17. Something’s Always Wrong” from Dulcinea
  18. Fall Down” from Dulcinea
  19. ENCORE “Rings” from Coil,  video from The Fillmore at the link.
  20. Nothing Can Stop My Love” from an upcoming Roger Miller tribute album
  21. Walk On the Ocean” from fear, link to a fan video from The Fillmore.

Crest Theatre — I was greatly anticipating this show, especially as it was the first time through this set list and there were a few of these songs that I’d never heard Toad play live. Before “All I Want,” Glen asked everyone to singalong and then sang briefly the lines, “She’ll be coming around the mountain,” and “someone’s in the kitchen with…”. Ha, okay, not that kind of singalong! Though wouldn’t that be fun? I want to go to a campfire where Glen is leading the songs. The crowd was getting fairly enthusiastic early on (this theatre had all the movie theatre snacks you could want including popcorn and big boxes of candy, as well as alcoholic drinks). Plus, Beta Play had warmed up these concert attendees pretty well. The audience sang their hearts out for this hit song and afterward Glen remarked, “You are a Friday night crowd on a Wednesday night,” which received a loud cheer. As was his patter each night, he dedicated “California Wasted” to people who were sad and depressed and those who love them.  The mini Coil set in the middle of their song lists was a treat.  Dean encouraged everyone in the audience to stand and clap for “Nightingale Song” which the audience did and remained on their feet the rest of the night. The cool percussion ending with Gavin Shea stepping up to join in the drumming each night was fantastic (check the video I linked from the Fillmore show). During “Something’s Always Wrong” three women of a certain age, perhaps filled with the beverages sold by the establishment, went dancing in a line down one aisle, across the front of the audience, up the other aisle, and down the aisle splitting the house into the front and back areas, and then around again. At the song’s conclusion Glen remarked, “We’ve never had a conga line to that!”  Each night when returning for their encore, Glen would promote their partnership with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign — an effort to mobilize people to act locally in an effort to encourage cities to obtain 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The Fillmore — Following Beta Play’s set, the crowd was pretty amped up and ready to rock once Toad took to the stage. They might have also been lit up too as the smell of pot hung heavily in the air at times becoming over bearing for me in the front row. Oh, San Francisco!  Glen was chilled out as could be, engaging in the most stage patter of all four nights. To the audience before “All I Want, “Yes, we’re happy to be back at the Fillmore. You’re so intelligent, attractive and successful. Singalong.” Yes, flattery will get you everywhere, of course the people sang.  When introducing their new tune “One of Those Days,” Glen commented, “All our friends (e.g., Counting Crows, Smash Mouth) had songs in computer-animated family films and we decided that was the next step.” At one point Glen headed off on one of his tangents more common in his solo shows, mentioning “utopia,” an author named “Morris,” and the location of “Jefferson” in California, then abruptly halting, “I’m going to stop talking because I’m making an ass of myself.” Not sure what he was aiming for there, but completely curious now. Post-show the security was not thrilled with people hanging around in the theatre for very long afterward, but it was sure nice of them to hand out apples to audience members on the way out. The Toad bus was right outside the theatre and this was the only night I was able to say hello and have a short chat with all of the band members. And I got a banana from Jonathan Kingham (not a euphemism).

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Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at the Golden State Theatre

Golden State Theatre — As I mentioned above, I was so tired and hungry during this show, there was a lot of sleepy dancing from me because I had reached that place where my brain had no self-conscious cares. Best comments of the night came in regard to the song “Good Intentions.” Glen remarked that Dean wanted the song dedicated to Martin Shkreli and then stated, “This is about Karma.” Dean added, “And Pharma.” Another funny moment was after the song “Desire” when Glen described the song as, “The odd love child of Jack Canfield and Foreigner.” It was particularly amusing to me personally as I’ve been inspired by the writings of Mr. Canfield in the last year and hoping that embracing some of his ideas will help me find my purpose, you know, other than following bands around. Loved hearing that song live though, so powerful!

