Tickets on sale January 15th at www.prekindle.com
GARY CLARK JR.
Rarely does an artist explode onto the music scene with the force and impact of a comet. But when it does happen — as it did when 26-year-old singer-guitarist Gary Clark Jr. delivered an incendiary debut performance of his song “Bright Lights” at Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival last June — the result is magical. Funky, hip, and badass, Gary Clark Jr. is a rocking soul man for a new generation.
Weaned on John Lee Hooker, Lightnin Hopkins, and T-Bone Walker, Clark fuses his deep blues influence with a love of classic hip-hop and contemporary soul. His voice weaves between a melodic lilt and a seasoned blues howl with his guitar licks dancing and dodging between and behind the beat as if the essence of Snoop and Dre loom in his head by way of the Mississippi Delta. The virtuosity Clark displays, and the tone he rings from his cherry-red Epiphone Casino guitar, put most modern rock shredders to shame.
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Clark began playing guitar at age 12. He performed small gigs throughout his early teens before popping up on the radar of legendary promoter Clifford Antone, owner of Austin blues club Antone’s. Through Clifford’s connections, Clark was soon sitting in with and learning from an array of musical icons, including Jimmie Vaughan. Vaughan, and others in the Austin music community, mentored Clark along his path, facilitating his steady rise on the Texas music scene. His peers have showered him with acclaim for his galvanizing live performances. In 2001, Austin’s mayor, Kirk Watson, declared May 3rd to be “Gary Clark Jr. Day.” Clark was 17 years old.
Clark went on to win the Austin Music Award for Best Blues and Electric Guitarist on three separate occasions, in addition to receiving awards from various blues magazines and associations around the country. After playing the nationally televised show Austin City Limits and touring with such artists as Jimmie Vaughan, Pinetop Perkins, and Doyle Bramhall II, Clark released two self-produced albums, and composed the original score for the film Full Count. Clark’s creative versatility and love for not just blues, but also soul, hip-hop, classic rock, and jam bands, has allowed him to transcend his own musical talents. He starred alongside Danny Glover and Stacy Keach in John Sayles’ 2007 film Honeydripper.
In 2010, Clark was the only young newcomer to be selected by Eric Clapton to perform at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, where he performed with Doyle Bramhall II and Sheryl Crow. A DVD of the show, released last November, led to Clark’s signing with Warner Bros. Records for whom he is currently working on his major-label debut album. Clark’s singular talent has also attracted a bevy of artist support, including accolades from Sheryl Crow, Citizen Cope, Damian Marley, Ron Wood, and Questlove. As the latter recently Tweeted after witnessing a December performance at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl: “I don’t think y’all understand the greatness that is in front of you. Gary Clark Jr. is kickin’ ass and takin’ names.”
“There’s a certain uneasiness to the Toadies,” says Vaden Todd Lewis, succinctly and accurately describing his band—quite a trick. The Texas band is, at its core, just a raw, commanding rock band. Imagine an ebony sphere with a corona that radiates impossibly darker, and a brilliant circular sliver of light around that. It’s nebulous, but strangely distinct—and, shall we say incorrect. Or, as Lewis says, “wrong.”
“Things are done a little askew [in the Toadies],” he says, searching for the right words. “There’s just something wrong with it that’s just really cool… and unique in a slightly uncomfortable way.”
This sick, twisted essence was first exemplified on the band’s 1994 debut, Rubberneck (Interscope). An intense, swirling vortex of guitar rock built around Lewis’s “wrong” songs and abstract lyrics—like the smash single “Possum Kingdom,” subject to as much speculation as what’s in the Pulp Fiction briefcase, it rocketed to platinum status on the strength of that and two other singles, “Tyler” and “Away.”
Perhaps in keeping with the uneasy vibe, that success didn’t translate to label support when the Toadies submitted their second album, Feeler. Perhaps aptly, things in general just went wrong. “We got approval for a record,” says Lewis, “and somewhere in the process of handing over the masters to get mixed, it got unapproved. So we went back to the drawing board.”
Eventually some of the Feeler tracks made it onto Hell Below/Stars Above—a sophomore offering that came seven years after Rubberneck. “It was a very weird, trying time,” says Lewis, who didn’t see the next blow—the sudden departure of bassist Lisa Umbarger—coming. “We went out on tour, and immediately the band split up,” he laughs sardonically. “We kinda shot ourselves in the foot.” They released a live album, Best of Toadies: Live from Paradise, and it was over.
Coming out of the Toadies, Lewis, guitarist Clark Vogeler and drummer Mark Reznicek were disillusioned. Vogeler went to work as a film editor, Rez hooked up with the country-western band Eleven Hundred Springs. Lewis initially thought, “Fuck this whole business. I’m gettin’ out. I just wanted to do anything else.”
Toadies fans, though accepting, stuck with them, often inquiring as to the band’s activities. Says Lewis, “People just asked me “So, what are you doin’ now?” Although he’d been “foolin’ around” with Rev. Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley, he answered, “I don’t know. Nothin’. This, that and the other. Workin’ around the house, workin’ in the garage, just toolin’ around.” Soon it occurred to him that music was all he wanted to do. “I’m a musician. That’s what I do, and I’m not happy not doing it.” Eventually Lewis and Bentley formed the Burden Brothers in 2002 and released a slew of EPs, two albums and a DVD while touring profusely.
Meanwhile, “Possum Kingdom” never left the airwaves, enjoying constant rotation at major modern rock stations. Fans clamored for a Toadies reunion. “The band never went all the way away;” says Lewis. They regrouped in 2006 for a couple of sold-out shows around St. Patrick’s Day, and again the next year for the same thing. In August 2007, when personnel changes with the Burden Brothers resulted in that band going on hiatus, Lewis began writing.
“I was pissed off again and wanted to keep goin’,” he says. “I didn’t know what I was writing, right out of the gate, but… it was just coming out very “Toadies.”
Lewis called Rez and Vogeler and asked if they were interested in making another record. They were—and the Toadies officially reconvened, signing with Kirtland and recording No Deliverance with David Castell (Burden Brothers, Blue October) at Fort Worth Sound in Fort Worth and Music Lane in Austin. Lewis says the band has gone for a “bare knuckle” sound, amping up the psychotic stomp heard on Rubberneck and Hell Below… on the grinding, relentless title track as well as the seething, death-of-a-romance gem “So Long Lovey Eyes” and the towering, sludgy “Man of Stone.” The upshot is a taut, exhilarating listen that is quintessentially Toadies.
Lewis is stoked on “the freshness of this new record. Getting back into this, back into the feel of the Toadies, is cool. Lewis, Rez, Vogeler and new bass player Doni Blair (Hagfish, Only Crime) are optimistic that their indie incarnation will succeed, thanks to the support of their devout fans—and equally supportive label. “The music industry has changed so much,” says Vogeler. “A band like us can be on an independent label and still get the music out to the people who want to hear it.”
The Toadies are now free to pursue success on their own merit and muscle. And things are starting off nicely: On August 2, The Toadies will play Lollapalooza and, following the album’s release, they’ll embark on a nationwide tour offering old fans and those to come—as he recently told SPIN, “Balls. A ton of balls.”
“Getting back to the bare knuckles element of the Toadies,” continues Lewis, “is what I really enjoy, after being away from it for so long.” Vogeler and Rez concur. “I’m here and still doin’ it,” furthers Vogeler, “because the music’s good.” And Rez proclaims in his thick Texas drawl, “The Toadies are back in business.”
And suddenly, everything wrong is right.