DINGUS KHAN + MY FAT PONY – GREEN DOOR STORE, BRIGHTON 27.10.23
Over the last five or so months I’ve been writing for Brighton & Hove News I’ve had the incredible privilege of watching some truly electrifying and bewildering shows, particularly at the much-beloved Green Door Store just down the road from The Prince Albert. From the uncomforting Xiu Xiu to the energetically entrancing CLT DRP and the soul-piercing Electric Cowboy Club, but all of those pail in comparison to the absolute carnage I were to bear witness to at Friday’s show, brought to you by your hosts, Dingus Khan and My Fat Pony!
Born thirteen years ago out of the Stour, the current Dingus Khan six-piece are known for their exuberant combinations of indie rock, power pop and punk, and of course, for being one of the most exciting and off-the-wall live bands in recent years! Friday night saw the conclusion of their six-date Flat Earth is Real UK tour which commenced at the start of October in Norwich.
Making my way through the temperamental rain brought me to Green Door Store, where I was met with Halloween decorations – cobweb-covered balloons, orange and black paper chains, but also the intriguing DIY CDs and risograph tour posters that lay upon Dingus Khan’s merch table. A colourful array of instrumentation awaited my arrival inside the main room: spare runs of drum kit parts sat astride amplifiers, tatty keyboards strapped together with red tape, and the ominous sound of Appalachian folk chants sweeping through the room moments before we were welcomed to our opening act for the night – My Fat Pony. Based in South London, these guys are a four-piece indie band, recently enjoying the premier of their debut EP ‘Music For Pleasure’, a considerable amount of songs from which saw VIP display in their set. A few minutes post-8pm, Felix, Max, Kate and Scott proceed to convene on-stage to their respective instruments of guitar, drums, trumpet and bass, all wearing matching mono-coloured T-shirts, with their individual names on it… an incredibly cool and dynamic look, even if they do look like if The Wiggles were English football fanatics.
The group kick things off with the peculiarly titled ‘55 Cancri Lane’, its intro blossoming in slow indie country guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pavement record like ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’. Then, all of a sudden, WHAM! Fast, trumpet-led glory and insane rhythmic momentum drives the song into action! There’s a certain pop punk energy to it that doesn’t detract from the quartet’s distinctive 00s indie rock aesthetic, through call and response lyrics between Felix and Kate and a driving bassline in the bridge from Scott. The following number ‘Bedhead’ opens with a sample of the infamous ‘Whistle Stop’ cockerel song from ‘Robin Hood’ before waves of trumpets and blistering electric guitars fill the room! Vocally, Felix implements more of a Midwest Emo flair à la American Football’s Mike Kinsella, while the band dive into marching band snare rolls and angular stop-start guitar stabs. I tell you what though, those gorgeous trumpet melodies… they took me right back to my discovery of the indie rock classic ‘Hospice’ by The Antlers before COVID. The next track, as referred to by Max shortly after the set simply as ‘Untitled Tree Song’, takes the 00s indie resurgence to new heights, standing toe-to-toe with titans like Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire. The relentless energy that My Fat Pony had been pulling in so far has not faltered as their simple chord progressions are complimented superbly with catchy as hell trumpet lines and a great sing-along chorus!
Another retroactive title, ‘Untitled Not Tree Song’ features a soft, but strong build-up with an ascending chord pattern that rings an incredibly bittersweet bell, as well as a groovy and irregular 6/4 chorus rhythm that grabs my attention! Before the show, drummer Max explained that they’ve had comparisons to Bloc Party in previous shows. Now, I hadn’t picked up on those comparisons… until we reach the song ‘Students’! The loudest and most ferocious song of their set, the hyperactive, hi-hat heavy drum patterns and dance-punk energy, definitely reinforced the Bloc Party sound, but with a more chaotic presence that gives My Fat Pony a distinctive sound. The penultimate song given to us by the four-piece, ‘Gary’, was possibly my favourite song of the set, with a fantastically infectious groove that Talking Heads to try and steal from, melancholic trumpet passages between verses and a slick polyrhythmic guitar line in the bridge that scratches many itches. The final track, ‘John Woo’, was a strong highlight for the set to end on; it was incredible to see the group have some dedicated fans in the crowd, singing along with every lyric of every verse. The angular guitar chords and dance-rock rhythms let the band stand tall, as well as their remarkable ability to write some irresistible melodies on pretty much every song!
