Fat White Family; Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, 19/2/14
If Fat White Family were a fat white family, rather than being scrawny white bandmates, they would be the estranged cousins that everyone hesitated to invite to the wedding. Last week they set off fire extinguishers on stage, and may or may not have used their faeces as warpaint. They certainly get naked and shout a lot. They look like they probably fight Russian hamsters in their spare time.
Fat White Family’s Leeds show is actually relatively tame, though the songs themselves aren’t; the stage is as much drenched in sweat as it is in politics. The reason Fat White Family’s wedding invitation got lost in the post is because they don’t offer the whimsy, pastoral escapism that weddings need in order to be a believable ceremony, and that guitar music apparently needs in order to be a bankable commodity. They’re subversive, and they’re perverse. It’s been said that the band and their show are a satirical look at the music industry; see the nod to Oasis in the title of their 2013 debut album Champagne Holocaust, though we’re not here to naval gaze. They also confront consumerism, communism, underage sex, political assassination, masculinity, and masturbation, amongst other things.
It seems the band embrace, as much as other artists may try to deny it, that music is unavoidably political. Does that recognition make it more understandable to shove your hand in your crotch on stage and have guitarists fight like antlered stags? Are they even connected? Some have questioned the authenticity of the band, as though it’s simply preposterous that anyone could be angry or interested enough in anything other than themselves and/or their love interest enough to make it in to a song that isn’t conveniently catchy. If the politics is just an excuse for a debauched tour, well… Rather that than the ‘whatever, man’ excuse of other hedonistic bands.
The show is very, very loud, to the point of being unsettling, which is precisely as it should be. Sometimes all six of them just yell in to the microphone. The displeasure and the carnal vulgarity of Fat White Family is best transmitted live, as tonight’s show and crowd prove. Risk the faecal tendencies, see them live, then book them for your wedding.