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Live shows break down the wall between artist, idea, and audience. So often, a live show disappoints for no other reason than mimicking the perfection of the recorded album it is meant to explore. The best live shows are explorative; they give you a sense of the artist outside of calculated production or external opinions. Fat Tony’s recent performance at U Street Music Hall was boisterous, energetic, chaotic, blaring, and singular. This was a man in love with his voice, his cadence, his MPC, and, above all else, his vision. It was a performance that started on the stage, sucked in all the oxygen in the room, and returned the fiery favor into every subterranean crevice.

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Fat Tony’s appeal as a live act is that he speaks volumes about himself with every song. Watching the 31-year-old Houston native glide between two microphones, one laptop, and one MPC, you can imagine that that same energy would be pulsating through his mind even if no one was there to see it. Fat Tony is self-sustained in every way; his impulses are his live show and the connection that forms between himself and the audience is simultaneously familiar and vividly foreign. Those impulses work well to support a sonic calling card that bobs and weaves through recollections of Kanye circa Yeezus and Nine Inch Nails circa The Downward Spiral. At times, it felt like a well-constructed seance propagated by a false prophet. I loved it.

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Following Fat Tony, Black Midi hit the stage in all of their weird pseudo-anarchist vibes. Before the show, I was knee-deep in the Sex Pistols so you can imagine my deep deep pleasure when this experimental band from London hit the stage running, playing an interesting fusion of UK punk music from the Thatcher days and something eerily similar to the Klaxons. As with any band that tries to push the envelope, the importance of the lead singer’s personality is make-or-break. Luckily for Black Midi, Geordie Greep’s vocals glide through the distortions of songs like “953” and “bmbmbm.” Greep pulls the strings of each song, at times doing nothing more than talking through a cardiac guitar fluctuation supported by the violent drums played by Morgan Simpson. Also, totally off topic but I’ve never seen a drummer, especially the type of drummer required for a band like Black Midi, wearing Raf Simons/Adidas Ozweego sneakers. That was until I saw Morgan Simpson wearing them while beating the crap out of his drums. Kudos to him.

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Before I arrived at this show, I wondered how these two acts fit on the same ticket. I walked away blown away by their energy and complete disregard for musical guardrails. Freedom and confidence flowed through Fat Tony and Black Midi, making their music more symbiotic than you could ever imagine.

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