Friday, June 7, 2013

Toad the Wet Sprocket at the Bowery Electric

Monty Python’s Eric Idle created a fictional band name, Toad the Wet Sprocket, for the British sketch television series Rutland Weekend Television in 1975, expecting that no band would use such a silly name. In 1986, four California teens adopted the moniker as a joke for their first gig. From 1989-1998, Toad the Wet Sprocket’s lead singer Glen Phillips, guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Randy Guss recorded five studio albums, which combined sold over four million copies and had five major radio hits. The band officially split in 1998, but reunited many times for short periods. The band has reunited again and will be releasing New Constellation, its first album of new songs in 16 years, on September 17.

All four original members of Toad the Wet Sprocket performed an all-too-brief acoustic concert today at the Bowery Electric, and were joined on mandolin on most songs by the tour manager, Jonathan Kingham. The band performed three reworked older songs, "Walk on the Ocean", "All I Want" and "Fall Down," plus two new songs, "California Wasted" and "New Constellation," for later broadcast on disc jockey Rich Russo’s radio show, anything, anything, on Westchester’s WXPK 107.1 FM. Dinning switched from bass to acoustic guitar for the occasion. While the band was at the forefront of alternative pop music in the 1990s, acoustically today the band did not sound alternative at all. It was a mini-showcase of clean, contemporary and melodic folk-style music, with Philips’ sturdy voice highlighted by mature harmonies from the other members. Russo (pictured to the left of the band, wearing a red sweatshirt) asked questions of the band members in between songs, affording the musicians the opportunity to share how only now did this reunion feel like a restart for the band. It remained unclear by the end of the taping whether the band will feature an acoustic set when it embarks on an extended concert tour to promote the album’s release.