New York

Live: NOFX Get Drunk, Cuss at People


BB King Blues Club
March 1, 2006

This post is about music; go other places if you’re looking for other things. If I seem a little more scattered than usual today, though, you can probably figure out why.

Fat Mike, midway through NOFX‘s set: “How many of you are under 23?” Pretty surprisingly, it was less than half the crowd, but hands still went up. “We’ve been a band for 23 years, so chances are that, four of you, I’m your dad.”

Fat Mike must be in his 40s now. He’s done a lot of things in the past 23 years: founded and ran a successful indie label, started a semi-annoying all-goofy-cover side-project, launched a quixotically dedicated web campaign to get George W. Bush voted out of office. Still, though, he’s basically spent the past two and half decades telling dick jokes to teenagers and yelping bratty songs about cheap liquor and porn. I can’t tell if that’s a great life or an exceedingly depressing one, but he seems to be enjoying it.

Another line from last night (paraphrased; I wasn’t taking notes for once): “You guys know the Dropkick Murphys are playing like two blocks away, right? That means we’re going to have more fun than they are, but their fans are going to have more fun than you.” NOFX still has fun: coming out onstage with Ash Wednesday crosses on their foreheads even though two of them are Jewish, visibly getting Guided By Voices levels of drunk, inviting Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson from backstage to sit in on an impromptu cover of “We’re Only Gonna Die.” All four members of the band have crazy chops; they busted out their epic multipart 18-minute “The Decline” as their opener. But their form of pummelingly snotty California skate-punk hasn’t remotely matured since the band started.

Theoretically, this should make NOFX the most irritating band on the planet, especially since hundreds of bands have utterly bit their whiney vocals/sugary hooks/dumb jokes/budda-budda drums style. (And since the band itself has been complicit in this wave of mediocrity; plenty of the worst offenders have been signed to Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords label, including openers Lawrence Arms and the Only Ones, both of whom I missed.) But it’s impossible to stay mad at this band; it would be churlish to attack four dudes who approach the whole punk-lifer thing with such a goofily big-hearted smirk, and their hooks are smart and merciless enough to squash any remaining doubts. This could be nostalgia talking, but there’s something inspirational, almost moving, about the way they’ve stuck around for so long, lasting through years of obscurity to see their whole scene blow up in the mid-90s and utterly fading away to ghettoized obscurity once again, all without making any changes whatsoever.

I was expecting the crowd’s median age to be maybe 17, but no; most of the crowd wasn’t far from my age (26). So maybe an entire generation has, like me, grown up on this band, and maybe these people came out of the woodwork to go see the band that helped to get them through their awkward years, but most of these older dudes still new all the words to the recent material I’d never heard before, which is some kind of crazy dedication that I can respect but maybe not understand. They still go fucking nuts, too, which is 90% of what made last night the most fun I’ve had at a show in ages. When you’ve been studiously avoiding moshpits for a few years and then you step back into one, a few things come flooding back pretty quickly: the utterly fucking disgusting sensation of being smushed up against the sweaty hairless back of a bare-chested fat dude (something like being trapped under a dolphin), the crazy mid-air 360 pirouette you sometimes have to do to maintain your balance, the abject terror of falling down and being unable to move followed by the immediate relief of being picked right back up. It feels pretty stupid to be writing “moshing is fun” on my blog in 2006, but every once in a while, seems like it’s good for the soul.

Voice review: Michaelangelo Matos on NOFX and Rancid’s Split Series/Volume III

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