Fred and Toody
June 17, 2015
Dressed in cheerful shades of green and white, Fred Cole and Kathleen “Toody” Conner were married in 1967 on a bright summer day in Portland. Forty-eight years later, just as a warm rain began to fall in Baltimore, the two emerged onstage at Ottobar wearing all black, save for the gray in their hair and the red flowers on Toody’s white cowboy boots.
A lot has happened for the now-grandparents in between those two dates—much of it vaguely mythical at this point—but the central thread of their story is Dead Moon, a gothic garage-rock project that went on an initial nineteen-year bender from 1987 to 2006, leaving behind a trail of influence that ranges from the lo-fi world to the face-tattoo community. Following an initial disbandment to form Pierced Arrows, Dead Moon reassembled last year, pausing only for Fred’s run-of-the-mill open-heart surgery before going back at it once again, these days staggering full-electric Dead Moon performances with semi-electric sets billed simply as Fred and Toody.
Seasoned as they may be now, it’s still a bit jarring to see hardcore icons calmly sit down and plug into practice amps barely bigger than their beers. But from the opening wail of “Fire in the Western World,” it was clear that this was in no way going to be an Unplugged-style affair where we would all sit around and sing “Kumbaya.”
Instead, Fred and Toody spent an hour blasting through classics and obscurities spanning different bands and eras, politely shaking off requests (“There are only four- or five-hundred to choose from,” quipped Toody) to make sure that there was time for highlights like In the Graveyard’s “Dead in the Saddle” and a satanic campfire version of “I Want You” by The Rats—the couple’s pre-Dead Moon band.
Adhering to the demands of the most respectful punk audience of all time, Fred and Toody returned for an excellent three-song encore of “I Hate the Blues,” “It’s O.K.,” and their essential cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” effectively creating a synthetic emotional roadmap of the duo’s music: First the anger, then the shrug, and dictating it all, yes, the love. Sappy, perhaps, but if you had seen the way Toody kept time by gently kicking her cowboy boot against Fred’s shin all night, you wouldn’t doubt it for a second.
“Fire in the Western World” [Dead Moon]
“Running Out of Time” [Dead Moon]
“Rescue” [Dead Moon]
“I Want You” [The Rats]
“Lost” [Pierced Arrows]
“Dead in the Saddle” [Dead Moon]
“Wrath and Fury” [Fred and Toody]
“Out in the Blue” [Dead Moon]
“13 Going on 21” [Dead Moon]
“We Won’t Break” [Fred and Toody]
“These Times With You” [Dead Moon]
“I Hate the Blues” [Dead Moon]
“It’s O.K.” [Dead Moon]
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” [Elvis Presley/Dead Moon]