Shows: Toadies, Local H @ Emo’s


Without benefit of a time machine, the throwback materialized pretty remarkably: it was 1996, maybe ’97, all over again at Emo’s. Unfortunately, there was just a hint of Woodstock ’99 thrown in there, too — but not enough to significantly mar the mood and positive takeaways from a roaring night of vintage alternative rock on Dec. 27, courtesy of Toadies and openers Local H.

Although both ’90s veteran acts are generally thought of as one-hit wonders today, Toadies (top photo) can headline and sell out Emo’s with ease because they’ve earned reverence as one of Texas’ still-kicking heroes of the grunge era. Rubberneck, their 1994 debut album, is one of the more beloved albums among enthusiasts of said genre and era, and the Fort Worth band has soldiered on through an early ’00s breakup, a 2006 reformation and a fairly robust slew of lineup changes to keep churning out albums periodically and keep their name out there. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Vaden Todd Lewis and drummer Mark Reznicek are the only ones left from the band’s big MTV break in 1995, although lead guitarist Clark Vogeler has been in the fold since 1996.

The crowd — Gen X-leaning but perhaps more age-diverse than you’d assume — must have simply been in a ’90s frame of mind just knowing the two acts they’d be seeing. Because from the jump with Local H, a group near the front center of the floor had made up its mind: there would be moshing, and there would be body-surfing, and collateral damage (residual domino-moshing into uninterested parties) wasn’t going to matter.

Toadies fed off the energy — to a point, anyway. Wisely, the set list was heavy on Rubberneck, with the 58-year-old Lewis showing he still had at least 80% of his vintage-’90s vocal chops and the band stomping and rolling through the best of the debut. That included “Backslider,” “I Come From the Water” and, of course, “Possum Kingdom,” the building, dynamic-shifting hard-rocker that stands as one of the very best rock songs of the ’90s. In a pleasant surprise, however, the handful of new/newer songs the band sprinkled in from its forthcoming record, The Charmer, didn’t slow the momentum, including the title cut. They sounded like classic Toadies output and suggested the new record will be worth a listen.

The hints of Woodstock ’99, however, came when the above-average aggression in the mosh pit culminated in real, live fighting. At one point early in the set, Vogeler quelled an apparent scuffle, asking the offending parties to “take it down.” Then, the band’s encore ended perhaps a little early — with the Rubberneck-closing grunge power-ballad gem “I Burn” — when Vogeler called out a presumed fighter in a plaid shirt, near the same area of the stage, right as the song ended. The band quickly left, and on the floor, multiple people intervened as one of the combatants — a bushy-long haired, open-shirted beanpole of a guy probably no older than 21 or 22 — kept trying to charge back at his opponent and re-instigate. The situation was finally defused. While it was a reminder that ’90s pits may not have been the safest place in the world, it didn’t detract from the impressive pacing and gnarly attack Toadies had launched in the preceding 90 minutes.

Chicago’s Local H, too, was a seasoned and professional source of alt-rock roar — impressively so considering they’re just a duo, with original vocalist/guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer-since-2013 Ryan Harding producing enough volume for a quintet. Kicking off with the catchily profane “High-Fiving MF” (it was stuck in my brain from my first live encounter with this band in 2004), they hammered away for a little over 40 minutes, with Lucas bleeding the intense earnestness that was such a prerequisite in the era these two bands represent. Signature hit “Bound For the Floor” and not-so-big hit “All the Kids Are Right” were both highlights, but the duo’s controlled jaggedness made for a enjoyably slamming set all the way through to the closing cover of TV on the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me.”