Words & Images by: Alex Anastas
Fat Freddy's Drop :: 10.18.09 :: The Forum :: Sydney, Australia
The Forum Sydney quite possibly has the single most appropriate name for any venue in Australia, encompassing three half-circle, Roman Coliseum-esque tiers above a dramatically downwardly sloped dance floor. This soaring, walled-in design, including a '70s ceiling completely covered in mirrored tiles high above, generates the unique and unsettling feeling of audience-like gladiators jostling for pit position before being fed to the proverbial lions onstage. Therefore, once you and your crew are in a good spot for grooving, you're there for the night, and there ain't no chance of ditching your staked out gold for that extra cold one calling from one of the venues several bars.
The particular lions holding court on this brisk spring evening, Fat Freddy's Drop, formed in a haze and daze about ten years ago during extended, improvised jam sessions in the close-knit music scene of Wellington, New Zealand. The lively seven-piece oozes luscious dub rhythms, extended takes on their studio cuts, jazzy solo breaks, and most noticeably, the slinky, sexy vocal stylings of Dallas "Joe Dukie" Tamaira floating above their adoring and growing fan base. Subconscious communication between these well-traveled and experienced band members also seems to come easily after 11 studio and live releases.
However, before FFD could finish off their sold out two night Sydney run, the packed-house was warmed nicely by a trifecta of openers. The brief turntable burns of DJ Bentley were heard by the few already inside but mostly by the many still in line, followed closely by local Sydney dub-reggae crooners The Versionaries featuring original tunes soaked in a classic Trenchtown sound, and finally DJ Thief, who really got the crowd amped and moving with masterful mash-ups. By the time Thief had cleared the stage, the Sunday night crowd was salivating for the main act.
Fat Freddy's Drop opened their final Australian set with a few slow-building jams based around their rhythm section of Iain "Dobie Blaze" Gordon (keys), Tehimana "Jetlag Johnson" Kerr (guitar), and founder Chris "DJ Fitchie" Faiumu (MPC & decks). Adding layers of minimalist funk and deep-cutting, loud bass that warms the listener to the very core, these three players are the unheralded heroes holding down the back beat love of The Drop's 21st century sound. The horn section out front features the all-too-cool Scott "Chopper Reedz" Towers (sax), the sandwiched thin man Toby "Tony Chang" Laing (trumpet), and the dance machine himself, the heart and soul of any FFD show, Joe "Hopepa" Lindsay (trombone). Never showmen to be outdone, the three brass blowers kept the show moving along, especially with "Hopepa" grooving like a madman possessed by a disco inferno beast. Conversely, their rhythm section often bow to their horned compatriots to finesse the crowd into a frenzied, cool dynamic rooted in years of jamming together.
| Dallas Tamaira - FFD :: 10.18 :: Australia|
Beats and rhythms aside, the true star is the humble Dallas Tamaira on vocals. Making females in the audience quiver and scream all night with his wincing reaches for the higher register, the tattoo-laden singer bubbles positive vibes through the cringe of a tortured soul survivor. Between his serious glares around the stage to pick up his bandmates' lead, it becomes obvious that Tamaira is exorcising some reggae demons before our eyes. Holding court with steely glances from stage left, Tamaira often bowed out to the dance party chaos brought to life by the likes of the booty shaking "Hopepa," who lead the youthful Sydney audience in some awfully dirty dancing.
Before they could duck back to their New Zealand digs, these Kiwi masters treated the Sydney crowds to two high-energy, awesome shows. A festival staple on the Oceanic tour scene with a fast growing fan base in Europe and North America, Fat Freddy's Drop are playing three shows in California just before Thanksgiving.
Pop over here for FFD tour dates, and check back soon for an exclusive feature/interview.
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