Openers Los Albertos ended as I arrived but their last chord was jazz-hand-tastic and apparently so was the rest of the set. This was an eclectic evening at the Concorde and the middle slot was filled by Beardyman — one man, making more noise and better music with just his face than many others can with copious pieces of equipment, volume knobs and the minds of several musicians. He’s the reigning UK Beatbox champion and easily deserves to be, I’d hazard that he’d blow away anyone from anywhere in the world. This is one seriously talented fella. We all heard Rahzel, and yeah, he’s good. Then we heard Killa Kela and we thought he’s great too, maybe better, and English, wow. There’s others, Roman Beats, Scratch etc. But Beardyman is both more technically proficient and more interesting than any of these and doesn’t need a gang of blokes hanging round him (or backstage with mics).
seriously if you cant get good drums recorded for your band I’d get in touch to find out his session rates
His range and speed is phenomenal, moving through an array of beats and instruments, and generally coming back to classic dnb-style rhythms. Apart from the sheer talent it takes to simultaneously layer up the different parts of the beat, as well as bass, various melodies and noises, scratching and vocal lines, he mimics effects throughout — you can hear cut-off and resonance shifting and some reverb might kick in on a melody in a break. But as well as this the individual sounds are just perfect, he can make a snare sound better than most producers, be they using drums and mics or synthetics — seriously if you cant get good drums recorded for your band I’d get in touch to find out his session rates. His scratch is awesome, he can make two sounds at once, didgeridoo style and he does amazing slap bass and trumpet sounds — all accompanied by air instrument playing, making it all look a bit more interesting as well. He is an entertainer, and tried out various comic bits — the traditional one man does a whole song covers (think Rahzel’s “Iron Man”) including “You Are Always On My Mind” and most notably a version of “Kiss” sung in both the Prince and Tom Jones styles, the audience was even treated to a sound-effected story about a man and a bear. Fantastic. This was a seriously impressive show, leaving a stunned crowd to be picked up and swooped off in alternative musical directions by 12 Stone Toddler. And after an immediate introduction by the Beardyman himself leaving no time for the audience to get to the bar, the band came out to tackle the bar that the beatboxer had raised up high for them.
They were more than willing to have a go at it though — as they should, the night was primarily for them. The show was put on by Brighton’s Finest and Beardyman had fitted the bill, so how did the headliners fare? Well they proved themselves worthy of their promotion, putting on a show lighting up the large crowd, making it the party that a ‘Christmas Bonanza’ (as the show was billed) should be.
12 Stone Toddler have been around in Brighton for several years now on and off, but after signing a deal with locally-owned Amazon Records and making a line-up adjustment things have been picking up momentum at a rather steeper gradient than before. Both last year’s 12 Stone Toddler EP and the recent Rabbit single have been met with great reviews and the band’s fan-base continues to strengthen and find new inductees. Live performances over the years have been preciously rare and therefore always anticipated and consistently packed out, as with the night in question.
The blurb appearing on the band’s website and elsewhere tells us the story of roots of the band in an adult-weight young child who bashes up old scenes to make new ones (think blues to rock’n’roll, rock’n’roll to prog) and that the band are the new incarnation of this toddler, here to do the same: “The new music is here” it reads, “Embrace it now, classify it later.” Well that’s all well and good if you just want to have a listen, but if you’re reading this having not done so yet, you might like to get some idea of what the music’s like eh. I’m a music journalist, I should really make some attempt at description and that might need a bit of classification. So in fact the following is an embracing of classification, though fear not, i’ve not tried to name it a genre.
there’s always the knowledge that at any point storming distortion might well turn the whole fairytale into a nightmare
The Toddlers bag is an amalgamation of clever and smooth jazz styles — big band, swing, lounge — implemented with a demented rock band’s set-up and ideologies, a love of big riffs, grooves and technical embellishments. It’s a big music which is high on storytelling and goodtime fun. There’s no real properly contemporary reference points but you can’t fail to recognise an influence of the world of Mike Patton, whether it’s coming out of the vocal stylings or in the hints of Mr Bungle in the music. There’s perhaps hints of Patton’s label’s Tango Saloon in its keyboard-led exotica but the modern references don’t strike to the heart of the music, and it’s not just a Patton template, though he’d probably appreciate all of the components making up the finished product. There’s heavy doses of the grooves and adventurousness of Prince; the upbeat experiments of Zappa, embracing the cheese while picking it apart; and the vocals and swinging sounds are indebted to the pre-60’s bar rooms, cocktail lounges and cabaret circles: Picture this, you’re at a casino and your lucks in, you’re smiling, and a diamante riff hits in with some avid crooning, a groove enters and your nights just hit the big time. That’s 12 Stone Toddler, though not all the time. At other points gypsy jams take over from energetic late-60s French soundtracks, the big band riff could be accompanied by rhythmic speak-singing, soaring melodical heights, deep, loving booms or harsh shouts, and there’s always the knowledge that at any point storming distortion might well turn the whole fairytale into a nightmare.
Although the production was slightly rhythm-heavy and could have done with more space for the treble and noodlings, the band were tight and perform faultlessly, putting on a show too — the enthusiastic light show (a whole lot better than the jarring strobe that someone thought would be good to whack on at length behind Beardyman) picking out the movements accompanying the similarly passionate involvement from the four members of the band. Older favourites and tracks from the EP like “Come Back” and “Living a Lie” pleased the crowd, who were similarly impressed by the new tracks aired, likely to appear on the album due to be released in the new year. The single’s tracks “The Rabbit” and “The Carrot Dangles” also made an appearance, the latter late on in the encore, keeping the champagne flowing and feet moving right until the end. This band are energetic crowd pleasers who appreciate the power of giving to an audience in order to receive and on this night the two parties came together and formed a bonanza.