Box of Tricks
Gig review by Dawn / Photos by Rich and Dawn
You can always spot the first time visitors to Thomas
Truax gigs. They’re the ones with their mouths and
eyes wide open and utterly baffled looks upon their faces. It’s
the same here today at the food and craft fair outside the Mima
gallery. But then it’s not every day you see a musician with
not only an intriguing array of kooky songs, but a suitcase full
of kooky homemade instruments to match.
For want of a better description, let’s use
a well-worn cliché and call Thomas the Tim Burton of music.
His weird and wonderful instruments include the Hornicator (a gramophone
horn with attachments of various strings and microphones, linked
to a loop station), the Stringaling (as its name suggests, it uses
string... and a whistle and a chattering skeleton head) and the
now infamous Sister Spinster (a spinning metal wheel who provides
percussion accompaniment courtesy of her attached drums and cymbal).
His songs, meanwhile, have been described as everything from ‘anti-folk’
to ‘campfire singalongs’.
Today Thomas takes to the stage with
Hornicator in tow and a fabulously weird pair of goggles which make
coloured lasers spin in front of his eyes. A song about beehive
hearts is followed by the eponymous track from his latest album,
Why Dogs Howl At The Moon where the Hornicator is accompanied
by his trademark howling, looped voice and seemingly off the cuff
lyrics delivered in a Paul Simon style.
For Escape From The Orphanage, however,
he sacrifices his homemade instruments in favour of a guitar which,
he explains, he won’t attempt to alter: “I could probably
only derange it and there’s enough derangement going on as
it is”. Sister Spinster then takes centre stage once more,
much to the bewilderment of the new spectators who’ve wandered
in from the cinema tent next door.
In Barcelonely has
a loud beginning but soon turns into Truax’s mellowest song
so far, complete with whistling. A complete contrast, the lyrics
of If We’re Gonna Go Crazy (‘let’s go
together’) really see his twisted sense of humour come into
play as he leaps about the confined space, from side to side and
up and down.
The Stringaling is introduced for
You Whistle While You Sleep, Truax plucking it having fastened
it to the table leg where pizza is being cooked at the other end
of the tent, then lying on the floor mumbling lyrics akin to sleeptalking.
The guitar makes a return for The Butterfly and the Entomologist,
but Truax uses a fan for a plectrum to create the eerie sound of
the butterfly flapping.
Finally, Truax obliges following a shouted request
for Full Moon Over Wowtown and proceeds to give his most
amusing and energetic performance of the afternoon. Unplugging his
guitar, he climbs atop a chair, then leaves the tent entirely to
run around it whilst still singing, much to the bemusement of the
people eating at tables outside. Upon his return he climbs upon
another chair then heads up towards the pizza end of the tent and
amends his lyrics accordingly (“The pizza’s in the oven...
I suggest the one with ricotta”) before receiving a standing
ovation accompanied by laughter at the end of the song.
A showman to the last, industrial noises and all, rest
assured that there’s no-one quite like Thomas Truax.
With thanks to Thomas and to Luke.
for more information.
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