“Woof! Woof! Woof!” barks Fat Dog’s magnetic frontman Joe Love, as the band’s UK headline tour comes to a riotous close at Salford’s The White Hotel. Having formed during lockdown and recently signed to Domino, and with only one single under their belt – the seven-minute garage-rave/ska/psych hybrid ‘King Of The Slugs’ (co-produced by Love and storied Arctic Monkeys collaborator James Ford) – theirs is a rise forged through incendiary, bonkers shows, including a sold-out homecoming at London’s 800-capacity Scala last month.
The past few months for Fat Dog have been nothing short of remarkable. Recent gigs have seen the band play Rock, Paper, Scissors in the pit or don latex masks, and have taken them beyond the south London live circuit via appearances at Reading & Leeds and Green Man Festival. Having started out at The Windmill in Brixton alongside peers including Picture Parlour and Man/Woman/Chainsaw, they have gone on to garner a fervent cult fanbase nationwide.
This evening (November 5), they open with an air raid siren-style two minute countdown. From then on, the pace barely relents throughout a near hour-long set; a disco-Armageddon vibe furthered by Love’s outfit of an outsized cowboy hat and camouflage gilet. Bridging the chasm between garage-punk, klezmer and techno, Fat Dog’s sound defies simple categorisation (at times, they sound like a party-starting distillate of every great Windmill band over the last 10 years), and the moshpits open early to both the hypnotic cacophony of ‘Boomtown’ and the raw pop thrills of ‘All The Same’.
With more canine barks emanating from the crowd than a scuzz rock remake of 101 Dalmatians, and with Love spending as much time in the audience as he does onstage, the aforementioned ‘King Of The Slugs’ reaps the biggest reaction – the track ignites a frenzy of flailing limbs. There’s more sublime silliness in the form of one of the band members donning a robe and cowl, and delivering a nonsensical, Spinal Tap-like monologue in a booming Brian Blessed-esque voice about “In the land before time / Where giants roamed the Earth.” Soon enough, it becomes a clarion call for more sweaty crowd bacchanal.
All of this could have the potential to fall flat on its ironic face, were it not for the fact that Fat Dog are such tight and skilful musicians who perfectly understand live show dynamics. By the time the frantic ‘I Am The King’ arrives, which sees Love breathlessly repeating the track’s eponymous refrain, you can’t help but feel you’re watching the coronation of 2023’s wildest live band.
Outside after the venue after the gig, diehard fan Gil explains to NME that he has made the pilgrimage from London, where he is at university, to his hometown of Manchester especially to see Fat Dog. “It’s amazing that the band don’t have anything out apart from one single, but they always bring a beautiful energy to live gigs,” he says, beaming. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” 21-year-old Rob agrees: “There’s no other band in the country like them right now. We’re waiting here because my mate lost his phone in the moshpit!”
Can this band follow the commercial success of their similarly oddball labelmates Wet Leg? Clad in a Fat Dog t-shirt, 23-year-old Alice has no doubt. “They’re the most exciting band I’ve seen in ages – it’s ecstatic and ridiculous at the same time” she tell us, before signing off with a fittingly lycanthropic flourish: “Woof! Woof! Woof!”
Fat Dog played:
2 Min Warning
‘All The Same’
‘King Of The Slugs’
‘Land Before Time’
‘Pray to That’
‘I Am the King’