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Toh Kay - Birmingham O2 Academy 29.09.2016

A number of years back, I stumbled upon a band called Streetlight Manifesto. My best friend, who was also my ride to work everyday, had the album “Somewhere In The Between” on repeat for about a fortnight, and was regulary used to help us both escape the depressing landscape that was the office we were in.

Fast forward about 5 years and we finally got the chance to check them out live. Our first Slam Dunk Festival, and pretty much our reason for going was Streetlight. It was an epic set, although as it was a 7 or 8 piece band, far too small for the size of stage they were on. The crowd bounced for 45 minutes of great tunes. And then they pretty much never came back. Save for a set at Boomtown last year, Streetlight Manifesto haven't been back to the UK for 4 years now. There's been no new album on the horizon, and if you check out the website, you'll notice that touring is sporadic. They've admitted themselves it's likely they'll not do a full tour again, and it's a sad state of affairs. This is probably down to various issues, but more than likely that the band are being sued by Victory Records to the sum of $4 million. If you go on-line you'll read more, and I'm not going to go into it too far, but it's total bullshit and sums up Victory's track record as of late.

In any case, along with the awesome Ska/Punk tunes, Tomas Kalnoky, the lead singer of Streetlight, started up a solo project. Recording many of the songs of Streetlight in a softer, more somber tone, and adding whole new edges to the tracks. Almost all of them are beautiful in one way or another, and when it was announced that he was going to tour as a solo act, under his pseudonym of Toh Kay, I jumped on it, and dragged my best friend along for yet another Streetlight Manifesto adventure.

For the 250(ish) fans in attendence, what you got was stunning from the start. The atmosphere was relaxed, and when Tomas appeared on stage, there was no mass of applause, just a hushed silence. He then launched into his first track, brandishing beautiful finger picking skills, and as he sang........ he launched into the worst impression of what felt like a mix of Cartman and Kermit The Frog! It had the place in stitches, and even Tomas missed a step a few times recovering from the joke. Such was the vibe of the night.

Once he recovered, he played a song, before opening it up for requests, explaining that he didn't know when he'd next be back, so “you guys choose what you wanna hear” Classic streetlight songs followed for the next 40 minutes. Switching between a track for us, and one for him, he played songs we all wanted to hear. After that though the big surprise came, in the form of two further artists, one brandishing a Double Bass, and the other on the Drums, Melodica and Shaky Egg! They then proceeded to perform a full albums worth of material. The album in question is the acoustic version of Streetlight's last album “ The Hands That Thieve” that was due to be released at the same time as the solo project, however Victory put a massive stop to it. So in essence, it was a big old middle finger to Victory. And what a delight it was. The crowd sang along to tracks, hummed and chanted the horn sections, and just sat back and took in the sound of an album they were already familiar with, played in a totally different way. And this pretty much was the pattern of the whole night. There was chanting, whistling, singing and laughter amongst friends, amongst people who've never met, and just people who were lucky to turn up with someone else.

It started with laughter, and ended with smiles. Tomas thanked everyone, explaining he had no idea that people in the UK would want to listen, and even vowed at the end that he wants to come back every year like this, maybe in a lounge environment next time, with seats, and table service. There may be no new Streetlight Manifesto tour on the horizon, but in the mean-time, this will do very nicely.

Review - Oli Williams

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