25% toby, The Strange Boys
Jaw-dropping. Awesome. Near perfect. On Friday night, The Strange Boys deserved just about every one of those hyperboles. The Dallas trio sounded like the entire Nuggets box set squeezed into an ultra-concentrated, garage-rock smoothie, smack dab between the vigor of The Sonics and the mad science of The Monks. Eighteen-year-old Ryan Sambol wielded his guitar like a virtuoso, pulling crazy songs, glorious solos and crunching riffs out of thin air, and his nasal, squealing vocals were both vulnerable and commanding. The rhythm section matched his two-minute lightning-strike songs, and drummer Matt Hammer's raw play sounded like The White Stripes' Meg White if she actually practiced. The crowd lapped up the show so much that they begged to hear repeats from the set list, which the boys happily delivered.
Toby Halbrooks, lead singer and namesake of Dallas' 25% toby, opened by joking about how hard it was to follow such a set: "It's nice to play after bands who see each other more than once a month." Not only had the quartet not played a gig in months, but their new bassist had learned the songs only hours before the show. The result might as well have been renamed 99% toby, because Polyphonic Spree member Halbrooks made up for shortcomings by going bananas. From flips to crowd dives to attacks against band members, a sweaty, messy-haired Halbrooks went all-out with screams that would never fit a 12-robe choir, yet the backing band stuck a bit closer to home with a rowdier take on Tripping Daisy. Though messy as hell, the group triumphed by set's end with the start-and-stop of "Murder My Baby," played while a patron set a ladder aflame, practically burning down the bar. Only at a 25% toby show, folks.
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