Review and photography by John Bentley

Fat White Family at Preston

Every now and again there is an iconic gig that stays forever in the memory. So it is with Fat White Family at Preston tonight. FWF have a bit of a reputation for incendiary gigs, so the expectation is there from the outset. As it turns out, tension is there from the very start, with the venue doors finally opening well over an hour after schedule, due to late and extended sound checks. There are anxious faces all round among venue and band staff, as the doors stay shut and the length of the queue outside grows.

Meatraffle at Preston

The support band, the very interesting experimental London ensemble Meatraffle, finally get on stage around 9.20pm. I won’t try and categorise them, but suggest a listen to their tracks on Bandcamp. Meatraffle members are Zsa Zsa Sapien, Tingle Lungfish, Cloudy Truffles and Fats McCourt, names which would surely put them in the running for an audition for Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band.

Fat White Family at Preston

There’s been a long history of ‘outrage’ in rock. Back in the 1960s the Rolling Stones were considered pretty degenerate, so much so that ‘the establishment’ set out to ‘get them’ in the famous 1967 Redlands drug bust. Jagger and Richards were briefly jailed, of course, but nowadays Jagger is Sir Mick, a respectable Knight of the Realm. Then you’ve got Iggy Pop’s famous lewd performances with the Stooges, Nick Cave’s self-destructive antics on stage with The Birthday Party and the brief, violent and shambolic audience-baiting early gigs of The Jesus and Mary Chain. So there is quite a history of rock outrage and little that hasn’t been done before. And all these artists are, of course, now revered.

Fat White Family at Preston

So on the face of it there’s nothing particularly newly outrageous about FWF. On stage they may get their kit off, have on one occasion smashed their instruments after a bad gig, they swear, stage dive and play aggressively. They are highly political and pissed-off with the often conservative rock establishment. They consciously confront taboos, seem to cultivate a degenerate and sleazy reputation and make provocative statements. Their songs are about the darkside of life. Lyrics are often controversial and down to the bone, dealing with subjects that include paedophilia and oral sex (in songs like ‘Cream of the Young’ and ‘Is it Raining in Your Mouth?’) and revolutionary politics (‘Bomb Disneyland’). They even have a spin-off version of the band, The Fat White Manson Family, which plays covers of murderer Charles Manson’s songs.  Needless to say their record artwork and videos are not always in the best possible taste.

Fat White Family at Preston

However, what’s different about FWF is that they do outrage with deep passion and conviction, not the pastiche and false rock and roll posturing that you see with so many others. They do outrage in overdrive. They are angry and they mean it.

Fat White Family at Preston

FWF are a band I had to see. As background to the review I did a trawl through FWF’s music, live footage and videos on the internet. The videos are meant to shock and disgust and in the end I found them a distraction, so I just listened to the music with no visuals, which is really what it all should be about. And their music’s darn good, with an impeccable pedigree. Recognisable influences include The Velvet Underground, The Birthday Party, The Fall, Captain Beefheart and The Cramps.

Fat White Family at Preston

It’s around 10.30pm when FWF finally get on stage. Three band members have had new ‘skinhead’ haircuts, so they are looking extra menacing tonight. FWF has also had personnel changes and extended to a seven-piece, including adding a saxophone player who is dressed like a refugee from the ‘Trout Mask Replica’ era Magic Band. The drummer and bass player first take the stage and play the intro groove to new track ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’, as the rest of FWF file on. ‘Auto Neutron’ follows, an acid-drenched psychedelic dirge reminiscent of The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Fat White Family at Preston

Vocals are shared between the band’s frontmen with, the soon stripped to the waist, Lias Saudi taking most of the singing duties. It’s a bit tight for seven band members on the small stage, but it’s helped by Libertines-style shared microphone technique. It’s not long before Lias dives into the crowd and is carried around the hall over their heads before returning to the stage.

Fat White Family at Preston

FWF’s on-stage set list shows that they are intending to play ‘old favourites’ from their debut album ‘Champagne Holocaust’, singles like ‘I Am Mark E Smith’ and new tracks like ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’, from their shortly to be released new album ‘Song For Our Mothers’. However, things start to go wrong towards mid-set. The vocals can’t be heard because the PA system has gone down, but FWF carry on. Then it appears that electric shocks are being received off the microphones, probably not helped by the beer that Lias has drenched over the stage and the mosh pit. Lias puts a sock over his mike, but this obviously isn’t going to help much. After a couple of songs it’s clear that all is not well and, having played for about 40 minutes, the band leaves the stage without any warning.

Fat White Family at Preston

It’s all a rather delightful shambles and the stuff legends are made of. With the lights still down, people aren’t sure if the show is over or if this is part of it. An audience member grabs a microphone lying on the stage and calls for “more”. The band’s road manager angrily grabs the mike back and disconnects it. It clearly is over and, as the lights finally go up, bemused people gradually start to wander out.

Fat White Family at Preston

So it’s been quite an evening. Watching FWF on TV at the Glastonbury Festival last June, it looked like they were turning into a relatively professional and conventional rock outfit. However, as tonight at Preston shows, anything can still happen. So catch them while you can. They’re touring again in 2016 and they’re still raw and in your face. In years to come they may be advertising butter on TV, but come see them now and remember them this way.

One Response to “Fat White Family + Meatraffle at The Continental, Preston, Lancashire, UK – 13th December 2015”

  1. john bentley Says:

    P.S. I should have mentioned that Dale Barclay of The Amazing Snakeheads has been playing with FWF on the tour and can be seen here in the pictures from Preston.

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