It’s an average Tuesday night in Camden and I am heading down to see the self styled Most Independent Artist In The World, Mr Peter Von Toy.
Although I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him play before on a packed bill at The Lounge, this headline performance was in a different league. With his own audience and some room to breathe, Peter Von Toy delivers a superb 70 minute set armed with only his trusty acoustic and a mic. This is as organic/raw as live music comes these days, with some passersby on the street watching from the other side of the Monarch’s large window before venturing inside to get a closer look.
This is also reflected in his easy stage banter. From telling the audience about tours going awry to almost losing his guitar in a river and diving in after it, you appreciate a real story-teller and admire his ability to translate these stories into stripped back songs (“Soaked In Stockholm” being the song in this case).
It’s easy to throw about legendary names like Dylan or a young Springsteen when trying to find comparisons, but I found myself going back even further to the original blues legends like Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker. Certainly the slide in blues of “I Love Too Many Women” gives off a similar air of cool and laid-back attitude. When the singing and playing gets too easy for Peter he decides to throw in the last verse in Spanish!
In the vein of many folk and blues troubadours before him, different women play a recurring role in many of Peter’s songs. From the special moments of chance and love on the road (“Ruby And The Silver Bullet”) to the more obviously tongue in cheek cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. What really impresses is the lack of filter or varnish in his own songwriting - The cut to the bone honesty and downright swing in a song like “Kitty Kat” (“You scratched me once and f*cked me twice but you ain’t got a hold on me”).
Inspired by the Tarantino film “Django Unchained” (and the planned tour that fell through because of visa troubles!), “Chicago Come Down” is a brilliant mix of bluesy playing with old-school country grit. He is clearly in his element tonight, even inviting a good portion of the audience on stage to dance.
Before final song “Down On My Knees” Peter Von Toy explains his decision to shun the recording industry as it is today, explaining that if people really want to come down to hear his music they should “get off their asses and come down, just like you guys did!” With the position of many small music venues in the UK currently hanging in the balance, it’s a hard statement to argue with. Whether he will ever change his mind and record in the future, one thing is certain for now - you would be a fool to miss him play live.