Prior to this past January, it seemed as though the Book of Tripping Daisy had been written and stored on a dust-gathering shelf, just out of easy reach. The seminal Dallas band hadn't hinted at any sort of reunion in the almost two decades following the heartbreaking, band-ending death of guitarist Wes Berggren in October of 1999.
But with the celebrated announcement that Tripping Daisy would return to headline this year's Homegrown Fest, the work on a new chapter surprisingly began. And on Saturday night in downtown Dallas' Main Street Garden Park, the eighth Homegrown Festival, for all intents and purposes, was a Tripping Daisy reunion show with some excellent opening bands. With nothing against White Denim, Lower Dens and Mutemath, each of which offered fine sets, this was the headliner's night.
It's impossible to not feel conflicted when thinking of this new millennium version of the group as a true reunion. Even with original bassist Mark Pirro on board, the absence of Berggren and of drummer Ben Curtis, who died in 2013 from lymphoma, has been ever-present since the reunion announcement. Of course, having Ben's brother Brandon, on keys, made for a nice tribute and fitting replacement.
He, along with pre-Curtis Tripping Daisy drummer Bryan Wakeland, as well as guitarists Nick Earl and Phil Karnats, who have both played with the DeLaughter-led Polyphonic Spree, gave this lineup a fittingly familial vibe that soothed many feelings of loss as well as could be expected.
Near the end of a heart-tugging six-minute film reel consisting of clips from home movies, studio sessions, European TV appearances and concerts from the band's '90s golden days, the opening notes to 1995's "Trip Along" could be heard from behind the massive screen. As DeLaughter sang "Sitting on a curved back couch," the packed crowd of thousands went appropriately nuts. And when the band kicked into the song's ocean-sized chorus, the screen dropped, revealing the band and igniting millions of goosebumps.
Though the band played a "warm-up show" at Dada in Deep Ellum two nights prior, this specific moment is the one that will be most commonly known as the time when Tripping Daisy returned home. Songs from each of the four Tripping Daisy albums would be offered over a couple of hours, and for anyone so inclined, the full-circle nature of the night was practically overwhelming.
With a massive digital screen hanging high behind the band displaying imaginative combinations of psychedelic imagery, cartoons, movie clips and even some of the big budget videos they filmed over 20 years ago, the mind-altering mode they were known for back then was explosive and vibrant now. And the favorites rolled on with "On the Ground," "Sonic Bloom," "Field Day Jitters," "Piranha," and "One through Four" inducing the biggest sing-alongs Homegrown Festival has ever heard.
With the passing of time, DeLaughter's voice doesn't reach quite as high as it once did, a fact he has openly admitted to worrying about recently, but his infectious joy and showman's ability to corral a crowd into his palm is as strong as ever. With the vast majority of the audience understandably falling between the ages of 35 and 55, we all have come to acknowledge the changes in our lives, bodies and attitudes. But that didn't keep DeLaughter or the attendees from partying like it was 1995.
DeLaughter has given credit to his children for finally convincing him to get the band back together, as they weren't around to hear the Tripping Daisy songs they had come to love in a live setting. So it couldn't have been more fitting for Tim's teenage son Julius to run and jump from the stage onto outstretched hands for a bit of crowd-surfing. DeLaughter the middle-aged father, not the rock star, couldn't help himself as he offered his hand mid-song to his son and other crowd-surfers looking for a safe landing.
If the night had been a success by simply getting the band on stage, it became a monumental victory in the encore. Decked out in his signature red robe and blonde wig, DeLaughter bathed in the swirling lights and colorful video images as explosive takes on "Blown Away," "I Got a Girl," and "My Umbrella," arguably the three most-favored songs the group has, stated a case for any who wondered why this town loves this band so much.
Between the unanimously enthusiastic response to the reunion, and band's announcement of even more shows to come over this summer, the Book of Tripping Daisy is, amazingly, anything from finished.