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Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket Performing at the Libbey Bowl

Libbey Bowl — The friend I made at the Monterey show had a seat at the table up front next to the stage and she had an empty chair next to her, so I joined her for Toad’s set; no one came to claim that spot.  This was Toad’s last performance on this leg of their tour and they have a few weeks off before starting up again in September.  Thus, we had Glen thinking out loud about getting to sleep in his own bed that night, hiking on the Cold Springs Trail the next day, taking a nap or attempting to take one, but probably writing a to do list instead, before they played “All I Want.” (Perhaps the chorus running in Glen’s mind was, “All I want is to sleep in bed, to hike Cold Springs, to take a naaap!”) After experiencing only a few days on the tour circuit, I certainly have a new appreciation for the rigors of touring and completely understand the need for more sleep!  Following the song he noted, “We tune because we care,” as the band all tuned their instruments. That is very much appreciated by all of us with a decent sense of pitch. This time Glen introduced “Good Intentions” as being about “mistakes that were fun to make.” Hmm. In the mini Coil set, Glen remarked, “The Coil album came out 20 years ago, so this is a little birthday party.” Dean, as usual, led everyone in standing and clapping for “Nightingale Song,” but the audience sat down immediately afterward. For the encore, I got up and stood right next to the stage and encouraged the people around me to do the same thing. Some people also filtered down from their seats behind the tables to turn this into a partial GA show. This brought the whole audience closer to the band, improved the crowd energy, and finally for the last three songs of the night there was a clearly enthusiastic audience.  Then after the show, it was so good to run into even more of my L.A.-area Toad fan friends and a few from further afield, which has become one of the nice things about seeing Toad shows close to home, it is a mini reunion of friends. Good music. Good friends. Good times. As the “Walk On the Ocean” lyrics close, “Just memories to hold, that grow sweeter each season, as we slowly grow old.”  So true, so I borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post.

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We Got Seriously Down

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Rhett Miller Performing at the Troubadour

If you’ve been following my blog, it is no secret that Rhett Miller is one of my favorite songwriters and performers, so of course I go see him play every chance I get. This time he brought his solo show to the Troubadour in Los Angeles, CA on July 29, 2017.  It was apparently also take your children to work day on the Rhett Miller Tour as Rhett had his son (President of the Anti Social Social Club, according to the back of his shirt) and daughter along. They joined him on stage to introduce the opener — actress, musician, and icon to quirky, cute girls everywhere, Kate Micucci.

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Kate Micucci Performing at The Troubadour

Kate brought along her sappy, goofy, amusing, twisted observational comedy songs and a few friends with questionably funny skits. It was a different choice for the Troubadour stage before a rocking music show, with some of the audience members absolutely loving it and others not so much. Her show progressed as follows:

  1. I Love You” — Kate said she wrote this song the day after the US election in November to cheer up her friends.
  2. I Want to Be a Nun (The Nun Song)
  3. Mr. Moon” — A song inspired by driving east on the 10 and seeing the moon set in the ocean.  This was followed by a fake introduction of performer Allie Awesome (Kate can’t remember her last name and just calls her Awesome) and a bunch of nonsense with the pretend stage manager Dan Beam, portrayed by actor Davey Johnson.
  4. Sad Clown” — A song inspired by Kate having a brief job as a clown, which she quit because of her inability to make complicated balloon sculptures.
  5. Happy Song”  The one that starts, “I wanna be happy, I wanna be sad.”
  6. Happy Song” (a different version) — written for Scrubs, when they “needed a happy song to play under a sad scene.” (Scene at the link.)
  7. Soup in the Woods” — Kate told the story of making soup in the woods with her dad and family during a blizzard and while at the time the focus was on the soup, but really they were making memories.
  8. Dear Deer” — A letter to deer as a warning about her Dad hunting. Followed by a strange trombone bit with Kate and Dan and then the strange sleight of hand/magician/weirdness of the character Mesmerizo, portrayed by Ron Lynch.
  9. Doreen the Whale” — Kate’s song was based on the true story of a male whale who communicates in decibels too high for other whales to hear (though in Kate’s song it is based on a female who sings too low).
  10.  “Have You Met My Robot” — Song at 11:30 in the program at the link.
  11. “The Ghost of Pasadena” — Inspired by doing a ghost walk around Pasadena, the live version included audience participation for the ghostly “ooo’s.” This was followed by Kate pretending to talk to her mom on a flat paper phone.  Kate’s brother, Matt Micucci, was also partaking in some of the sketch comedy silliness that evening.
  12. Fall Asleep” Introduced as a song for Jessie, explained and performed at the link. Followed by further business with Dan Beam getting a proper sip of coffee.
  13. Walking in Los Angeles” — Allie Awesome finally appears to accompany Kate on violin. When her set is done, Kate and Rhett’s kids introduce Rhett.
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Kate and Allie (Yes, I had to caption in that way — ’80s sitcom fans represent!)

