Todd in Texas

Review by Carlos Taboada (Switch to

The caption in the concert section of the San Antonio newspaper said "Todd Rundgren? Gruene Hall? You Bet!". The surprise was that Gruene Hall, the oldest roadhouse in Texas, with all its German charm, was normally used as a venue for Texas Blues and Rock-a-billy type bands. Sometimes youíll see the occasional Leon Russell or some Cajun-ee combo, but Todd Rundgren? They did film a big scene with John Travolta from the movie "Michael" there as well. On the inside wall were huge letters that spelled out "JOEíS", the fictitious name for the hall they used in the movie. The show wasnít sold out that day when I bought my tickets but as show time closed in it became sold-out. The show was great. Very, very intimate. I hope my pictures show up decently on your screen. I sat in the second row, which for Gruene hall equals 7 feet from Toddís microphone. My camera is such that, if you turn off the flash (which the venue strongly suggests), the exposure stays open with each picture clicked to allow sufficient light to burn an image (thatís a laymenís digital explanation). So every time I snapped a picture, if during that 1 point 3 seconds time period Todd moved, the picture would show a smear, action effect (got plenty of those). Todd played songs I had not heard him do live at all. He was awesome. He did touch on his politics just for a second. But, what the hay! Todds got a right to his opinion like everyone else. The only way I can describe the venue is that it was like watching a schoolhouse play in a church on Waltonísí mountain, but it worked.

I live in San Antonio which is about 30 miles from the venue. It just so happened that I was off from work that day (I just became a police officer in a small town about 10 miles from Gruene Hall). Since my work schedule runs into the wee hours, I woke up that day late and grabbed the newspaper from the front lawn. The San Antonio Express-News, which normally ignores true artists and caters to arena performers (Brittney Spears, NíSync and whoever) happened to run a nice write up on Todd Rundgren coming to Gruene Hall. Upon reading the part that said Todd would be doing a solo piano/guitar show, I got one of my wild ideas. It was 2 pm. The show starts at 8:45pm. I was going to load up my drums (Iím also a musician) and drive to Gruene early. Hoping that Todd would be sound checking, I would ask him if I could accompany him on the drums. Yes, I know it was a long, loooong shot, but if I didnít, I would remember this moment ten years from now and regret NOT doing it. What if it worked and Todd said yes? So, there I go with my wifeís blessing (sheís used to my hair brained ideas. She knows some of them have worked). It was 3:50pm when I arrived. As I exited my vehicle, I heard music. Hereís a side-bar about Gruene Hall. Itís like a large barn. If you look at it from the front, it doesnít look like much, but the sides are long and the walls on the side open up like window-flap car hoods covered by mesh screens. What I heard was Todd singing "Too Far Gone". This was happening like my imagination thought it would. I continued to walk towards the entrance. My heart was beating fast but my body had a mission. I walked in the door which brought me into an old western type open bar. The music got louder. At this point, Todd switched from "Too Far Gone" to "Compassion". This canít be happening. I walked past the bar into the open dance area. There was Todd by himself at the piano with a soundman behind a board in the middle of the room. There were some regulars there. Cowboys, mostly. Nobody seemed to know who this singer was. I made my way behind the soundboard to a pick-nick table and sat and listened. He stopped singing and began to check the microphone alone.

Was I going to do this or not? Should I just walk right up to Todd and ask if I can play drums for him tonight? At that moment, Todd asked his sound man if that was all he needed. The sound man said "yeah". Todd got up and proceeded to walk towards the exit door. This means he was walking towards me. "Itís now or never" I thought to myself. I got up off the table when Todd was still about five feet away and said "Todd?" He stopped, looked at me and said "Yes?" Now comes what usually turns out to be a history of trying to talk to Todd and only forming incomplete sentences. "I told myself that if I didnít do this, I would kick my own ass forever, so here goes. I have my drums in my car, I know all of your songs, is there any way I can accompany you tonight?" Todd looked at me and said "Man, I wish you would have showed up earlier. Itís too late at this point to set up all the mikes needed for a drum set. It would be a real technical mess at this point. Sorry". I immediately said "Hey, No problem at all. I just had to take the chance". To which Todd said "Thatís cool. I wish we could". Then he stuck his hand out and smiled. I quickly shook it and he was off. Of course I was dumbfounded. Maybe I wasnít gonna get to play, but in my mindís reality, I never thought Iíd get to talk to Todd. What a rush!

Jump to show time. The restrooms at Gruene Hall are literally behind the stage. Women stage right and Men stage left. As men walked to the restroom, they first have to pass a doorway that is parallel with the front of the stage, and then they have to pass the monitor board, which was tucked in the hallway between the side of the stage and the actual restroom behind the stage. Behind the soundboard was another one of the screened windows which was now also being used (after removing the screen) as the back stage door. Upon entering, the artist will have to climb through a window-type opening. They draped a white sheet over it to act as a door. As I made my way to the menís room, I passed by my sergeant, who it turns out is working as security for the soundboard/stage door area. He didnít really know who this Todd guy was. We talked for a while and, to make a long story short, I was given permission to get to the back area when Todd was about to take the stage. As Van Wilkes left the stage, I got up and made my way back there. My Sergeant knew how much I wanted to see Todd. The main soundman came backstage and told my sergeant that he needed to clear the restroom and secure the area for Todd to enter. The soundman said only security should be back here until Todd takes the stage. My sergeant pointed at me and said "Well, this is one of our officers, so he can stay". I freaked! My sergeant just gave me permission to kick into security mode and assist him in the Todd area. As I made my way beside my sergeant, the parachute curtain opened and a sheriff crawled through. Then, immediately following him was Todd, who entered and was seen quickly by the audience members closest to the stage. You could hear cheers. I was closer to the restroom/back of stage wall area. As Todd entered, he rushed to stand behind me. He looked at me and his face gave off this "Donít I know you" look. With all the cheering and the radio personality starting his long introduction of Todd, it wasnít very quiet backstage. I could see Todd wanted to say something to me. Then he scooted closer and said "You look dreadfully familiar". "I talked to you earlier" I replied, but I guess he didnít hear me. "You look like this guy who asked if he could play drums for me. I donít mean any offense by that" Todd said. "Yeah!" I responded "That was me. Iím also a police officer". Todd let out this surprised laugh. "Well, you wear both hats well, my friend" Todd said. Then Todd went on to say "I think it would be kinda cool to put something together where I would use local musicians for each show". Before I could respond, Todd was called out on stage. Once again, I was in a position of talking to Todd Rundgren like a couple of people in a grocery check-out line would. Although it sounds fanatical (and probably is), Iíve had dreams of having casual conversations with Todd. For it to actually happen twice in one day is something I will never forget. I consider myself a very lucky Todd fan. My wife asked me later why I didnít get a picture with Todd backstage. Thatís a tough question. I mean, I did have my digital camera with me. I guess I was high on the fact that, there for about 2 minutes, I was Todd Rundgrens security. Who knows when this will happen again, or if it ever will. Then she said, "It doesnít matter, the picture you hold in your memory is going to last forever." I hope I didnít drag on too long with this story. The whole event just meant allot to me. As usual, I met plenty of very friendly Todd fans from all over.

Other reviews for Miscellaneous Dates 2003
3/28/2003 - Gruene Hall - New Braunfels, TX

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