My fondest recollection of Skipton’s Beacons festival came arguably during its last hurrah on a wet and windy Sunday evening back in 2014.
The tail end of hurricane Bertha had rendered the main big-top unsafe, a clearly disgruntled Mark E Smith ushered off stage by health and safety, the Fall’s main set reduced to just three and a bit songs.
In the adjacent and still functioning marquee, Fat White Family proceeded to deliver a deliciously deranged, filthy and furious performance, giving the sticky finger to mother-nature as the elements threatened to lift the canvas into outer space, the poor beleaguered chap on the sound desk hunkered down like someone stood on the bow of a North Sea trawler during a force ten; the irony made complete with the performance of signature number ‘I am Mark E Smith’, the person in question angrily twiddling his thumbs less than 100 yards away.
In the five intervening years, numerous side projects aside, Fat White Family have been through the mill somewhat. Nevertheless, the core creative trio of frontman Lias Saoudi, kid brother Nathan on synths and wandering minstrel, guitarist Saul Adamczewski remain. Now signed to Domino records, coinciding with adopting an altogether healthier lifestyle, their third long-player ‘Serfs Up’ sees the band moving away from attempting to capture their live combustibility on record, instead trading riffs for grooves, creating a more laid back sound whilst maintaining their trademark sleazy, noir underbelly.
Headlining a packed Brudenell for the finale of the two-day Gold Sounds Festival, the venue perfectly suits their unique brand of live chaos, a full house already warmed up by a raucous performance from Swedish proto art goths Viagra Boys; not quite your typical Scandinavian images of rude health, perhaps they were kidnapped at birth and raised in Glasgow. With the atmosphere almost palpable, the Brixton crew emerge with the somewhat gloomy yet expansive ‘When I Leave’, the penultimate track from new album ‘Serf’s up’, creating somewhat of a phoney war atmosphere you get when a band opens with a new album track.
Frontman Saoudi, stripped to the waist as usual, looks like he’s frequented the same barber as Travis Bickle, completely shorn apart from a few scruffy tufts sticking out the back of his cue-ball noggin. The second offensive begins with ‘Tinfoil Deathstar’ and the mayhem ensues, bodies flying about stage front as we’re then treated to another rendition of the tribute to the late great Mr Fall.
Assailing a mini-gong during the squalid ‘Bobby’s Boyfriend’, I’m reminded of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse now as new album opener ‘Feet’, again showcases the band’s desire to shift towards a funkier feel. The woozily infections ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’ resembles Sparks doing Duane Eddy and closer ‘Bomb Disneyland’ is the best Fall record Mark E Smith never wrote.