My Fat Pony:
Max Silvey – drums/vocals
Felix Knox – guitar/vocals
Kate Walker – trumpet/vocals
Scott Kibblewhite – bass/vocals
My Fat Pony setlist:
‘55 Cancri Lane’
‘Untitled Tree Song’
‘Untitled Not Tree Song’
Before and after the My Fat Pony set, bodies in white boiler suits paraded across the Green Door Store and as the time slowly approached 9:00pm, they began to float on and around the stage. Something was about to happen, but I had no idea just exactly what I was in for…! The sextet of Ben Skidman and Nick Daldry on drums, Josh Court on ukulele, bassist Tom Armstrong, the Reverend Matthew Simpkins on keyboard and fiddle (yes, I said Reverend, and yes, I also said fiddle), and guitarist and lead vocalist Ben Brown, began to acclimatise into their set stage positions as the sounds of Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’ created a cute little opening jamboree among themselves and the crowd. Ben proclaims “that was Dire Straits, we’re Dingus Khan…!” The show is now under way, with an immediate energy cascading the venue on the opening ‘Witches Wardrobe’. The sound of Nick’s full kit coupled with Ben Skidman’s floor tom-snare-cymbal set-up creates a thick low-end atmosphere, like demented surf rock. While Tom provides us with an intricate bassline, the Reverend proceeds to thrash his way around the taped-down keyboard, like XTC’s early era with Barry Andrews. If anything cemented the band’s presence at this show, the evidence can be found in the lyric: “if anyone can, Dingus Khan!”
Absolutely no time is wasted transitioning into ‘Milk Of Every Mammal’, a song that’s bouncy as all hell, abound with distorted ukulele riffage from Josh. The track makes use of great time signature switch-ups between swung Jeff Rosenstock-esque power pop and waltzing 6/8 processions. The slower introduction of fan favourite ‘Ambulance’ brings a nice change of pace, giving way to the audience following a spinning dance routine that seems to have been part of the live repertoire for years… wait a minute, I forgot to mention the part where Rev. Simpkins blesses this communion with distorted fiddle performances! Anyway, the following ‘Kid At My School’ commences following a drum duty changeover between Ben S. and Nick, giving us the chance to watch the former provide us his virtuosic full-kit talents in a more punk-like song environment! Possibly the most luscious moment of the set came at the introduction of the song ‘Bag For Life’; the combination of the Reverend’s fiddle, Josh’s ukulele and Ben Brown’s guitar melodies created a strong Brian Eno/Robert Fripp reminiscence. This lush aura doesn’t last long as this track quickly becomes the most manic moment of the show so far, with dynamic changes and electrifying stage antics that David Byrne could have nightmares about.
‘Knifey Spoony’ was a solid favourite of mine, thanks to its beautiful chord progression and power pop tendencies. Funny, I had a conversation fairly recently with Fyfe Dangerfield from Guillemots; he mentioned the importance of humour in songwriting and music in general. Well, when you hear lyrics like “I couldn’t find a knife, so I had to use a spoon” in a Dingus Khan performance, a statement about humour like that could not be more apt. The Pixies-like number ‘My New Hat’ welcomes a guest by the name of Effy Laurence on vocals, with grouped audience vocal melodies that could easily be a nationwide football chant… where are all those hooligans when you need them? Oh, wait a minute, they’re here, at the Green Door Store, headlining one of the most action-packed Friday nights I’ve ever experienced. Shortly after, singer Ben dedicates the show in memory of their unfortunately deceased drummer Gaz Burney, who sadly passed away last year after a two-year battle with leukaemia. In jest, the band stated that any donations made for him at this show will be spent on weed and drink, just like how he wanted it…! In actual fact, donations for the Macmillan Cancer Support were available to be made at the show.
