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Fat Freddy’s Drop

Review: June 22nd @ The Indy

OK, so Fat Freddy’s Drop isn’t purely reggae, despite what the Independent’s website insisted on telling people before the band’s gig there June 22nd. There are a lot of other influences in the mix too — blues, soul, R&B, even a bit of jazz. The overall vibe, though, is definitely mellow and islands-tinged, which makes you wonder how relatively urban Wellington ended up producing such a band.

You had to wonder just how many Kiwis there are in San Francisco, given the crowd that showed up at the Independent. Singer Dallas Tamaira’s reference to a song that he wrote about the country got a response that made it clear that there were more Kiwis in the house than just the band. It was also clear that most of the crowd knew the band’s back catalogue well.

Fat Freddy’s Drop is band that is hard to classify, but it’s an easy one to listen to. The three-man horn section was impressive, as was the imposingly huge but smiley DJ Chris Faiumu, but the real star of the show was singer Tamaira. He sounds like the child of Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley, with maybe a bit of Otis Redding thrown in.

Whatever other musical leanings the band may have, there’s no doubt that Tamaira is essentially a soul singer. His voice is what really elevates Fat Freddy’s Drop above similar bands — smooth, rich, and deeply soulful.

He’s got some real stage presence, too. Admittedly he had some competition from the horn section, particularly one of the trumpet players. Imagine Ricky Gervais from The Office dressed up in what looked like Uma Thurman’s tracksuit from Kill Bill, dancing like a madman. Still, it was Tamaira’s warm, engaging presence together with that voice that really held the whole thing together. He has a great line in banter, too – giving a shout out to the All Whites and then apologizing to all the Italians in the house was a nice touch.

The Independent is always a good place to see a show, small enough to feel intimate but not so small that the crowd can’t breathe. In this case, the usual intimate atmosphere was added to by the fact that it was the first of three sold-out gigs Fat Freddy’s Drop will play at the venue this week. The band returns to the stage Friday and Saturday night.

Vast quantities of weed being smoked also helped – even those who neglected to come prepared ended up with a contact high. But still, the real credit belongs with the band, which was musically rock solid and remarkably enthusiastic. There was as much dancing as can be managed in such tight quarters, and the crowd left happy. What more can you ask for?