Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Live Shows: Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, Sapling, Astral Bitch, and dropbear, The Sinclair, 7/22/23

As any long time reader of If It's Too Loud... knows, I try to get out to see Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys every chance I get. They don't play a ton of shows, so when they do, it's always An Event. Friday night was being billed as the party of the summer, and seeing how Sapling, Astral Bitch, and dropbear were also on the bill, that claim was hardly hyperbole. 

dropbear opened the show, and... just... wow. I really enjoyed last year's Spiralized EP, but I was unprepared for just how great they would be live. Rachel Bacon's vocals were lost in the mix during the first two songs, but once that issue was corrected, it turns out the power in her voice is only matched by the power of the band. Musically, dropbear combines shoegaze with metal and post-punk into this sonic mix that is mind-blowing, particularly live. There were guitar sounds coming from the stage Friday night that were simply jaw dropping. As with all four bands on the bill, dropbear are officially a must see.

Astral Bitch took the stage next. As they only have two songs out, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The quartet played this intense mix of anthemic alt-rock meets noise punk. It was aggressive and huge, at times sounding like they belong on the biggest stages in town, and much more underground and DIY venue ready at others. And they excelled at both sounds. It's that whiplash inducing change of sonic styles all while sounding just like them that made Astral Bitch's set so special that night. We're all desperately looking forward to new music and more live shows from them sooner than later.

I've seen Sapling a decent amount of times, typically in bars and basements without an actual stage. They're usually playing the corner of a room on the floor, so seeing them in a more traditional venue was a treat. They did not disappoint, and pulled off one of the best sets I've seen them play. (This is even without paint, glitter, or confetti due to The Sinclair's house rules.) Old favorites like "Everything Was Better" and newer favorites like "11:37" sounded amazing in the larger room. Of course, chaos still reigned at the end of the show with bassist Rainy and drummer John swapping instruments mid song, while guitarist Amber attacked her guitar with a powerdrill, something I haven't seen since Sonic Youth.

The show also doubled as a video release party for Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys' new single, "Keep My Head." After showing the video (which is spectacular, and can be viewed here), the band took the stage and played a loose set of favorites. "Dino Domina," "Goth Beach" (the night was a Goth Beach Party, after all), and "28 Seeds" were all featured. It was a loud and raucous set that was particularly joyous. All Army of Toys shows have a special quality and they are all unique to the time and venue where they occur. This one was more of a straight up rock show, which fit The Sinclair perfectly. What is particularly special about seeing this band is how it truly feels like a family, and that feeling becomes stronger with each time you see them. It's always such a celebration of joy and love, which would normally be something I recoil from, but not the way Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys do it.

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