Unceremoniously stamped hands displaying Potterrow’s infamous ‘Big Cheese’ logo trail up the banisters to the venue’s The Venue on this Thursday evening. Everything within the space is somewhat conflictual from what is normally expected; from the crowds of older men in leather jackets scattered around, to the complete rinsing both bars of draft lager, and the impressive stage setup, replacing the usual source of Big Cheese’s deplorable tunes with room for this septet.
Fat White Family, in their great number, mooch onto stage, with cigarettes dangling from lips and an immaculate wardrobe between the seven of them. White vests, moustaches and trousers pulled up far beyond one’s waist are markers of their post-punk temperament. Taking initiate, members of the audience are quick to light up a smoke in what one can only perceive as solidarity. Potterrow takes on an alien characteristic as it fills with the smell of tobacco and teenaged anticipation. The familiar chords of ‘Auto Neutron’, from the band’s first album Champagne Holocaust, ease Potterrow into their set. The chorus of “We are, we are” from the band, atop of hypnotic electronic guitar melodies set a hymn-like tone, with the band on stage the objects of worship.
Lead singer Lias Kaci Saoudi drags himself offstage and the crowd looks on as he mounts the barrier, serenading those around him, until he drops off the other side, and he becomes part of the crowd himself. Shirt hanging off his shoulders and microphone wires twisting around his torso, he launches himself into the chaos. The crowd swallows him only to spit him out, over and over, until the song is over and he once again takes his place on stage.
As 2014’s single, ‘I Am Mark E Smith’ rolls around, the energy in the room has rocketed. Merely a handful of songs in and members of the crowd have abandoned shirts, and sweat glistens off everyone directly in front of the stage. “Leave the kettle on” drawls Lias Kaci Saoudi, and the tussle of an audience moves around frantically, mosh pits forming and reforming constantly. As the opening beat of ‘Fridge Runner’ begins, the vigour of the room reaches a peak, and as its unmistakable bassline kicks in, the crowd takes on wave-like motion. A sequence of strobe-like lights flash as the song’s signature, harsh guitars begin, and the temperature of the room is exponentially elevated. ‘Touch The Leather’ generates similar levels of fever, with a chorus of both teenagers and older dudes singing out its sex-dripped lyrics.
‘Goodbye Goebbels’s measured and somewhat romantic, slow-danceable nature triggers a rush of the sweaty to retrieve water from Potterrow’s VK-framed bars. The crowd seems to share a long breath as it sways to the sound of one of the set’s most composed songs. Returning to the frenzy with Serf’s Up!’s ‘I Believe In Something Better’, it is made apparent that this is a solitary moment in which the band chose to relent from their frenzied performance. As their lead singer returns to the stage following a brief unexplained absence – other band members speculated to a heart attack, believable, given they’re rumoured to be enamoured with heroin – he announces that he had disappeared for a sh*te, following “some dodgy venison” from earlier in the day.
With the set drawing to a close, the half-dressed, heavily perspiring teenagers occupying the crowd take one last draw of some poorly hidden poppers and light up another cig. “Is it raining in your mouth?” demands the ragged voice of Lias Saoudi.
It seems, on the whole, that despite Serf’s Up! being one of their most grown-up efforts to date, that Fat White Family have succeeded in retaining their hedonistic live act which shrouded them like a myth throughout their careers. The set was feverish, chaotic, and everything one could have hoped for from a night out at Potterrow.
Image: Umberto Rotundo via Flickr