Under the railway bridge on Whitworth Street West, I’m happy to be one of the anticipatory crowd who’ve collectively filled this small but striking venue to capacity tonight. The stage awaits London’s psychedelic wall-of-sound architects, Toy, who leave it until the last minute before casually taking their places on the Gorilla stage with its screaming “high voltage” signage exuding a high excitement, if hazardous backdrop. It’s very fitting for Toy, a band who immediately give the impression they’re on the edge, working through their angst, and they work through their set-list with very little audience interaction or departure in direction.

Is this a problem? Quite honestly, no - at least not for me. They are storm-makers and, like any good thunder and lightning storm, this is a spectacle visually (full on strobe lighting much of the time) as well as the obvious auditory thrill. They open with instrumental 'Conductor', diving straight into their introspective but compelling signature sound. It’s brave to come out and just blast out an instrumental like that but it works. It’s a declaration of who they are and why they’re here. They’re here to do their thing and ride that storm and are happy for anyone to ride along with them, but are by no means trying to encourage anyone on board. They possess a clear air of self-sufficiency along with a sort of observational take it or leave it stance from singer Tom Dougall. They aren’t going to pander or prostitute themselves. They don’t need to as the crowd are refreshingly enthusiastic, and throw themselves happily into the lure of the Toy sirens.

Tonight, however, there is one problem which seems to originate with the sound desk. Alhough this doesn’t stop the gig from being enjoyable, it does diminish the full glory of what was happening on that stage. Dougall’s vocals are barely audible, and this is a shame as the band have some fine lyrics which are completely lost if you aren’t familiar with their records. The bass is also buried within the mix tonight. Still, the strength of the songs manages to almost transmute the sound issues.'Dead and Gone' is a stand-out track for me. There’s certainly nothing dead about its riffs, and it is unlikely to be gone from your head for some time!

This band don’t smile but they don’t snarl either – they just submerge themselves in wave after wave of sonic tsunamis. You’d think those waves would knock them flat but somehow when the strobe lighting momentarily stills you can see they are still standing, still pounding their instruments, still locked in their irresistible groove.

Photos by Melanie Smith

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