Fat Suit & my first jazz show

Fat Suit & my first jazz show

I’ve never shot a band this big. By which I mean I’ve never shot a band with this many people in it. I’ve also rarely shot gigs this good-natured.

Typically the kind of shows I shot are intense, energetic, cathartic, aggressive occasionally violent and all sorts of other powerful words. Which isn’t to say that they aren’t fun, but they don’t bring the sort of warmth that Fat Suit bring to the stage. Collective is an often misused word in these early stages of the 21st century, but Fat Suit do genuinely seem like a collective of like-minded musicians who just love to play without a message or an agenda. Regardless as to what the Telegraph might have you believe.

Also they have their own string quartet. If that isn’t legitimately bad ass than I don’t know what is.

Fat Suit // photograph by Calum McMillan
Fat Suit // photograph by Calum McMillan

Jazz has always been a musical appreciation of mine, Miles Davis and John Coltrane sitting well up in my most played artists of all time, but I’m pretty sure that this was my first actual jazz show. I’m no stranger to music with heavy jazz influences, but the bands like that whom I have seen tend to still think that really loud guitars are the most important thing ever.

That being the case, it took me a while to wrap my head around Fat Suit’s dense and textured live sound but once it clicked it was a wonderful experience. The band’s fusion of traditional brass instrumentation with modern synths, the aforementioned string quartet and the rockier aspects of the guitar, bass and drums set up was quirky and marvellously dynamic. The trade-off solos between sax and guitar in one of their compositions was pretty stunning.

Fat Suit // photograph by Calum McMillan
Fat Suit // photograph by Calum McMillan

In the kind of music I typically go and see groove and virtuosity are often too opposing extremes who refuse to co-exist. It was a totally refreshing experience for me to experience both occur simultaneously, across such a variety of instruments.  It was also a revelation to see the musicians on stage sharing sly winks and broad gins of appreciation with each other between their various lead spots, something that rock music often loses because of its focus on audience engagement.  It was nice to see a band who were as aware of each other as they were their audience and it was a large part of that warm atmosphere that made Fat Suit’s entire set so exciting and satisfying.

Though the ensembles more upbeat and groovier moments were easily the most enjoyable it was a nice break of pace when they indulged the more laid back and delicate elements of their sound. Though they were few and far between they created an excellent sense of ebb and flow throughout the evening’s music. Those moments really allowed the staggering string and percussion sections to stretch themselves in ways that the movement dominated by pulsing electronics and blaring brass didn’t.

I’ve seen three-piece bands where at least two members get short shrift, so to see everyone in a band as large as this utilise such a diverse musical pallet was  pretty inspiring.

Fat Suit // photograph by Calum McMillan
Fat Suit // photograph by Calum McMillan

The moral of the story: I clearly need to go and see more jazz shows. There’s no way that they’ll ever replace heavy music for me, but they scratch an itch that kind of music simply can’t. Also they’re incredibly rewarding to photograph because it’s really difficult to try to compose shots of people who aren’t doing obvious things like shouting, jumping off things, throwing stuff about or being sweaty.

That was also really nice. No one was sweaty. How lovely.

Fat Suit have just released their second album “Jugaad” and it’s well good. You should go and pick it up.

\\click images for full screen slide show//

 

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