- Toad the Wet Sprocket at Wabash College (Crawfordsville, IN), 11/8/1997 -

I flew into St. Louis from Phoenix for a Beta Sigma Psi fund raiser and drove up to Crawfordsville, IN with Internet "listserv" member Rae Robertson. We met up with a bunch of others from the Toad fan e-mail list, including Stephanie Wezeman and Mel Martin. We arrived kinda early, so I helped "Fan Ambassador" and merchandise man Joe Lyons set up the t-shirt stand.

The main set was great, as always.  Rarely performed "All in All", "Jam", "Covered in Roses", "Little Heaven" and "High on a Riverbed" were highlights for me.

When the first encore was about to begin, Rae and Steph and I moved up to the middle of the crowd. (Earlier, the crowd surfers (?!) had caused us to move to the back.)

The band came back out after the short break and lead singer Glen Phillips goes up to the microphone and says something close to "We got this letter from this guy -- Steve". I knew it was me and I thought Glen was about to wish Rae a one day belated "Happy Birthday", which was one of the little requests I'd made. I was pumped!

But no, he continued with something like "He asked if he could play guitar with us on this next song, Walk On The Ocean -- to do the slide part that our guitar tech. Jonas usually does. So, come on up here..." I had already started running towards the stage, jumping up and down while running (which doesn't work very well) and yelling "That's me! That's me!". I was so shocked! The crowd parted nicely to allow me to get to the stage. (Sorry to the people I inevitably ran into/over in my state of frenzy.) Everyone was smiling and cheering for me as I went by. A few fans and a security guy helped me over the barricade.

Glen was buying time at the microphone but I couldn't hear what he was saying. I later found out he was describing the part I was to play. He kept vocally imitating it, "Wah...waaaaaah..." to the amusement of the crowd. But, as lead guitar player Todd Nichols' guitar technician Jonas Marquez pulled me onto the stage, I heard Glen say something like "Big hand for our new guitarist: Steve!" Unthinkable! I carefully walked past some of the stage equipment and turned around to take a look at the sea of fans who were cheering on this strange sight. A small group in the crowd actually starting yelling "Steve! Steve! Steve!"

I disappeared side stage for a moment while Jonas slipped a guitar on me. (I found out from Joe Lyons a day later that this was Todd's favorite guitar, a 1955 or 1957 Gibson Les Paul, I think... I'm glad I didn't know that at the time!) I confirmed that the volume was off and that I should "crank it" when the time came. I checked to make sure I knew the part right. (I never really thought for a minute that they'd let me play guitar with them, but I did come prepared -- I practiced that little part... over and over and over again!) Jonas handed me one of Todd's green D'Addario picks and I was ready to go.

At some point, Glen sang those familiar words: "We spotted the ocean..." to start the song, but I have to confess that I never heard them. I was too busy preparing with Jonas (and trembling a bit). I crept out on stage about two feet from Todd's left and slightly behind him as the first chorus was performed. I instinctively sang along and tried to relax. I looked out into the crowd and saw Rae and Steph smiling and waving along with a bunch of people in the first 10+ rows continually motioning for me to move towards center stage. But, I was very comfortable right there next to Todd. And, after watching Jonas perform this part many times, I knew that's where he stood to do it. And, it seemed like the right place to be: on stage, but out of the way of the real band members.
Well, before I knew it, the double chorus was being performed and it was about time for me. I had asked Jonas to cue me, just in case I got really nervous. Well, somehow I think I progressed from really nervous to really excited. What a chance! -- To play guitar with my favorite band, who've sold 3+ million CDs, performing their second big hit -- one that's been on MTV, VH-1 and every decent radio station in the country. (Sure, I had a teeny little part to play, but that was plenty!) This was too amazing!

I took a couple of steps forward and then hit the first note, then slid it down to the right fret. I heard the heightened cheers from the crowd, kinda acknowledging that they were pretty pumped that some "nobody" was plucked out of the middle of the crowd to play guitar -- and had hit the right notes, too! (I didn't dare look up at the crowd, though, 'cause I wanted to make sure I did it right the next three times. But, I heard 'em cheering... Thanks!)

