For the first time in 15 years I saw Dangerous Toys in concert.
To see a Dangerous Toys concert in the 21st century requires a major commitment, disposable income or really good luck.
The band was a minor success during the hairband era. They weren't Tesla, they weren't Queensryche, they weren't Poison and they weren't Warrant. They were unglamorous, unsophisticated rockers from Austin, Texas. Sure, they had a few songs you'd file under slow/sappy, but not in the "Every Rose has its Thorn" or "I Saw Red" style that Poison and Warrant, respectively, made famous.
Dangerous Toys were loud, obnoxious, unapologetic and disassociated...disassociated with the trappings of the Sunset Strip. That's why they didn't come off like the acid washed rockers so many hair bands were. They were genuine southern rockers from Texas.
They had a couple of major label successes, but the bloom was off the rose by the time disc two hit the streets. They continued into the 1990s, working with smaller labels and playing to the few rock fans who hadn't bought into the mystique of Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. All of those bands made some great music, but they lacked what some of their hair band predecessors had. I'll never understand why, but somehow the thousands of rock fans across the United States that loved hard rock seemed to disappear. They quit enjoying music they had loved, or they traded it in to appease their more sophisticated Foo Fighters sensibility. That's sarcasm, but it's also true.
By the late 1990s there wasn't really a Dangerous Toys any more. The band didn't break up, the guys just started doing different things at a time when the demand for Dangerous Toys had dropped off significantly.
I can't say how many times Dangerous Toys found its way to Minneapolis back in the day, but I know I saw them play a couple of times circa 1995. My guess is that the first show was in the summer of '94. My hunch is that the next show was in the fall of 1995.
Jason McMaster, the lead singer of the band, spoke about both of those shows on Friday night. He doubted any of us in the room were at that 1995 show when he polled the audience, but chances are that there were a couple handfuls of us who had indeed reconvened 15 years later to see Dangerous Toys at Pickle Park in 2010.
McMaster has gone on to front a variety of bands during the past 15 years, performing periodically in Texas and occasionally elsewhere. Even though Dangerous Toys never disbanded, there was no talk of new music or much else since that last, ill-fated attempt at writing new material in 1995. (The fourth and final CD was a bit of a departure from the loud, raucous Texas rock and roll we had grown to love. Honestly, I don't think it would have mattered what they recorded, there weren't enough fans that cared enough one way or another.)
In recent years there has been an occasional reunion show in Austin and a few shows in Japan, where aging American rockers (and pro wrestlers) always seem to do well. There have been a few festival appearances along the way, as well, but opportunities to see guys who sold 1 million copies of their debut CD are few and far between in the 21st century.
That's what made Friday night all the more curious.
A few months ago I was at the oddly-named Pickle Park in Fridley, Minn., to see another D-level hair band, Trixter. (I rate bands by success, and I'd say both Trixter and Dangerous Toys never graduated from D level, which isn't anything to be embarrassed about, D level means you succeeded at a level far higher than 99.5 percent of aspiring rock bands back in the day.) Trixter has been doing the occasional reunion show during the past few years, and inexplicably they ended up doing a show May 1 at Pickle Park. It was that night at Pickle Park that I learned of another upcoming show, a rare performance by Dangerous Toys. (Why Minneapolis is blessed with such concerts, instead of Chicago or Los Angeles, I'll never know.)
After 15 years, and few concerts during their absence, Dangerous Toys were returning to Minneapolis.
How fortunate were we here in Minnesota? Dangerous Toys appear to be playing two shows this summer, neither as part of a rock festival. They were booked in Minneapolis on Friday night, Kansas City on Saturday night. There's nothing else on their schedule, and I doubt there's another Dangerous Toys concert anywhere in the United States in the near future. Somehow we were the benefactors of a very rare opportunity.
Dangerous Toys may never command a grand audience again, but for the few hundred that attended Friday night, it was as if it was 1994 all over again.
The band played music from its first three albums, and plenty from that debut, of course. McMaster can still hit the high notes, and still wail like an injured cat. The sound was a bit off during the first few songs, but I find that's typical of most club shows I attend. McMaster's banter between songs wasn't anything special. He preached a little, bitched a little and reminisced a lot. He never mentioned his other bands or why Dangerous Toys hasn't been anywhere near Minnesota for 15 years. He did, however, suggest the band will be back next year. I'll believe it when I see it, but I'm all for it.
McMaster looks a lot like he did 15 years ago, remarkably so. I wouldn't be surprised if he came out after the show to sign CDs and other memorabilia. (I didn't hang around to find out.) He has done that in the past. He has always been very accessible to the fans, I know this firsthand from the 1990s. Before the days of e-mail I wrote a letter to him, and got a personal response. He may not have been receiving thousands of letters a week, but the fact he responded personally to a fan was impressive to me.
The crowd was decent, I thought. Better than the BulletBoys more than a year ago, and better than Trixter three months ago, but nothing overwhelming.
• One of the opening acts was a band called Beatallica, a fusion of the Beatles and Metallica. It was not good. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't nearly as clever or entertaining as you would hope.
• I have no doubt about the authenticity of the comment regarding the July 21 BulletBoys concert that reportedly drew approximately 25 people. I received a comment from a guy named Seastorm. How do I know it was a guy? Through dumb luck I stumbled upon his MySpace profile, and it turns out that he works for a local promotions company that was affiliated with the BulletBoys show last month. I still have no idea how he found my blog, but now I know his comment about the attendance was legit. I can't verify that he attended the Dangerous Toys concert, but that same dumb luck suggested that he planned to. I bet he can answer my questions about the local concert business. I'd love to have the opportunity to ask.