For their annual year-end concert, the Toadies will take the stage at Billy Bob’s Texas Friday night. It’s the band’s eighth time to end the year onstage, and it will be their fourth performance in as many days, wrapping up a brief run through Houston, San Antonio, and Austin before coming back home. The opener for all four shows is Flickerstick, a local outfit enjoying a resurgence after a pair of one-off reunion shows in June, and the tour kind of strikes me as something that might have happened 20 years ago in a parallel universe where the career trajectories for both these bands had been different — the Toadies disbanded at the end of 2001 before reforming in 2007, the year that Flickerstick, essentially, called it quits before the recent reunion. Here in the present, though, wherever you go, there you are. And where we are, the Toadies and Flickerstick are finally booked on the same bill in their hometown.
Being home is actually a bigger deal for the Toadies than it might sound, because it seems like they’re always on the road. In a phone interview last week, frontman Vaden Todd Lewis said they have been enjoying some time off following three months of touring with the Reverend Horton Heat and Nashville Pussy. The tour that celebrated the 25th anniversary of Rubberneck, the Toadies’ smash hit major label debut from 1994, had originally been scheduled for 2020.
“We have always shied away from being stuck in the ’90s niche realm … but playing with the Rev and Nashville Pussy is about as ’90s as you can get,” Lewis said, chuckling. “But I like playing with new bands, too, getting turned on to new music.”
But even when there’s a blank spot in their touring calendar, Lewis is still working. Following these four shows, the Toadies have a break in their tour schedule for a couple months.
“I’ll be doing some more writing,” Lewis said. “Our tentative plan is to do some more pre-production, bring the whole band into town, and bang out these songs. Hopefully, we’ll have a new record out next year.”
He said they’d gotten together earlier this year to work on new material at the Loop, the Eastside rehearsal studio he owns with wife Rachel Lewis. “Our friend, [producer] Frenchie Smith, came up here with a bunch of recording gear. We did a week of pre-production and knocked out 10 ideas.”
Lewis said some of the songs might make it onto their setlist on Friday. “The setlists at Billy Bob’s will be a hodgepodge. We played Rubberneck start to finish on that last tour, and I’m never not gonna play ‘Possum Kingdom’ and the songs people know, but that tour, we spent working on new songs, so you might hear them” Friday.
As for Flickerstick, frontman Brandin Lea is psyched to play these shows. “I think [our bands] played together twice before, not like on tour but were booked at the same festivals or whatever, so this is the first time we’ve actually been on a bill together like this, and I can hardly believe it.”
In 1992, he said, the Toadies “were my favorite band in the world.”
Lea said he wishes he could go back in time and tell his brother, bassist Fletcher Lea, and co-songwriter Cory Kreig, “Guess what? Our band is going on tour with the Toadies when y’all are old men! We’re gonna be pushing 50, but we’re going to do it!’ Fletcher would probably say ‘Wow, we’re gonna be 50?’ But that would blow his teenage mind.”
Lea said Flickerstick will forgo his favorite seven minute-long deep cuts from their 2001 major label debut Welcoming Home the Astronauts in favor of their more accessible, Britpop-oriented songs.
“I don’t want to call them ‘the hits,’ ” he said with a laugh, “but we’re definitely gonna play the five songs everybody knows.”
But like the Toadies, Flickerstick has some new jams in the works. Lea said they’re “definitely gonna play ‘Shine On,’ ” the new single they released in September, tracked with producer Taylor Tatsch at Dallas’ Sunland Sound. As it happens, “Shine On” is apparently the first of a series of singles.
“We’re threatening to put out more new material,” Lea said. “The plan is to do a song every two or three months. We’re gonna try to do another song after this tour, beginning of next year, I think.”
Back in this year, however, Lea is more or less ready to roll. “I’ve been on the stage all my life. I suck at all other jobs except this one. If I’m not singing, I’m working the side stage.”
In fact, Lea used to work at Billy Bob’s as part of the stage crew. He’s never performed there, so this is also a dream-come-true situation for him.
“It’s funny because I literally grew up at Billy Bob’s,” he said. “My mom was the line dancing teacher there when I was a kid. Fletcher and I would go up there every Thursday. We were like 9, 10 years old, at the bar until midnight, watching the house band, but this’ll be Flickerstick’s first time.”
First rodeo or no, playing a New Year’s Eve’s Eve show is the kind of thing Lea lives for, one more piece of the pleasantly puzzling reality that Flickerstick is hitting local stages once again. “To be honest, this reunion was never supposed to happen, and every day now I wake up, and I’m like, ‘Wait a second. Do I get to play Flickerstick shows again?’ And I do. It’s awesome.”