If there’s one word for FIDLAR, it’s fun. I mean, with song titles like Max Can’t Surf, Wake Bake Skate and Stoked and Broke, it’s only natural to expect that you’re going to presented with tongue-in-cheek sardonism and whimsy...
I was surprised to find that the L.A. skate-punk band were going to be headlining at Rock City. Yes, the chronically online may have heard Sober or No Waves, but otherwise, FIDLAR lean more towards being a cult favourite than a star booking. They’ve been around since 2013, and certainly aren’t unheard of, but I was unsure Nottingham would have the appetite for them. Unfortunately, this was pretty much confirmed upon entering the room – maybe more could have been done to promote the tour? Or maybe the band just bit off more than they could chew.
What I can say though is that the fans that did show up, showed up. For the entirety of FIDLAR’S occupation of the stage, the pit was going wild. The gaggle of greasy, long-haired skater kids moved about with intense enjoyment. From an outside perspective, it looked like it was just one giant friend group sharing their love for self-deprecating slacker-punk. It was clear that the TikTok fair-weather fans were not in the room, but rather the FIDLAR die-hards, as I felt like a massive outlier not knowing every word to every song – it seemed everybody else did!
Sam Carper completely committed to the role of frontman, with a hefty dose of ferocity fuelling his vocals, joined by the rest of the band, strumming and drumming with great passion. I particularly loved the way the band sped up and levelled up the intensity during Nudge, delivering an impressively cohesive chaos with killer riffs and insane drum patterns. While they might sing about getting tacos at 3am, there is definitely a tightness to their set up.
Older tracks from their more intense drug-infused party days still sounded great from the band, who have stepped away from hard drugs and the same raucous scene. Carper’s chants of "I drink cheap beer! F*** you!" riled up the pit just as much as some of their newer tracks like By Myself. The latter track perfectly summarises FIDLAR’s music in a lot of ways – it’s an upbeat, energetic track that deals with party culture, sobriety or lack of sobriety and needing professional help. While FIDLAR aren’t on an outreach mission to steer people away from the drink and drug per se, their music seems to fall on the section of the journey between blacking out every other night and being entirely sober. They scream imperfection, energy and sometimes confusion, but in an entirely human way. I joked to my friend, "this is a big night for slightly problematic people."
The infectious fun that the crowd were having was a massive draw-in for the rest of the room – it was really hard to leave that gig without a smile on your face. The band didn’t talk that much between tracks, but Brandon Schwartzel, the bassist would bib in after every song with a incredibly comically high pitched "thank you" to wrap up the track. It was a dumb, tiny bit but one that really put me at ease and stuck with me.
In some ways, I’m glad that Rock City wasn’t packed out to the masses. Having that space for fans to enjoy the gig was actually really nice. It’s clear FIDLAR, even ten years on from the first album, are still striking a chord with their core fans.
FIDLAR performed at Rock City on 11 November 2023
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?