It has been raining for weeks. Where once there were streams there are now rivers. Where once there were rivers there are now people’s living rooms, their framed pictures and old vinyl floating in flooded cellars. And on a grim Saturday night in socialist members’ club The Trades Club (est. 1923, sponsored by neither beer company, energy drink nor phone network) where there should be bodies there is the occasional gap in a crowd, left by people stranded in their hill-top hamlets, unable to make it down to see one of the few guitar bands in Britain today worth leaving the house for.
Hebden Bridge has been described as “a drug town with a tourist problem”, a place that has reinvented itself from the soot-blackened, post-industrial nowhere hole of the 1960s into a place of radicalism, where non-corporate small businesses thrive, old anarchists reminisce and ex-hippies and punks come to age disgracefully. A small Labour Party-owned club run by committee along strict ethical lines but a relaxed and welcoming door policy seems the perfect venue in which to see a band with radical streak and who, like the best of their musical ancestors, continue to divide opinion.
A lot of music fans I know – people who pride themselves on being true music heads – hate Fat White Family. They say they have seen it all before and dismiss them as hip scenesters (though any scene they are part of is surely self-created), conveniently forgetting that most fifteen year old kids who growing up on Yorkshire farms or in the suburbs of Middlesbrough or in a brutalist tower block in East Kilbride have not.
Guitarist and band founder Saul Adamczewski – an individual who resembles a rickets-stricken Dickensian street urchin in dire need of a second, third and fourth bowl of gruel – is missing tonight, replaced by Dale Barclay from the late, great The Amazing Snakeheads. Dale has a face like a flick-knife and sweats meth; he’s also one of Scotland’s great unknown rock stars, Alex Harvey-meets-Franco Begbie. When he screams in the face of keyboardist Nathan Saoudi from the distance of two inches, the latter looks genuinely scared for his life…