Live Review: Thomas Truax, The Billy Shinbone Show + Alex Starling at The Victoria, Dalston

With the way the world is looking right now, a chance to escape to a magical world populated by talking groundhogs and wedding cake eating spiders for an hour or so seems like just the ticket, so thank goodness that Thomas Truax had announced one last show before the end of the year.  A trip to his home in Wowtown may be just what our sanity requires.

Before we get to enter into Truax’s magical otherworld though, we’re treated to an opening set by singer-songwriter Alex Starling throughout which the protagonist desperately tries to patch up a crumbling relationship with bits of gaffa tape, string and anything else that he can lay his hands on before resignedly letting the pieces scatter to the floor in the final song, leaving them lying like two day old confetti as he leaves the stage.

Alex Starling (Medium)

It’s hard not to feel a little sympathy for tonight’s main support act The Billy Shinbone Show.  With his wild corkscrew hair, bright red suit and off-kilter bluegrass folk and roll tunes he’d be considered the eccentric on most line-ups but today even his electric shoe, with which he beats out a rudimentary rhythm beneath some fleet-fingered strumming, isn’t enough to stand out whilst surrounded by Truax’s mechanical creations.  Thankfully he’s got the tunes to do the job and leaves an appreciative audience perfectly geared up for the night’s headliner.

I was asked before tonight’s show how many times I’d seen Thomas Truax play live.  Counting back, it’s at least twelve, stretching back to the very first time when a two-line description in the Truckfest 2004 programme piqued my interest enough to poke my head into the tent where he was performing.  By this point with most bands I’d be struggling to come up with anything new to say, but Truax is so ceaselessly creative that this is never likely to be a problem.

Part rock and roll show, part storytelling session, part performance art, part science fair, this is so much more than your average gig – indeed it’s pretty rare for me to be reviewing a live show and being worried about giving away spoilers.  Suffice it to say that music is coaxed from contraptions created out of all manner of unexpected items from pram wheels and gramaphone horns to children’s toys and air conditioning hoses, but you’ll have to catch the next show to find out quite what each one does, and with Truax promising new inventions for the new year, there will be plenty more surprises in store for you there.

It would be easy for this to be a simple novelty act, and if it were there would be entertainment enough for all present, but what keeps Truax’s band of loyal fans coming back every time he’s in town is that the songs created from these marvellous machines are every bit as intriguingly strange as the devices on which they are played.

A show at The Lexington in Islington is promised for 2020, make it your new year’s resolution to be there.

Review and photography by Paul Maps


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