Fat Dog live in Bristol: welcome to the cult

Fat Dog live review from Bristol

The music industry hype machine really has had its work cut out in the last few years. So many bands in their infancy have been on the receiving end of unimaginable levels of adulation that has propelled them into the spotlight.

For some, the hype consumes them and the pressure becomes too much to tackle for such relative newcomers, while others take to it like a duck to water, relishing the immediate challenge of confronting stardom head on.

The debut headline tour from London hotshots Fat Dog was their chance to show they’re on the latter track, and having only released one single to date, the expectation is very much there for them that they’ll be here for the long run and manufacture themselves a stratospheric rise from the early acclaim.

They’ve been on the receiving end of the Lou Smith treatment, whereby if your video shot at The Windmill by the man himself goes semi viral, then you’ll probably do alright for yourselves in the coming years. It also bears noting that their debut single, ‘King of the Slugs’ was released via indie stalwarts Domino, who have a pretty good track record for championing new acts that have gone massive on the back of one song (see Arctic Monkeys, Wet Leg et al).

Their show at Bristol’s Strange Brew presents a different challenge however, as many wonder how the band would fare bringing their explosive live show to a headline slot outside of their hometown. To put it simply, there’s probably no cause for concern with how things have gone so far.

Opening for Fat Dog were The New Eves, a band who haven’t quite received the same levels of hype in their early days, but are deserving of any praise coming their way.

The Brighton-based four-piece make freakish folk music, with shades of Patti Smith in the delivery of vocalist/cellist Nina Winder-Lind, but also manage to find comparisons in modern contemporaries like Naima Bock.

With gorgeous harmonies abound, whether in the three-part vocals or in the interplay between flute, cello and violin, there’s something so raw about them even with their largely pastoral sound, and based on the live show and impressive nature of early singles ‘Mother’ and ‘Original Sin’, there’s definitely signs that the group can build upon this to begin to drum up just as much excitement as the headline act have managed to conjure.

Fat Dog on the other hand are a totally different beast, and beast wouldn’t be an inaccurate way to describe them. Their shows have garnered a reputation for being somewhat feral – band and audience alike – and this show begins as it desires to go on as they enter the stage to an intense drone, immediately stoking the fire.

The audience respond accordingly with their own absurdity. An elderly member of the audience storming the stage to present frontman Joe Love with what looked like a small potato (I’m reliably told this isn’t her first rodeo when it comes to delivering garden produce to live acts), Fat Dog, however, had more than enough weirdness up their sleeves to keep the focus on them.

It isn’t long before the band decide the stage isn’t enough for them, with two members immediately departing to instigate a wall of death two songs into the set, with their keyboard player managing to disconnect all power to his rig in the process. If you think the carnage stops there with the band, you are wrong.

While a cursory glance at their setlist shows that most of their songs still don’t have concrete titles and instead are labelled with time signatures or vibes, you’d think that a lot of what they’re doing is a work in progress, and while in some respects that is true, the midway point of the set sees them deliver their only officially-released song ‘King of the Slugs’, a multi-part rager that straddles industrial post-punk, rave and klezmer.

This is where the energy really kicks in, with the crowd beginning to settle into finding their own chaos, although it could be said it’s also where the cracks begin to show.

Entering the crowd to generate a little bit of audience participation by getting them to lower themselves to the floor during a quiet moment only to bounce up again when the energy hits is a tried and tested move, and can be fun when used once or twice in a set. Seven times, however, is pushing things beyond necessity and feels a little bit trite or even lacking in alternative ideas to pursue as a frontperson.

That being said, the command Love has over the audience is something to behold, something akin to a cult leader giving a sermon to his followers. This cultish imagery is further solidified when the band all leave the stage and allow a cloaked figure to enter and deliver a monologue before launching into another riotous number.

There’s no surprise that people are lapping up what Fat Dog has to offer, and fair play to them for being able to whip up such a feverish fanbase in little over a year. If you want a less debauched Fat White Family, maybe look no further, and similarly if you wish that PVA were a bit grimier, this might be your ticket. Anyhow, anyone looking to come and pay worship at the temple of Fat Dog had better do it sometime soon because they’re bound to ascend to higher planes soon.

Photo credit: Jamie MacMillan

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