Fat Dog’s Chaotic Live Show Lived Up To The Hype At SXSW

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Fat Dog’s Chaotic Live Show Lived Up To The Hype At SXSW


Fat Dog have what is, at this point, a familiar backstory. The South London band cut their teeth playing shows at The Windmill in Brixton, the incubator for many of the UK’s most exciting, autre rock projects nowadays. They play a hard-hitting, technically impressive blur that’s kind of post-punk but as filtered through a kitchen sink of influences — see the dancey, old-timey folk stomp of their debut single “King Of The Slugs,” which dropped last fall after the band spent a year-plus getting hyped up by the British press before they had even put out a song thanks to their frenzied live shows.

That sort of reputation means they’re oddly well-suited to the fuckery that is SXSW, where whirlwind sets by bands eager to make an impression are the ideal norm. And Fat Dog made it look easy when I saw them at Valhalla on a Thursday afternoon. It can be hard to cross the threshold at this festival, to become a band that manages to get an audience on their wavelength rather than just something to observe while killing time between drinks. But frontman Joe Love has a commanding presence — toward the end of the set, he even got the whole crowd, minus a few surly lanyard-clutchers, to kneel on a sticky bar floor and jump up when the song they were playing went nuts.

The whole Fat Dog crew — five in all, cramped on a tiny stage — struck a weird but compelling balance between goofy and intimidating. Their synth player and saxophone player made jokes with each other in the corner. At one point, the synth guy put his shirt over his head so he looked like a turtle; for one song, both of them got down into the audience and started a pit. The drummer was wearing a fucking dog mask the whole time, a big grinning Doberman with its tongue lolling out.

They just had a good vibe, which is hard to hold onto while doing an event like this. And Fat Dog are making the most out of whatever this is, with 11 or so sets in Austin over just a handful of days, notching up a double-digit performance count here even though they’ve only been stateside for a week. (Their first-ever show on US soil took place at Trans Pecos in Queens on Tuesday.) Fat Dog only officially have two songs out there in the world right now, and they’re good, but they hit even harder in person — all that kinetic energy comes through in an eardrum-blasting chaos that needs to be seen to be believed.

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