After a whole year of so many different concerts, bands and gigs that I’ve been to (see here to see my other articles on various bands), I wasn’t holding out much hope for NOFX being any good live.
What I forgot is that they’re primarily a punk band, and like nearly every punk band (and riot grrrl band, for that matter), they ALWAYS sound better live.
I guess I wasn’t sure because I just didn’t know what could possibly sound better than NOFX’s recorded albums.
Well…. seeing them play live is a better experience. It’s like having someone playing your favorite music AND seeing them in person in front of you AND being surrounded by people who know their back catalog as well as you do AND do you know what’s better than that?
Fat Mike came on stage in a fucking MAID DRESS mauling his guitar like it was a toothpick and I could’ve died right then and died happy.
It was literally the BEST concert I’ve been to ever.
It’s like everything I wanted all those other concerts to be, everything I was looking for in this quest to see all the bands on my bands bucket list, it all culminated on this one evening in July.
I took my step-dad and my half-sister, against my better judgement, because while her and I have had a pretty big rift that got even worse after my mum died last year, I’ve never really had any huge issues with him after I got over the whole “you didn’t want me when you went for custody after the divorce” (he didn’t).
But we’re over that. And it was a milestone birthday for him this year so I decided to extend my good fortune of having enough time and money to go to concerts, and I bought 3 tickets for NOFX.
My half-sister didn’t really know who they were. But my step-dad did (I was brought up on metal and punk because he was the biggest ever metal fan when he married my mum then over the years moved more into punk; I still can’t listen to Sepultura or Slayer without cleaning my house, because that’s just what we DID on Sundays when my mum was still in bed).
I don’t know why I’ve always loved NOFX. I guess their sound reminds me of simpler times while their lyrics are so fresh and relevant (and I wonder whether my stepdad actually gets the lyrics).
Here’s some of their stuff (from one of my favorite albums – aw hell they’re all my favorite) in case you don’t know them:
From start to finish their gig was AMAZING. They were being supported by Lagwagon (who were the first band that Fat Mike signed to Fat Wreck Chords – aside from NOFX of course) and Alkaline Trio.
I thought Lagwagon were a good warm up band but their sound system was a bit loud (same as The Who – it was just so loud that it cut loads of the sound out of the audible range – what is the point of this?) as there weren’t enough people in the room by then to absorb all the sound, and they sounded totally different live than they do on their recorded stuff. I like them better recorded, they’ve got a good sound. They still had me bobbing my head though.
Alkaline Trio were a bit EMO if I’m honest. I thought their lyrics sounded very angsty and I was surprised because I thought they were one of the bands that was slightly more “out there” than NOFX. Like, proper American punk. Putting all argument about whether America has any “proper” punk aside because that’s elitist and it’s not my job to keep punk rock elite: That’s Fat Mike’s job:
After Alkaline Trio finished, there was an OBSCENE interval, in which my stepdad got VERY drunk (by normal people’s standards – not by his standards, he could’ve probably drank 3 times as much before he’d be as rowdy as he can get) and then complained that this is why he hadn’t seen NOFX when they’d played Blackpool’s Holiday In The Sun (or whatever it’s called nowadays. Google says: Rebellion Festival) – he just couldn’t be arsed with waiting around to see ’em. He also said that aparently NOFX were banned from this year’s Blackpool Rebellion Festival (the big punk one) because they’d been too offensive last year.
Too offensive to play a punk festival… whuttt???
Something to do with things they’d said being taken too seriously by festivalgoers.
Well, when NOFX came on stage and Fat Mike was punking his maid dress and Hefe was looking like he hasn’t aged since the early ’90s (in fact, they’re all doing pretty well in that regard), in between songs Fat Mike did make a few jokes which could have been taken to be offensive by the wrong crowd, so I guess if you don’t “get” NOFX then there’s no hope for you. Like, literally.
I say this in the full knowledge that my Dearest had seen NOFX at Leeds in 2004 and told me several times that they were “a bit meh.”