The crudely-titled ‘Hiahawayhay’ sees the return of the Jeff Rosenstock/Bomb the Music Industry vibes with its powerful pop progressions and thunderous drum patterns. However, this track is notorious for a particular stage antic… I won’t say much – it simply involves a couple sheets of blue tarpaulin, a sturdy audience, and a sweaty vocalist swimming across the top of the aforementioned tarpaulin before dancing with a Green Door Store bin atop his head! Structure-wise, ‘Twitching Laura’ is more simplistic, yet lyrically romantic, all while Dingus Khan continues to keep that ever-growing momentum upwards. I must say, throughout the entire set, I felt like I was constantly holding my breath, in awe of just how spectacular of a collective these guys are. ‘Feeling Violent’ was yet another favourite of the set, thanks mostly to a stellar build-up upon a throbbing bass groove into an incredible release into its chorus. Thematically, this track centres around the notion of using violence as a means to escape, not that you’d need violence when attending a Dingus Khan show!
Following the synchronised drum components and fantastic hooks of ‘My Number’ came the glam rock guitar riff introduction of ‘Mad As Hell’. This song does take its time to breathe the familiar Dingus Khan fire that has been spreading all night, but eventually segues into some of the most pop punk sounding parts of their sound and… wait a minute, what on earth is this ska section of the song, this is bloody brilliant! My attention for the Reverend reached its gravitational peak on the song ‘Japanese Fighting Bugs’, where he began the performance sitting on the floor, looking like if R. Stevie Moore joined Devo. Eventually, his stature progressed to an upright state, walking it across his spot on the stage in a maniacal fashion, the WRONG WAY ROUND I must add! Anyway, the noisy guitar/ukulele interplay and swashbuckling grooves of ‘Plank’ give way into the big sing-along (or should that be whistle-along) that features in ‘Made A List’. Here, the audience don’t hold back in the slightest as my favourite thing in the world begins to take place – moshing (cue sarcastic face here!). Now, we’ve come to the final two songs of the night, the first of which is entitled ‘This Song Hasn’t Got No Words’, featuring only rephrasing of the title lyric and the odd vocal exclamations and scats over the thrashing punk instrumentation.
The closing ‘My Love Lasts Forever Like a Plastic Flower’ sees all manner of dynamic versatility occur, with a soft intro and roaring passages driven by basslines and ukulele entanglements. And with that, the show is ov… hang on, an audience member has been pulled onto the stage to play Ben B’s guitar! Enter a blues jam around Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and the biggest Dingus Khan Friday night party blow-out you could expect to see! Now, the show is definitely over, with Ben rushing straight out into the bar to catch some air. I followed suit, congratulating him on a marvellous show, saying “when I grow up, I want to be like you!”. It’s always an extremely gratifying moment to experience a band like Dingus Khan: a fanbase that is cultish as hell, an eclectic sound palate, tight performances to end all tight performances, and a humour that puts smiles on everybody’s faces. It’s true what they say, if anyone can, Dingus Khan!
Ben Brown – vocals/guitar
Josh Court – ukulele
Tom Armstrong – bass
Nick Daldry – drums
Rev. Matthew Simpkins – keys/fiddle
Ben Skidman – side drums
Dingus Khan setlist:
‘Milk Of Every Mammal’
‘Kid At My School’
‘Bag For Life’
‘My New Hat’
‘Mad As Hell’
‘Japanese Fighting Bugs’
‘Made A List’
‘This Song Hasn’t Got No Words’
‘My Love Lasts Forever Like a Plastic Flower’