The first thing you need to know about Fat Freddy's Drop is that they are a jam band through and through. FFD was founded upon improvised sessions between original members MPC beatsmith Chris Faiumu (also known as DJ Fitchie), vocalist Dallas Tamaira (Joe Dukie) and Black Seeds trumpeter Toby Laing (or Tony Chang), and that philosophy remains to this day a fundamental characteristic of the group's shows and studio work.
Photo credit: Jan Gessler
The second thing is that they tour. A lot. In fact it seems like the seven-piece ensemble from Wellington, New Zealand has been on a perpetual trot around the globe ever since first touching down in Europe in 2003—a breach made possible thanks to early support from like-minded Berliners Jazzanova and their Sonar Kollektiv network. Combined, these points hint at a formidable live act, and a show that's both polished and unpredictable in equal measure. But the truth is they really are a band to experience firsthand, that no collection of words or recordings will ever quite be able to capture.
This was my third FFD show, and it was like discovering them all over again. As expected there were plenty of Based on a True Story-style soulful dub-reggae-jazz moments coming via classics such as "Cray's Crays" and "This Room"—and an Astra-wide skank-out when festival favourite "Roady" kicked into gear. But that's as foreseeable as it got. The remainder of the show ebbed from one surprise to the next, as FFD effortlessly flaunted their ever-widening repertoire—in this instance (for no two FFD shows are ever the same) with a hip-hop interlude, a Kraftwerky synth and laser solo from key-man Iain Gordon and an almost out-of-nowhere descent deep into 4/4 territory, instigated by Dr Boondigga and the Big BW's hypnotic house number "Shiverman."
Photo credit: Jan Gessler
But showmanship and musical diversity aside, the highlight was seeing Dallas Tamaira commandeer the MPC and lead the band into what FFD do best: improvisation—here with live cameo samples from himself, guitarist Tehimana Kerr and the group's horn trio. Joe Lindsay, AKA Hopepa, FFD's tombone, tuba and resident jester was the other, who put in an energetic and ceaselessly entertaining performance throughout. For Berliners and European fans not embarking on the FFD party bus this time round, take solace in that they will undoubtedly be sweeping through again next year—and with plenty of fresh material currently being road-tested, perhaps there's another LP to look forward to as well.