12 Stone Toddler / Syd Arthur / Restlesslist

  • Brighton
  • United Kingdom
  • Komedia
  • 2009-11-19

Opening act at the Komedia is Restlesslist, with their heady experimental carnival of moody instrumental electronica and prog/post-rock with exotic calypso and fairground parades. Where the project started as the lo-fi bedroom escapades of a duo over several years the group has morphed and grown into a six-piece maximalist adventure and when it all comes together its a glorious and captivating affair. The three acts on tonight’s bill are linked by a thread of ‘fusion’ — in the case of the first and last acts this is the fusion of various stylistic elements into something different, and in the case of the middle act, Syd Arthur, this is fusion with a capital F. The group come from Canterbury, which birthed a host of jazz-inflected rock artists in the late 60s in the likes of Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers, Caravan and their ilk but Syd Arthur’s sound (also despite recalling two British psychedelic luminaries in Syd Barrett and Arthur Brown) and look (long hair and flares) references groups ranging from Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears and Three Dog Night to Santana and Weather Report as much as Nucleus or Coliseum. As great as it is that the group throw themselves wholeheartedly in to this bygone fusion era and as technically proficient as the band are, pulling off and holding down some great riffs with their guitars, bass, drums and sometimes violin (perhaps impressively doing without need for any brass or keyboards) the vocals too often remind you of the ‘smooth’ jazz tones of Jamie Cullum and the funk rock underbelly is a little overdone by many a pub band to make the band remain interesting for the whole set.

the latter can flip a song from a crooning ballad in to a riff-driven storm

12 Stone Toddler have amassed an enthusiastic following over the years, especially locally, and this hometown gig brought together a fervent audience. The venue playing vocal-less versions of the group’s music through the PA between the bands is something that’s not normally done but served to rouse the crowd tonight expectant for entertainment that duly arrived via the performance of the four men who serve as the limbs of the Toddler — half of whom are different nowadays, with the dummer and guitarist having left and been replaced, since we last reviewed them a couple of years ago. Performing material from both the Scheming album released earlier this year as well as debut Does It Scare You? the band stormed through tracks including “Batten Down The Hatches”, “Fingers in the Till”, “The Ballad of Al Coholic”, “Under The Weather” and the recent record’s title track, with dancing, singing fans helping power the already perma-energetic group forward. The fusion (article thread…) performed by this band has both a jazz and a rock edge too, though the former here is fairly cocktail and sleazy and the latter can flip a song from a crooning ballad in to a riff-driven storm. In the main though the mix brings uplifting quirk-filled rock songs with plenty of theatricailty, bounce and often vocal acrobatics, mostly led by the strong tones of lead vocalist Christ Otero, however, one of the set highlights is always “Living A Lie” which breaks down and builds up into an insane gypsy speedball, led vocally and instrumentally by keyboardist Ben Jones. Whoever sings and whatever style is on display though, the band are crowd pleasers and this crowd bloody loved it.

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