Toby Morse is one of my best friends and that makes me feel like one of the luckiest people alive. It’s been almost exactly 25 years since he bounced into my life, a boundless ball of endless energy and positive vibrations.
Back then I was working at the Wetlands and would happily consign myself to the cashier cage for the Sunday punk and hardcore shows. Back then H2O was just another young band on the rise in the NYHC scene, but I always knew they were something special. Every successful band has a special frontman, and they were of course no exception. But the rest of the band are all top notch musicians and human beings as well, and they have a completely complementary energy. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of their parts. But Toby was and is the perfect pitchman for this punk rock posse.
I’d never met anyone quite like him at that time, or since, really. He seemed to be everywhere, all the time. And not only did everyone know him and love him. But he knew them, too. He knew everybody’s name, where they were from, what shows they had been at. He probably knew what they had for lunch, too, and even if it had been a hot dog he was still down with them.
Toby has been a vegan for 31 years and that says so much about him. About his commitment and dedication to compassion. About his love for all living things. If you’ve been kicking around the idea of being a vegan, and think to yourself, “It’s just too hard…” Imagine how hard it’s been for someone to have been Vegan since 1988, especially while touring all over the world. And still managing to keep his energy up onstage every night.
Toby has come up with and / or popularized so many phrases that transcend punk rock. One Life, One Chance. Don’t Forget Your Roots. Positive Mental Attitude. Napoleon Hill might have coined that last one, and HR & the Bad Brains might have brought it to punk rock, but Toby and H2O have transcended it and brought it into the public consciousness in the twenty first century. But as much as I admire his music and his message – it’s the man himself that I truly love.
Back when we met we were both just hustlers who were pretty sure we were on our way up in life. Him onstage and me on the business side. But we clicked early and then started a slow-burning bromance that’s caught on like a wildfire in his adopted home state of California. And shows no signs of burning out OR fading away!
At first I was just the guy he would hand in his guest list to. And what a guest list it always was. And it was literally *never* handed in just once. I’d say he probably holds the record for most guest list additions in the history of the Wetlands hardcore matinee shows. And that’s saying something. But, well, if you’re not first, you’re last 😉
Then I was the guy asking him to be on a compilation album. Of punk bands covering TV theme songs. (They recorded a fantastic rendition of Bad Boys – the theme from Cops – and also sprinkled in a little humor as well as an homage to 7 Seconds). After that I went on the be the guy who booked some of their NYC shows. And now Im the guy who’s booked every headlining H2O show in NYC for the past 20 years. Through it all we’ve not only become better and better friends, but I’ve gotten to know the man behind the mic, and that’s a man who inspires me to be more alive, day in and day out, and does it by example.
I’ve never ever met anybody who so completely exemplifies the term “ride or die”. There is NOTHING he wouldn’t do for his friends. Which is why he has so many of them. And not just the famous ones you see on Instagram. (Author’s note – I’ve never met anyone who is more of a celebrity magnet. It’s amazing how famous people are drawn to him wherever he goes). But every one of his friends somehow gets his full attention on a day to day basis. Int he last 15 years there probably hasn’t been a week that’s gone by that I haven’t heard from him. Asking me how I’m doing, what’s going on, and when are we gonna hang out again? I don’t think I can say that about any of my other friends. And I think most of his friends would tell you the same thing. That’s magical quality in a friend. That’s when you know their love is real.
And the generosity. There’s no way to talk about Toby without mentioning that on several occasions in life he’s literally given me the shirt off of his back. He’s completely selfless with whatever he has. Be it time, energy, positivity, or kick-ass street wear. Anytime you see a picture of me looking fly… I’m probably wearing at least one piece of dope gear that he gifted to me. Like a G.
Even with all the touring, and the songwriting, and the merch-making, and the podcasting, and the speaking at schools about a life-long drug free lifestyle, and the globe-trotting concert schedule, he’s found the time to do the thing that I know is the MOST important thing in his life. And that’s to be an amazing family man, husband, and father. And what a father he is. Him and his marvelous matriarch Moon blessed this planet with a wonderful new creature . Maximus Henry Morse. Or as I call him, my nephew Maximum. Parenting is easy to fuck up, and almost impossible to do right. But they have done it. The patience, compassion and dedication that Toby shows to his family is also liberally applied to his friends. And his fans. He’s one of the most sensitive and caring men in the world. So much so that I can’t believe that he’s not in an emo band. Though some people might debate me on that 😉
So, even if he DOES love Coldplay, that’s more than OK with me. Because I love him for who he is. From the inside out. And I know I’ve committed a lot weirder sins than loving Coldplay. Yet he still loves and treats me like a brother. And encourages me to Live My Dash every damn day.
Toby Morse, thank you for being my friend. And an incredible human being.