LIVE REPORT: Fat White Family

In a squalid Parisian venue, Jeremy Allen finds little instances of everyone in the Fat Whites.

Photo bu David Mah

The Point Ephémère venue on the Canal St Martin in the 10th arrondissement of Paris is as rough and ready as they come. Earlier in the day, a friend I’m meeting there in the evening casually mentions in an email that it has "the worst toilets in Europe" without any prompting from me. That’s if you can get to the toilets, which seem to have been annexed for a private party this evening. It’s okay though, you could probably get away with defecating where you like; the gig room smells pre-Haussmann, pre-sanitation, the kind of venue where if someone were to make a dirty protest up the wall, most of the assembled would consider it high art. A venue then, perfect for the Fat White Family, who look more at home here than any band I’ve ever seen.

They kick things off with the chain gang space rock fun of ‘Auto Neutron’, a far more aggressive beast alive than on record. Speaking of aggressive beasts, their backdrop is a pig with two prison tears, presumably tattooed to denote how many other pigs it has killed. It sits proudly or perhaps bemusedly throughout, fixing us with a marker pen scribbled gimlet eye, its head imposed above a black ink hammer and sickle, and you wonder what terrible atrocities that badly scrawled pig has witnessed over the months and years travelling around with the Fat Whites. If it was real it would surely be traumatised. After the first track, along comes ‘Is It Raining In Your Mouth?’, and Lias has removed his shirt and is encouraging Paris to collectively sniff his naked armpit. At the conclusion of the song, he kisses the guitarist with the enormous pork chops full on the mouth, and you wonder if this is what might have happened had the Wurzels taken a wrong turn.  

"I ordered a bottle of wine from the bar," comes a voice from the stage, "could somebody bring it to me, please?"

‘I Am Mark E. Smith’ judders and lurches like a glam rock lizard out to knife Showaddywaddy. The gloriously scuzzy ‘Touch The Leather’, which not only has one of the best videos ever made, but also has an insidious and slightly incongruous disco riff that climbs in through your ear and squats for weeks turning your furniture into firewood… well anyway, it’s received so heartily that the crowd actually falls over. The guitarist who looks like Bernard Butler gone to a fancy dress party as Mungo Jerry, downs the bottle of wine, falls on his ass, dribbles a bit and then dives into the crowd. In fact it’s fun to watch each member and construct them out of other famous people and fictional characters like a choose-your-own photofit. The bass player is the love child of David Hasselhoff and Henry from Neighbours, the other guitarist is a Doomlord Iain Lee with Bamber Gascoigne’s hair from the 70’s, Lias himself is Abel Magwitch had they invented crack back in the 19th century. It’s a great game to play along with the band that just keeps giving.

At the risk of repeating myself, the Fat White Family crackle with a danger that other bands just don’t pack anymore. They terrorise, and amuse and revile all at the same time, which is what real rock & rollers should do. They even bring their own brand of badly executed close harmonies that sound like errant monks coming to torture you; nobody else sounds like that, the mark of a great band. It should probably be noted that nobody actually forms bands any more because they can’t afford it, but the Fat White Family are there to make you feel better about yourself, because despite how utterly compelling they are, you wouldn’t want to be in their band would you? Would you?

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