Drop It Like It’s Hot

Words by Dion Star

This is the story of a seven-piece band, two DJs, one MC, 350 tickets and two venues.

Introducing the already legendary Fat Freddy’s Drop...

The seed was planted two years ago during The Nextmen’s first visit to Penzance and Music Evolution. They had travelled down to play the Sandbar, Praa Sands, with the impressive MC Dynamite. The gig exceeded all expectations; it was sold out and people were literally climbing through the windows to get a glimpse. The following day, as we nursed our hangovers, we talked music – and more importantly live music. It was during this discussion that Brad Baloo declared: “Fat Freddy’s Drop is my favourite band; they are the best live band in the world.” High praise indeed. “We’ve got to get these guys down,” I announce, somewhat reminiscent of a giddy schoolgirl. Only then am I informed that they hail from New Zealand, the land of orcs and elves. At this stage the possibility of them coming to Penzance was very much a fantasy.

Skip forward two years, and it suddenly looks on the cards. The band is organising a UK tour to include The Big Chill, Bestival, and a handful of huge venues around the country. Almost apologetically, I enquire about a booking. To my surprise, the tour manager had heard about the scene in the Southwest and Music Evolution (thanks to the Nextmen’s praise, no doubt) and was keen to bring the band down. The deal was done and for the next three months we could hardly wait. The album, Based on a True Story, had dropped (pun – extra points please) and the buzz was audible. Tickets went on sale and promptly sold. All was swell in toy town.

Two days before the big night and the anticipation has reached its peak. The Music Evolution team made the final arrangements, and ,as efficiently as a German car designer, we put together the final pieces of the jigsaw. Then things started to take a turn for the worse. Steve (Sandbar landlord) had some worrying news of local unrest in Praa Sands – nothing new there, then. A few phone calls later, and it was clear that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Misinformation about the club’s capacity had led to short shrift from the Kerrier licensing officer and head of police, who strongly advised that we cancel the event. With a venue only licensed for 175 people and almost double that number of revellers expected, we were up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

But we weren’t to be defeated. Resolute that the event had to take place, a frantic two hours followed and a venue was secured (Club 2K in Penzance, thanks Viv). Sorted. Once we had dealt with the small matter of informing the 350 ticket holders about the change of venue, the stage was set. It was time to get down to it.

As the band took to the stage there was an almost tidal movement of people. This swell continued through the opening bars of ‘Ernie’. The solitary piano melody enticed the masses forward hypnotically before the horns powerfully engulfed the room. A strong start indeed, and it just got better and better. All the tracks are based around DJ MU (DJ Fitchie) and his MPC 2000; he provides the beats and bass which underpin the whole sound. Each track has the feel of an extended jam session, with the players swinging between the crafted, and the freedom of improvisation. Dallas Tamaira ‘Joe Dukie’ on vocals, Dobie Blaze on analogue keys, Warren ‘Fulla Flash’ on sax, Tony Chang on trumpet, Joe (ho pepa) on trombone and Tehimana Kerr ‘Jetlag Johnson’ on guitar – all combine to create harmonious and uplifting textures.

Joe Dukie’s voice is effortlessly soulful and like all the band members, he never tries to do too much. That seems to be the key to their performance; the music is so full of space. One of the standouts was definitely ‘Roady’, which kept building and building to a climax of, “We do it for the love of music.” A positive message, and it’s no surprise that this will be their next single release 12" available now. This was followed by ‘Wandering Eye’, which got a huge dancefloor response, and at this point it felt like somebody had cranked the sound-system up to number 11.

The Nextmen both smashed it up and wrapped it up with MC Wrec. Despite the peculiar set of circumstances preceding this event, there were smiles all around when people left the venue. Not least from the band, who left us with this message “It was great to be in Cornwall, and we all really enjoyed the show.”