Fuck only knows what that’s supposed to mean. I thought they were the best band I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of bands.
Here’s a list of live bands that NOFX are better than (by me, Bender):
Motley Crue (but I’m seeing them again in 2 weeks so I’ll report back),
Slash (but only because NOFX has better lyrics than the old GnR stuff, if it was all like Anastasia they’d have to have a rock off for me to work out who was best),
Mallory Knox (by a country mile),
Marilyn Manson (by a country mile),
I’m seeing Alice Cooper on 4th November, Megadeth on 12th November, and Bob Dylan TOMORROW (24th October) so I will let y’all know how they size up against NOFX.
So what did they play?
Only the entirety of their album Punk In Drublic and when they started playing Linoleum I was just gone. GONE. Just… raving? Is that the right word? I was waving my arms and jumping up and down and banging my head and the whole universe just made sense and it all converged around a moderately sized man in his 40s wearing a maid dress and wielding a guitar, surrounded by other men in their 40s who were not wearing girly costumes and who were still equally mesmerizing. What impressed me most was that they knew their shit. They didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t lose their thread (unlike Bruce Dickinson when we saw Iron Maiden). They just sounded like they do on their records, but BETTER. That’s the first time I’ve said that about a band. My step-dad disappeared into the moshing and I later saw him crowd-surfing. They also did Franco Un-American and some other stuff I’ve forgotten because I was just totally lost in the experience which is why it’s taken me so long to get to a point where I could write about it. Putting it into words I’d say it experientially was like being in a BDSM scene. Which I’m patently bad at writing about (hence my other, VERY ADULT CONTENT DON’T GO THERE IF YOU GET OFFENDED BY BDSM, no reblogging, blog only having one proper scene write-up, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU –it’s here– NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED although much less extreme than loads of stuff out there) when it’s something I’ve experienced rather than using my experiences to write stories.
Speaking of which… I was intrigued by the maid outfit but I thought Fat Mike was being ironic: I didn’t know that Fat Mike was like BDSM’s biggest fan. Then I found this interview and when the guy asked him the question, “you’ve got your finger in many pies, what are you first, are you a musician first?” And he said, “Oh, no. If I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be, er…” [long pause] and I instantly thought about my own answer to that question, which would unequivocally be BDSM. I would literally abandon everything else going on in my life if it was a choice like that, stop writing, acting, traveling… anyway, I was whispering “BDSM, BDSM…” (the way you do when you know how you’d answer a game show question) then I took a gulp of tea, Fat Mike said, “BDSM” and I literally spat my tea. It happens around 28 minutes 30 seconds (although you can’t see me watching it and spitting my tea I guess).
I felt like such an idiot, there’s this punk guy being interviewed in a pink negligee with a chain around his neck fastened by a padlock and I totally MISSED the fact that he’s someone’s bitch. So anyway I did some googling and found out he’s actually married to a dominatrix (lucky him) and has a dungeon in his house (lucky him) and my respect for Fat Mike and all things NOFX just went through the roof. I thought S&M airlines (an album by NOFX) and all their dominatrix-themed shirts and him turning up to the gig in a maid dress and that song about Japan (Cool and Unusual Punishment) were all just another example of people incorporating BDSM imagery into popular culture. It happens a lot.
It gives me another reason to place NOFX at the top of my list as my all time favorite band. It’s like there’s this fundamental rightness to the sound of NOFX that I have only ever heard when listening to Bikini Kill. *stares off into space thinking about Kathleen Hanna’s voice and feels a bit sad that Bikini Kill aren’t still touring* Bikini Kill were, in fact, the whole catalyst that started me on this Bands Bucket List quest, because I felt it was such a tragedy that I never got to see them live on account of being FAR too young. I need to see NOFX again. Like, every day for the rest of my life.
Anyway this article needs an ending. We staggered out of the venue and then went on a hunt for some food and it turns out there’s a deficiency of fast food in Birmingham on a Sunday night. So I think we got back as far as Stafford before we found a McDonalds and ordered large quantities of dead animal flesh to fill our faces with.