Under the neon glow of God Bless Deli 2, the ironic bodega next to satan-loving metal bar Saint Vitus, a keyboard hit the sidewalk with a thud. Its case, if you could call it that, was mostly made out of packing tape; the red ‘fragile’ warning repeated in its many wrapped layers, which held some damp-looking cardboard in place like a mummy. Its handler was the driver of the car, who was already grudgingly reaching for the next piece of equipment, eager to find his next fare. Another tattered case met the pavement. If you didn’t know who was playing that night, you might have guessed that a drifter threw all of his earthly belongings into an Uber, then left him with the mess and fled for the bar. But there was one small detail that told the full story – and even struck a few knowing onlookers with a pre-show thrill: the words ‘Fat White Family’ scrawled in messy black letters on each piece of the heap.
If you’re one of the fans who has already given Fat White Family a distant branch on your own family tree, then you know how the boys like to travel. The South London punks, who have snagged American headlines for everything from dick pics to Nazi imagery and even their own bodily smell, are as real as it gets. And you’ll be relieved to hear that they don’t seem to be cleaning up too much – even after this year’s controversial new album, Songs For Our Mothers, thrust them into the public eye with more prominence than ever, coaxing A-list guests like Lady Gaga out to their infamously-rough shows. But if you’re longing for the days of their lesser-known, underground debauchery, fear not. Fat White Family’s surprise show at Saint Vitus this week, announced just before they left the country for Portugal, was filled with all the filth and fury we know and love. If it had gone on much longer, it would have also been filled with plaster and rafters from Saint Vitus’ ceiling.
It was their very first song that lit the fuse: a “Tinfoil Deathstar” so psychedelic it left the impressive studio version in the dust and the outside world far behind. Embracing the all-encompassing volume of the tiny venue, the band brought the song’s ascending progressions to death-defying peaks, each one untangling loudly and rapidly before it morphed into something new. All the while, Lias Saoudi, who was, strangely, still wearing a shirt, eased into the sinuous verses like he was waking from a long slumber (with the show running well after 1am, he probably was). But when the chorus came, something snapped – for everyone. Lias was gnashing his teeth and howling, Saul Adamczewski’s vocals were piercing his with perfect contrast, and the sound was exploding, palpably, searching for space, quickly making its way into the muscles and skulls that filled the darkened room. Fat White Family’s opening song had left the big, bad Saint Vitus crowd in a haze of racing pulses, darting eyes, and suffocated breaths. Lias took his shirt off. The show had begun.
With fast favorites like “Is It Raining in Your Mouth?” “Whitest Boy on the Beach,” “Touch the Leather,” and “Bomb Disneyland” inciting an equally barbaric response, the tangled knot of fans struggled and squirmed like an insect under a rock. In the excitement of the show, they embraced their new reality; a human antpile, more or less, with fists flying and bodies rolling overhead, one body in particular almost tearing down a projector and the metal rig it was hanging from. But Fat White Family’s slow, sleazy trips seemed to fan the flames even more. The wriggling crowd freed their fingers to the surface for “Satisfied,” “I Am Mark E. Smith,” “Auto Neutron,” and “Cream of the Young,” pointing them straight in the face of Lias as they screamed along to his every word.
If the band was enjoying the attention, it was just barely perceptible. The brutally-loud musicians were notably silent between songs, and completely disinterested at the audience’s plea for an encore. But perhaps that’s Fat White Family’s greatest quality; a trait even finer than not giving a fuck. They’re really just here to play.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley