Fat White Family deliver an unforgettable performance at Belgrave Music Hall
Fat White Family have often been labelled with words you may consider negative: “offensive,” “gross,” “terrifying.” However, for the band, formed in Peckham during 2011, these words are not necessarily bad, in fact, they seem to welcome such connotations. The release of the band’s first album Champagne Holocaustin 2014 contained some provocatively titled tracks such as ‘Bomb Disneyland’ and ‘Cream of the Young.’ Their second album Songs for Our Mothers followed in a similar vein – its mixture of drones, krautrock influence, and often murky, dingy guitar sounds perfectly accompanied musings on decisively bleak topics such as Goebbels (from the point of view of Hitler) and prolific serial killer Harold Shipman. By 2019, the band refined their sound with Serf’s Up, Fat White Family’s most cohesive work to date, blending danceable disco-inspired beats with instrumentation and vocals considerably more melodic than their previous albums. Yet, all throughout their career they have continuously kept music publications on their toes, appearing more often out of controversy than because of their music. They have been accused of racism (despite being of Algerian descent) and feuded with everyone’s favourite uninspiring middle-class punks Idles, leading to FWF frontman Lias Saoudi to pen an incredible thought piece on the matters, labelling the Bristol punks as “everything that is wrong with contemporary cultural politics.” It’s safe to say that Fat White Family are not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s okay with them. Their latest album may have impressed critics, suggesting that they were moving away from their heroin-fuelled shock-inducing previous efforts, however, their live shows prove that they are still ready to disgust, to disturb, to repulse.
As the band emerged onto the stage in one of Leeds’s most well-loved hangout spots – Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, everything seemed pretty normal, with Saoudi sporting a suave suit. The band began playing a track yet to be released before Saoudi disappeared from the stage, leaving the audience in slight confusion as the rest of the band played on. A few minutes later and the missing frontman returned, only now he was wearing nothing more than skin-coloured tight shorts to give the illusion of nudity, his whole body doused in some form of lubricant. Powering into the audience, Saoudi pushed his way through the unsuspecting crowd, screaming into his microphone whilst frantically running circles around us. After throwing his body against naïve audience members he laid on the floor, arse-up, head pressed to the ground as he continued desperately to screech, sing, scream – whatever you would prefer to call it. Once Saoudi returned to the stage, the band played ‘Wet Hot Beef’ which sent the audience into wild excitement. As I grappled to stay upright and find my friends that I had lost in the opening performance, the sheer insanity of Saoudi’s behaviour bled into the audience, making it one of the most intense crowds I have ever found myself in. Yet, unlike my panic-inducing experience at Amyl and the Sniffers, there was a much greater sense of community and friendliness that flowed through Fat White Family’s crowd – it was clear that everyone was in awe of the band, especially Saoudi’s incendiary stage presence.
The band charged through an impressively energetic setlist, playing hits such as ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach,’ ‘Touch the Leather,’ ‘I Am Mark E. Smith,’ and ‘Fringe Runner.’ Saoudi frequently returned to the audience, otherwise he could be found crouching on the edge of the stage, pouring water over himself and the front of the crowd (much to my dehydrated and sweaty joy), or throwing himself around in a passionate frenzy. Despite everything the band have been through in their twelve years – from homelessness, heroin addictions, breaking up, reforming, losing members, gaining them back – it is clear during their live performances that they enjoy what they do. I have seen few frontmen with the same amount of fervour and intensity possessed by Saoudi – and it was frankly inspiring to witness. Ending the set with ‘Bomb Disneyland,’ Belgrave was filled with chants of “all your kids are dead kids” and “dirty bomb Legoland” as sweaty bodies thrashed around to arguably the band’s greatest live track. I left the set covered in a collection of substances – beer, sweat, water, bodily fluids – a few bruises adorning my arms. A DJ set by Saoudi ended the night where unsuspecting Belgrave drinkers in the downstairs canteen were subjected to the sounds of hard noise and BABYMETAL. I spoke to Saoudi later on, who, now back in his suit shook my hand politely. You would not have believed that this was the same man who had paraded his oiled body around stage only a few hours earlier.
Whether you only know one song or Fat White Family’s entire catalogue, they are a band not to be missed live, and one you will not forget.