Photo by Ken Sears
I've seen Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys a lot over the last nine or so years. In fact, I just saw them a little over a month ago, so you'd think I'd be able to skip a performance so soon. But when it was announced that the Toys would be playing a special acoustic set at the Bradley Rosaceous Collection at the Arnold Arboretum as part of the A.R.T. Arboretum Experience, I knew I would be dragging my family into the city for an afternoon of nature and live music!
The show wasn't entirely acoustic. Brother Bones was playing an electric guitar. Aside from that, the only amplification was for vocals. Even drummer Matt Zappa was stripped down and playing a single drum and cymbal. It was about as far off from a standard Toys show as you could get, but that's what helped make this such a unique and special experience. The band brought as much noise as they possibly could, and still had their intensity. Not being plugged into anything allowed the band members freedom to roam around the audience giving a more immersive experience for everyone. They may not have been able to rock as hard and loud as they normally do, but they did in spirit.
Walter Sickert seemed especially chatty for this performance, telling a story about a conversation they had with a squirrel earlier in the day throughout the set. One of the more interesting aspects of Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys was sprinkled throughout the set. While playing songs about a witch that eats children ("Baba Yaga") and another inspired by The Shining ("Dull Boy"), the band's message is of love and family. It was a gorgeous afternoon of live music with one of the most unique and special bands around for an especially unique and special performance.