Fatso Jetson at The Black HeartSupport: All Souls
January 26, 2018 at The Black Heart
All Souls drummer Tony Tornay joined by fellow LA-based rockers welcome us into a newly rearranged Black Heart (or maybe I just haven’t been in a while), with a merch cupboard (described by the headliners as a taco stand), little bar and sound at the back. And it does sound great, as All Souls show with a set full of quirky rock tracks.
Fatso Jetson were a solid plank of my teenage stoner listening, alongside the classic Kyuss records and others who located the centre of my then listening world in Southern California. This orientation is shared by the Desertfest/Desertscene promoters who are doing a startlingly good job of teleporting mid-90s Palm Springs to late 2010s Camden Town – thanks to them London has seen Unida, Nebula, SloBurn and a great fistful of other bands from that fuzzed-out world like Lowrider and Dozer (both California via Sweden), something that was unimaginable back when I listened to these bands daily. The 17-year-old me would not believe that I’ve now seen Yawning Man twice.
While albums Toasted and Power of Three passed through my hands borrowed from friends, for me what elevated Fatso Jetson from myth to myth-making reality was the impossible groove of the track they contributed to the compilation Welcome to Meteor City, a label collection which bore the legend “Desert Rock, Sludge and Cosmic Doom” emblazoned across the flaming tail of the eponymous asteroid, determined to smash home yet another Kyuss reference. It was a version of a track already on Toasted, but it’s a different version; the compilation one was longer, slower, deeper, fuzzier, like a psychedelic roadtrip monument of cough syrup. Or something. Anyway, it’s a spectacularly brilliant track, the heavy-heavy riffs in that special audacious fat. low sound, combining the sludginess of slow riffs with an ease of speed, lyrics about choking on weeds, tongue-tied with the smoke in my head. For me it was pretty much the four minute forty-four high-water mark of 90s’ stoner rock.
So basically the whole of the rest of this Fatso Jetson headline gig at the Black Heart fades into a hard-driving head-nodding blur of brilliant knobbly riffs setting up blissful freewheeling offroad journeys into nowhere, compared to the bit where they played ‘Procrastination Process’. Legitimately up there in impossible this-can’t-actually-be-happening desert rock heaven with watching, on New Year 2012, Brant Bjork and a barefoot Scott Reeder play ‘Whitewater’ for maybe the last time together.
Suffice to say then, I was pretty happy to hear that fat, low combination of killer riffs, the first a weird trippy combination of shades, oddly bright and deflated at the same time, followed by a more scurrilous, lowriding sequence trailing up then cutting back down. The weirdly angry/careless vocal delivery on the recorded versions was matched by Mario only turning to the mike halfway through each line, snarling out, “…happy you did… slow down… no home around here…. choking on weeds… con-tent to shine…” There was even more motorbike gear-change scuzz to the heavy grooves, dirty and intoxicating like taking a gulp of petrol fumes instead of air.
What on record is at times a gonzo Melvins’ freak out, live the band provides an exhilirating blast of freewheel riffing through their consummate comfort in loud, rocking space, on tracks like ‘Then and Now’ and ‘Magma’. The Lalli brothers on stage are set like skaters, totally at home finding sweeping curves through the hard pavement edges of their gritty rock tunes. Something about the vocal delivery uncovers a Beefheart vibe, perhaps mainly due to Mario Lalli’s cracked desert croak, the accent similar to the Captain’s own hoarse Howlin’ Wolf impression. But there’s also a slight Safe as Milk tinge to the rusty-spring riffs, oddly hinged but quickly enough baked into a landscape-eating speeding careen.
Another reference point is Chris Goss’ Masters of Reality, a fellow desert-scene related band who melt from awkward, stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb chord moves into soaring sludge and quirkily catchy tunes. But here, the references fade compared to watching the mesmerising combo of Larry Lalli’s wandering bass measuring out the perfect mix between hardworking and effortless, Tony Tornay doing his second stint of the night behind the kit driving everyone along, Dino Lalli representing the next generation of desert-soaked jammers on guitar, and Mario Lalli bringing it all together with the snatched yell of lyrics and endless blasting out of riff after riff.
Annoyingly it was slightly marred by some vague macho square-off nonsense in the crowd that went on forever, several sweaty men continuing a drawn out ritual contestation of what kind of male-male touching was going to happen (lots of bro-hugs enthusiastically performed at each other… well done guys). A shame that this was an utterly boring and witless distraction from what was a great, great rumbling set. As Mario called it, just a classic “hot and sweaty rock show” of weirdly trippy, lumpy, sublime grooves.