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Biography

From Toychestra.com: Toychestra is an all-women musical ensemble that plays toys. Some are actual instruments like toddler-sized pianos and xylophones and drums. Others just make great sounds, like the pink zoo train or Boo Megaphone or the acoustic, multi-sonic Activity Center. Still others are used for percussion, like the washboard, Don’t Wake Daddy, and woodblock. Each instrument is individually amplified with contact microphones and the collection is mixed live for a bigger electronic sound. This creates a sophisticated aural experience that is a far cry from a bunch of kiddies banging around.

Toychestra performs original compositions ranging from stark to upbeat, from percussive to melodic, to ambient, avant-garde and kitsch. In the past the band was known to do a few covers ranging from Dvorak to Kraftwerk to Black Flag.

The band started when former member Paula Alexander was asked to form a band for a women’s creative music festival at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco in 1996. She enlisted Lexa Walsh and Shari Robertson, who had worked with her in a performance group called Better Hose and Garters. “We planned to play regular instruments,” says Shari, “We thought we could be a rock-n-roll group. Lexa showed up at the first rehearsal with all these toys, and after jamming for a while, the toy tunes emerged as the clear favorites.” Toychestra plays in a wide range of venues- experimental music spaces, rock clubs, museums, as well as schools, community centers and half way houses.

Toychestra released its eponymous cherry red vinyl 7” in 1999, Live in Leipzig in 2000, Sassy Pony in 2002, What Leave Behind: Concerto for Guitar and Toy Orchestra in 2004, the result of an inspiring collaboration among the group and Berkeley composer Dan Plonsey and guitar legend Fred Frith. Also on Lyon’s SK records is the group’s newest release My Good Side, a collection of new songs and sound pieces as well as a remake of a Toychestra classic, incorporating new toys and turntables.

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