Load-In to Load-Out: Babes in Toyland emerge triumphant at Underground Arts

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Babes in Toyland | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Babes in Toyland | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

A world without the music of Babes in Toyland is a world lacking the angst and catharsis conveyed as only they can. Originally made up of Minneapolis guitarist-vocalist Kat Bjelland and drummer Lori Barbero, along with bassists Michelle Leon and Maureen Herman (who replaced Leon in 1992), the band re-emerged this year after disbanding in 2001.

When they finally played Philly’s Underground Arts on October 22 it had been 20 years since Babes in Toyland last set foot in the city. New and old fans alike showed they still wanted the band’s punk rage. And boy, did the band deliver. Rounded out by new bassist Clara Salyer, they pummeled Philadelphia with a brilliant set.

Bjelland unleashed fire and rage through such songs as “Bruise Violet” and the main set closer of “Sweet ’69.” Her eyes delivered piercing stares as her vocals and guitar work spun the crowd in multiple directions. It was never easy to regain balance with Barbero’s bruising drum-work. Sometimes subtle, like with the cow bell on “Sweet ’69,” she added more steps to the dance than one could handle.

Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

Like with “Vomit Heart,” a song that begins with a uniquely hollow guitar line that bleeds into a furious drum clinic. It rages through the body in a way Babes in Toyland can only accomplish. And Salyer’s basslines perfectly threaded through the Babes in Toyland songbook. Sixteen songs flew by and the sweat-soaked, ear-ringing experience called for even more. Let’s hope they find the time to come back to our fair city. In the meantime, let’s examine this long-awaited gig in pictures.

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