Toad the Wet Sprocket: A confession

I have a confession to make. Six months ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a song by Toad the Wet Sprocket (TTWS). Nor did I know that Glen Phillips was a member of that group. Since December 2008 I’ve seen Glen Phillips perform four times and had the opportunity to interview him for the WYEP Music Blog http://musicblog.wyep.org/2009/04/24/toad-the-wet-sprocket-an-interview-with-glen-phillips/ and now I just had the chance to see TTWS in concert for the first time. I’m reaping the benefits of volunteering as an on-air host at an independent public radio station, by discovering new music. Grant it, this time the artist first came on the scene some 20 years ago. You really can teach an old DJ new tricks. I’ve always had the ears of a DJ, but only in the last couple of years have they been exposed to what’s often labeled as “alternative” music. I’ve been asking myself over and over why I only now have found the music of TTWS and Glen Phillips.

Mr. Barb wanted to see Jonatha Brooke. She’d been on his list of performers he’d always wanted to see live. She was coming to Pittsburgh with Glen Phillips. Mr. Barb assured me I’d like Glen Phillips, knowing I tend to like male singer-songwriters. For some reason I wasn’t really impressed with Phillips.

Mr. Barb said I would know some of the TTWS songs, like “All I Want” or his personal favorite “Fall Down”. In fact yes indeed I did know “All I Want”, one of those songs I remember from my commercial radio days. Okay, we’re on to something here. I put “All I Want” on my personal list of essential songs for WYEP’s 913 Essential Songs countdown. I was listing songs that lead me to discover certain artists . When Phillips sang an acoustic version of “All I Want” in December at the Rex, it was the only song I recognized in his set.

There would be more chances to experience Glen Phillips live. Glen Phillips was one of the many performers on the Cayamo cruise in March. We somehow ended up at all three of his performances and seemed to run into him (okay I did, really I was not stalking him!) in the Garden Café in the mornings. We had attended the late Brandi Carlile show one night and thought gee, before we head to our cabin let’s check out Phillips’ 12:30 a.m. show; never intending to stay for the full set. Well it was 2:15 a.m. before we got back to our cabin. I did recognize another TTWS song “Walk on the Ocean”, which Phillips did in his sets. It has since become my favorite TTWS track. Something about seeing a performer in the early morning hours not remember all the lyrics, bang his head on the microphone several times and talk about zombies left a positive impression on me. After Phillips’ last scheduled performance on the cruise, I was able to get an autograph and a photo with him. I’m generally not outgoing when it comes to approaching performers, so it took a bit of gumption for me to walk up to him and chat about his music.

When I saw TTWS was coming to Munhall, I thought I better take the plunge and attend the show. Glen Phillips was very gracious to agree to an e-mail interview prior to the concert (trust me they are not easy to do, you don’t have the interaction you would if the performer was there in person, face to face). Since March I’ve bought or downloaded as many TTWS and Glen Phillips CD's I could find. I feel kind of weird admitting I’m this late in the game on TTWS music. I didn’t realize that Glen Phillips wrote a lot of the lyrics for TTWS. I was intrigued by the video on Phillips first solo recording, “Abulum”. It gave me a little more insight into Phillips' songwriting process. And I as I kept listening to the music, I kept saying to myself 'oh he did that one on the cruise'. I was putting two and two together. Plus I wanted to be familiar with the music when I finally saw TTWS perform.

So, I felt I really needed to share some insights on my limited exposure to TTWS, first, before getting to the concert review, so you could understand my vantage point. I’ve had to quickly bring myself up to speed on TTWS.  Here's a link to my review of the TTWS concert (http://musicblog.wyep.org/2009/05/03/toad-the-wet-sprocket-a-concert-review/)

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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