Originally published in Beat Magazine.
Within every cloud, there is a silver lining. This is an antiquated expression, however it is ubiquitous and universal. If you can’t afford or can’t make it to an annual music festival, you may find luck in attending the side shows. Okay yes, an extreme example of clouds and silver linings and I guess more equated with the phrase “break even,” however for those of you who have mourned an inaccessible festival and then heard that your favourite headline act will be doing their own sideshow, I’m sure you can understand my choice of idiom.
Having missed out on seeing Fat Freddy last year when they played at the Forum in support of Blackbird and this year at Golden Plains, I was determined to get my hands on some Zoo Twilight passes. The Melbourne Zoo was packed with adults, children, teenagers and infants. It made sense that Fat Freddy close out the Twilight series for 2014. Sonically, their music encompasses dub, neo-soul, jazz, funk, roots and techno, yet in spirit they are a reggae band. Singing of unity, collectiveness and collaboration, Fat Freddy were the most appropriate ambassadors for the Zoo Twilight cause, uniting the entire audience in a collaborative fight against animal extinction. The vibe of the place was great. Young girls were perched on top of their father’s shoulders while their mothers handed them soda and snacks from picnic bags. Some were just chilling out on the grass on their rugs, while others performed what appeared to be premeditated choreographed moves.
Fat Freddy were unbelievable, even better in a live setting. The audio at the Zoo was flawless, the kind of quality that sounds good even through a shitty phone video recording. Dallas Tamaira – “Joe Dukie” – stood on the far right of the stage, a modest choice from the band’s frontman. A nice decision, as it enabled the horn section to stretch their wings between centre stage and the left hand side. The enthusiastic trombone player – Joe Lindsay – was a real treat. He danced and danced and danced for the entire two-hour set, mind you he wasn’t the most fit looking guy either. How he managed to exude that much energy and still be able to blow away on the trombone for two hours eludes me. The most informal out of all of them, he still managed to match their professionalism with his precision and range. The percussion was pre-recorded, controlled and manipulated by the beats man “DJ Fitchie.” The keyboardist – “Dobie Blaze” effortlessly switched between keys and synth and MC Slave – Freddy’s guest rapper – spat those rhymes from Russia with a real smooth Jamaican drawl, often freestyling effortlessly throughout the remainder of the set. The entire horn section were brilliant, their patience and skill enabling those extended gradual build-ups, climaxes and voluminous solo compositions that we know so well on hypnotic dub tracks like Blackbird and Shiverman.
I missed out on attending Golden Plains, but I got to see sideshows by Flying Lotus and Fat Freddy’s Drop, the very two headliners that I was most excited by on the festival bill. Fat Freddy blew me away, their two-hour set highlighted by the fact that the funds were going towards the prevention of animal extinction. A wonderful cause and a magical venue, I will definitely be attending the Zoo Twilight series again next year.