Fat Freddys Drop – Villa Maria Winery January 20, 2018

The weather couldn’t have been better for Fat Freddy’s Drop’s triumphant stopover at Villa Maria Estate Winery last night, the sky cloudless and the sun summery as the crowd wandered through a field into the scenic open-air amphitheater. A nice breeze even stopped it from being too hot, and the wonderful location made for an enthusiastic crowd.

Almost humourously, the audience increased in average age with distance from the stage, eventually coming full circle from the young standing crowd packed against the front of the stage to the families with young children and picnic blankets on the far hill, at a safe distance for young ears. This just goes to show the cross-generational appeal Fat Freddy’s Drop have managed to maintain.

Sadly I missed the opening DJ set by legendary UK DJ Norman Jay (MBE), but judging by the audience’s cheers when he was thanked by the headliners later in the night, it went down well.

Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote hadn’t gripped me when I briefly checked them out on YouTube beforehand, but in the summery weather with an open sky and pleasant breeze they suddenly made sense. Their smooth and atmospheric background neo-soul was a perfect fit for the venue, delivered with impressive musicianship from all members and crossing over into jazz for a lot of the time.

The sound throughout the night was clear and powerful from many different locations in the venue, thankfully not running into any of the sound difficulties that often plague large open-air venues.

The headliners took to the stage once it was dark. I’ve seen them several times before and their playing is always solid. They really are experts at drawing out a jam for long periods of time with just enough gradual changes to keep it from ever growing boring, helped along of course by the trademark sonic decorations of their three-man horn section.

The first half of the set included singable fan favourites like Blackbird and Roady, before the second half found the band indulging in more long non-stop jam medleys. The seven-piece are always a pleasure to watch on stage, to view the easy musical communication between the members in their various roles as well as the “inspired” dancing of trombonist and multi-instrumentalist Joe Lindsay.

I did notice the crowd’s attention slipping during one slower more non-descript number, which we were told when it ended was a new song. But following that they brought out a drummer to add to the pre-programmed beats, and the solid punch of the drum kit kicked things up a notch rhythmically.

After nearly two hours of psychedelic dub grooves they returned for an encore, playing a medley jam of much-awaited Based On A True Story classics This Room and Wandering Eye, and throwing in a bit of Bob Marley’s Waiting In Vain to finish.

They came, they did exactly what everyone paid to see, and they did it well and with obvious enthusiasm. And all in a venue seemingly designed for their sound. Great gig.

Ruben Mita.

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski: