Mayday! Mayday from Hawaii! It’s all over but for the swabbing of the decks with holystones. This will not be an easy thing considering the amount of vodka being tossed down the collected hatches last night.
The barnacles came out of the woodwork as the Rundgrens presented the finale to their “Toddstock” celebration. The weeklong party featured food, drink, Hawaiian activities, and last night, a 60th birthday celebration for Todd and concert debut for his new album, “Arena.”
This was no ordinary birthday party, or concert. I knew it would be different when a crew started assembling a stage in the pond, which formed right outside the living room, which cascaded into a waterfall in the yard. The giant living room/dining room is an open-air pagoda with 40-foot arcing ceilings. The house would prove to be a dramatic backdrop to the evening’s music.
All week Todd took his fans on adventures and celebrated shoulder to shoulder with his friends and fans. I found myself shaking my head in wonder as I soldiered up a trail along the Napali coast right behind Todd Rundgren. And when he served drinks behind his tiki martini bar, well, who could resist? I had to laugh at some of the zealous fans, whom I started referring to as “Toddstalkers.”
There were about 200 faithful friends and fans camping on the picturesque property on Kauai’s north shore. They pulled together in an impromptu city to build bars, prepare the grounds, run errands, prepare meals, staff the bars and get loose with an eccentric, iconic musician. I even ended up on the air on Michele’s weekly community radio show.
The Rundgrens really peeled back all the mysterious layers, letting us into their home and their lives in an unprecedented display of gratitude to those who had made it all possible. There was a traditional Hawaiian house blessing with the family leading the Toddstalkers around the four corners of the home, planting trees and expressing blessings. There was a traditional luau prepared by big, exotic, local Hawaiian guys. They created a litter from an old surfboard and carried Michele Rundgren, broken leg and all, around like a queen. The Tiki Queen waved to her worshippers from her perch, her head festooned with a colorful headdress, complete with flowers and palm fronds and fleshy leaves. Her husband got into it, fanning the beauty with his palm fan. The campers were looking great in their colorful Hawaiian shirts and fragrant leis.
But last night was the peak. The crew took all day assembling the stage. Dinner was served early and the place buzzed with excitement. Friends of the Rundgrens from all over the island funneled in and assumed their places around the yard.
“This is just a dress rehearsal, so don’t get excited,” warned Todd. Sure enough he played the first song twice, partly to get it right and partly perhaps to set the bar low as he debuted yet another album of original material (quite a feat for a 60-year-old man with nothing left to prove to the world). And, in typical Todd fashion, he has created a dynamic new packet of material that is going to take all his strength and fortitude to perform.
The new material is guitar heavy with plenty of aggressive singing and themes, “Now I’m mad!” Todd and his five-piece band ran through the 13 new songs and left it there. No “Hello It’s Me.” No “Bang on the Drum All Day.” Just a preview of an album that no one had heard. The show was probably designed to let people know that the upcoming tour will not be a walk down memory lane, but a full-blast challenging set of music. That’s one of the Rundgren trademarks — push new boundaries and try not to look back. Todd’s voice was a bit thrashed from rehearsing for six days straight. His guitar playing was searing and tasteful and you could see the potential for this new album and tour.
And now, the morning after, the crew is cooking breakfast in the steamy tropical paradise. I will walk away in a couple of hours, probably never to return to this house but happy to have taken this glimpse into this mysterious world.
“Soiled” appears Tuesdays in the Aspen Daily News. Reach Steve Skinner at email@example.com.