Glen, Dean and Todd look on as I play my first notes.
(Click here for a full view and here for a zoomed out view.)

I played the notes a second time and realized how much fun I was having, despite the fact that I was just staring down at the guitar so I wouldn't mess up. When I set up for the third time, I almost set up for the wrong string -- I was still plenty nervous. Being up there playing with the band was great, but screwing up the song wouldn't be so fun...

As I hit the notes for the fourth/final time, I had become more pleased that I got it right than anything else, I think. I wiggled my finger on the string to get the required effect, let it ring and then turned off the volume. I looked up at Todd so as to say "I'm done! I hope I did okay!" and he just had the biggest smile on his face! While continuing to play his part of the song he said "Just turn the volume down and play along with a few chords. Have some fun with it!" What a great guy! In the background, I could hear Glen starting the final words, singing "Now, back at the homestead..."

Glen smiles and looks on as Todd and I strum some chords. (Click here for a zoomed out view.)

I checked Todd's chord and imitated it the best I could, considering his guitar was capoed. I looked up into the crowd and smiled as I saw them smiling and singing along.

Todd and I play some chords. (Click here for a full view and here for a zoomed out view.)
As Glen sang those last few words "Don't even have pictures, just memories to hold...", I couldn't help but (very selfishly) think to myself "I hope somebody captured this, 'cause no one is going to believe it!". As the echoes from the final words from Glen were fading, I waved to the crowd and then went to shake Todd's hand. Instead, he put his arm around me and turned us both towards the crowd as if for a photo.

Glen says to the crowd, "Let's hear it for Steve!"
(Click here for a full view and here for a zoomed out view.)

I then walked over and went to shake Glen's hand. As I shook it he smiled really big and said "Oh, it's you!" as he recognized me. With the lights the way they were and where I was standing, I don't think he could see my face when I was playing. (I have been fortunate enough to meet the band enough times that they recognize me by now.) I said "thanks so much!" and told him how fun it was for me to have done this. The bass player, Dean Dinning, was talking with his guitar technician so I just smiled and waved at drummer Randy Guss, who was wearing a really big smile as well.

One last wave to the crowd and then I walked off side stage. Jonas had already swapped Todd's guitar for the next song and then took "mine" off. I thanked him for helping me and left the stage by the side. Jonas later told me that he was "more nervous for me doing it than he had ever been for himself doing it."

As I wandered back to my place in the middle of the crowd, I was surprised to be greeted by lots of fans, who congratulated me and said I did really well: "Hey, you're the guy who played guitar! You did great!" said this one woman who came up to me. (That was so nice!) One guy even asked me if that was really me playing, implying that it might be a "Milli Vanilli" kind of thing. I told him it was really me (and to not be impressed 'cause it was a really easy part). I was really relieved, because I must've sounded okay, if he thought that! The two women from Indianapolis that I'd met just before the show when they asked me for directions (wrong guy to ask, since I'm from Phoenix) even jokingly referred to me as "the fifth Toad". Well, for one song on one night in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana, anyway. And, that's more than I ever could've imagined!


Here I am, with Todd Nichols at the crew bus after the show.
 (Click on the picture for full size, here to zoom out and click here for the full picture.)

Todd's hand-written set list, adapted from the previous show's list.

Well, I think I cashed in all of my "15 minutes of fame" on this one.  This was easily the most unbelievable and memorable concert experience I've ever had...

(Here's some other kinda blurry pictures of the "event":   1, 2, 3, 4.)

Listen to a recording of the actual concert! (4 M)

Listen to me talk about it on the radio!  (2 M)

(Special thanks goes to Rae Robertson, Mel Martin, Stephanie Wezeman, Michele McCoy, Doug Michaelson, Jen Olach, and Leah Miller for the pictures, an audio tape of the show and scanning.)

Hey, this was even mentioned on other people's web pages! (Thanks, Danielle and Cathy!)