Fat Freddy’s Drop @ O2 Academy, Oxford 01.10.13

Back in 2009, this young buck was as far away from Oxford’s O2 Academy as is physically possible without going into outer space. Wondering aimlessly across the Southern Hemisphere, a final night in Christchurch, New Zealand brought with it exposure to two new experiences. Dark rum and New Zealand’s very own soul / dub / RnB gender benders, Fat Freddy’s Drop. Almost four years to the day later, those two glorious vices combined for one very special evening in Oxford.

Oct 1st, 2013 at O2 Academy, Oxford / By Dave Reynolds
Fat Freddy’s Drop @ O2 Academy, Oxford 01.10.13 A sell-out crowd is testament to the band’s appeal. Vice versa, a band on stage by 9pm so they can play a 2 hour 15 minute set shows a level of gratitude in return. Additionally, when the majority of a band’s tracks last at least seven minutes, and they want to get jammy and improvisational, then an hour long blast would never be enough to get an audience immersed in the Fat Freddy’s Drop live show.

An eight-piece with three brass players and an MC creates a presence that ebbs and flows. They open with the title track from their latest album, ‘Blackbird’. It’s one of the rare pop steps of the evening, even with its dark and foreboding groove. ‘Blackbird’ acts as a useful way to gradually introduce what feels like the leaders of the show, the brass. There’s such sharpness and vibrancy in the noise they create, whether tripping off into solos or acting as pointed punctuation to vocalist and guitarist Dallas Tamaira’s lyrics. The MC also jumps in on ‘Blackbird’ and at other points throughout the show, helping to heighten the juxtaposition of sounds.

From there on, the show feels more like a DJ set, with carefully thought-out peaks and troughs of energy, rarely pausing for breath. The sonic shifts bring different arrangements and formations of the band, like a musical Optimus Prime. Low-tempo jams break out before carefully being caroused into roaring widescreen eruptions. Scraps of the new record are turned out such as ‘Cleaning the House’, along with dips into the back catalogue. One of many highlights was ‘Roady’ from their first album. It goes from being a 7 minute track on record to something approaching twice that length with two minute guitar solos and a euphoric build, ridden on the back of the trumpets.

The group originally recorded music that was refined versions of their live, improvised shows, and such tightness and ability amongst a group of musicians is so easy to see and enjoy. It leaves an audience that started as strangers forming a collective atmosphere of awe and wonder that’s reflective of what Fat Freddy’s Drop’s music is able to create. It was an atmosphere that felt rare and special, an appreciation of witnessing a truly captivating live show.