I’ve written about Rhett so many times before I’m just going to stick to the round-up of what he played and said at this concert. I don’t have to go into detail about how much I love his clever lyrics, rich vocals and powerful held notes, rapid guitar playing, signature WindMiller move, hair flinging, hip swinging, sweat streaming, and spit spraying performances. Phew! So how about that set list?

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Rhett at the Beginning of His Set

  1. The Melt Show” from the Old 97’s album Too Far to Care
  2. Our Love” from The Instigator. After this song, Rhett explained to the audience that he was wearing one of those shirts where the button placement is either too low or too high and his daughter made him button his shirt, but he felt so weird with it like that for the first two songs he had to unbutton that top button. Though he promised the audience, “I’m going to try to keep the nipples inside.” My dream is to hear Rhett sing this one live with Jon Brion recreating his guitar solo.
  3. Jesus Loves You” from the Old 97’s new album Graveyard Whistling. Rhett said it was about a guy having difficulty trying to date a girl because “the guy she was hung up on died. But he did get resurrected – supposedly.”  Link is to video I shot last year at the Troubadour. You can pretend it was from this year though, he was wearing the same shirt!
  4. Wish the Worst” from the Old 97’s album Hitchhike to Rhome. Rhett introduced this one by saying that he was in California because he had a cousin who just got married and she asked him to sing a song after the toast and left it up to him to choose which one. He joked that he went through the list of possible songs with his kids and this was the one he played.
  5. Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On” from the Old 97’s album Most Messed Up
  6. She Hates Everybody” from Graveyard Whistling
  7. Singular Girl” from The Believer
  8. Nineteen” from the Old 97’s album Fight Songs. Rhett introduced this song by saying when he first wrote it, he thought his band would like it. They recorded it, but then wouldn’t play it live (so he plays it solo). Funny connection with that age and this show, the security guy’s jaw dropped when checking my age on my license during the entry process and said he thought I was 19! In honor of that I’ve chosen an apt lyric from the song, “We got seriously down!” (in the party/dance sense — so many possible meanings there) for the title of this blog post. DSC00559
  9. All Who Wander” from Graveyard Whistling
  10. Big Brown Eyes” from the Old 97’s albums Wreck Your Life and Too Far to Care
  11.  “I Don’t Wanna Die in This Town” from Graveyard Whistling. Rhett was joking before this song that the Old 97’s don’t rehearse and I think that was related to why this song wasn’t played much on their last tour. So it was very cool to hear his solo version, which I videoed at this show; find it at the link.
  12. Question” from both the Old 97’s album Satellite Rides and Rhett’s album The Believer. He told the story that he discovered his daughter was teaching herself to play the piano with this song. Also, of course this was the song that he actually played at his cousin’s wedding. He included the French verse in this rendition.
  13. Picture This” from The Dreamer, link to video I shot at this show.
  14. Rollerskate Skinny” from Satellite Rides, video from last year’s show.
  15. Fireflies” – Rhett asked for a volunteer from the audience to sing this duet with him. Local singer Tara Kelly joined him for her moment to shine on the Troubadour stage. Video I shot from this show at the link.
  16. Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” from Most Messed Up
  17. Most in the Summertime” from The Traveler. Rhett introduced this one by saying,  “I wasn’t going to play this song until the L.A. Weekly guaranteed it.” Rhett referenced the L.A. Weekly article by Jackson Truax recommending readers see the show, “Expect one of the evening’s highlights to be ‘Most in the Summertime,’ a standout from Miller’s bluegrass-leaning 2015 album, The Traveler, that’s already become a sing-along showstopper.” Well, I am glad he played it, as it was the only song of the night representing that album.
  18. Barrier Reef” from Too Far to Care
  19. Drinkin’ Song” from Graveyard Whistling
  20. Four Leaf Clover” from Too Far to Care
  21. Doreen” from Hitchhike to Rhome and Wreck Your Life
  22. ENCORE “In Spite of Ourselves” John Prine cover (duet with Kate Micucci), video I shot at the show at the link.
  23. California Stars” cover of a Billy Bragg song, Rhett told the story about learning a bunch of songs in order for the Old 97’s to be Billy Bragg’s backing band in the UK, but then their visas were revoked. Rhett feels some regret over that, but then he added that if he had done it, maybe he would be a different person (which from the way he said it, it sounded like he wasn’t sure that he liked that idea).
  24. Timebomb” from Too Far to Care, Rhett and the Old 97’s always close a show with this one. As usual, Rhett delivered one helluva show to a crowd that absolutely loved it!