The only way I can think to explain the monstrous, frenzied crowd that gathers, barely out of their PJs, at this 1pm Fat Dog set is with some philosophical bullshit about our perverse desire for all the ugly, nihilistic terror of the world to be reflected back to us through music. Please tell me it’s that. Otherwise, I am stumped.
It tells you all you need to know about Fat Dog, a rock band (sort of?) out of South London’s Windmill scene, that their first – and, at the time of writing, only – single is seven minutes long and titled ‘King of the Slugs.’ My first thought is, will they play the one song people know first, or last? The answer is neither – it comes halfway through – which tells you even more about Fat Dog.
Namely, they know how to curate a live show. In fact, the absolute chaos that unfolds seems carefully put together. The band’s entrance is prefaced by an air raid siren and a booming voice counting down – “one-minute warning,” “ten-second warning” – not to mention by the whoops and hollers of the bucket hatted crowd who are positively aching to get slugged, or dogged (I’m not sure of the best verb form there). And when the bassist, dressed like an off-duty hedge fund bro in a pressed white shirt with his sleeves rolled up, indicates that he would like us to form a circle pit, not only does the crowd oblige, but it feels like they knew in advance.
I’ll hand it to Fat Dog: the live show is exceedingly fun (for most people) and exceedingly strange. They traverse the standard antics – making us crouch low to the ground before springing back up in time with the music; a wall of death, or two – but there’s also a synchronised, slapstick dance by the saxophone player (yes, they have a saxophone player) and sampling/keys guy, who’s adorned in a yellow Sou’wester hat. There’s a lo-fi projection of a chrome dog perpetually spinning behind them. The frontperson, Joe Love, wearing his own band’s merch, holds his arms out by his sides like some kind of Christ figure or king (of the slugs, I guess). But you kinda want them to crack a smile, as if to acknowledge that they’re in on the joke – that this is weird; that they’re not actually serious – otherwise it’s all a bit pretentious and gross.
As if responding to my previous criticism, Love spends the second half of the set in the crowd. He’s now on our level, but isn’t one of us, making that clear by chanting “I am the king” over and over.
Ultimately, and I won’t mince words, the songs aren’t there yet: full of grating chromaticisms and obnoxious detours, overly long, lacking in melody, pulling from every British hype band of the past ten years to create a confused jumble of post-punk tropes that screams to be the next big thing – and it probably will be – but this is a live review, after all, and there’s no doubt that this live band know what they’re doing. They know what the crowd wants. They know how to tease us, possess us. We worship our king like the slimy slugs we are. Literal worship: when the band abruptly finishes, a guy in the crowd bellows, “Fat Dog, babyyyyy!” Maybe I should’ve had a beer first.
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