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Over the years I have come to see NOFX perform at several different venues: The Marquee Theater in Tempe, Emo's in Austin (pre Cokie the Clown pissing in a tequila bottle incident), Sunset House of Blues, The Grove in Anaheim, Soma in San Diego, The Glass House in Pomona, many a Warped Tour, etc... It's not even like they are one of my favorite bands, but goddamn are they entertaining.
The recipe for a NOFX show is simple: Fill a smallish venue with double-fisting, punk rock t-shirt-wearing 20- to 30somethings, have bands from the Fat Wreck family as the opening act(s) and make sure Fat Mike, bass and vocals, El Hefe, lead guitar, vocals and part-time trumpeter and Eric Melvin, guitar, are all well hydrated. Meaning: have enough alcohol on stage so that they won't run out during the show. No alcohol for drummer Erik Sandin though - he's been sober for 19 years. At least that is what Fat Mike told the crowd Thursday night, but he was quick to point out that "I say a lot of things, but people don't always believe me." Typical.
Thursday's NOFX show wasn't the best effort I have ever seen, but it definitely wasn't one of their worst. We'll call it par for the course. In the aforementioned show at Emo's in Austin Fat Mike decided that the band would only play half of any given song. It not only aggravated El Hefe, Sandin, and Melvin, but the crowd quickly turned on them and Fat Mike couldn't care any less if he tried. "Tonight we are called Half FX," Fat Mike said defiantly. Thankfully, this evening they decided to play all 26 songs in their entirety.
On this particular evening it was clear that the older the song was the more people sang along and appreciated it. Anything off of White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, Punk in Drublic and So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes got the crowd raising their $9 dollar beers and got them singing and swaying in unison. Tracks like "Linoleum," "Bob," "Murder the Government," "Eat the Meek," "Leave it Alone" and their rastafied cover of Rancid's "Radio" were received with open arms. If the crowd was anything like me (and I think a lot were) we could have listened to a set full of songs pre-The War on Errorism album.
One constant that has gotten better over time is the NOFX onstage banter. For some it's annoying, a gentleman in front of me kept yelling, "Play the next fucking song already." But for the rest it's understood that it is all a part of the NOFX experience.
Exchanges like the following happen all show long:
El Hefe: "If you are a Mexican and you drive an Escalade and the cops stop you it is automatically assumed that you're a drug dealer."
Fat Mike: "Well, didn't you used to sell crystal meth?"
El Hefe: "Whatever. That was a long time ago. I'm better now."
Fat Mike: "Hey Hefe, do something Mexican."
El Hefe: "Hola Amigos yo soy El Hefe."
Some of it is funny, some of it is not, but a show without it wouldn't be a NOFX show.
Though this evening Fat Mike and company were a tad sloppy, sometimes uninspired and didn't play some of their staples ("Kill All the White Man," "The Brews" and "Don't Call Me White" come to mind). Yet it was still an excellent way to spend an evening. (Plus it is always fun when Fat Mike singles out a fan and decides to rip on him mercilessly.)
Fat Mike: "Look at this Kenny G lookalike. Seriously, who the fuck let you in here? If this were the '80s you'd be dead and we'd all be laughing at you."
Random Notebook Dump: For as many times as I have seen NOFX nothing beats the time I saw them 2004 when they brought Jello Biafra out on stage he sang the first few bars of "Police Truck." Can Biafra find a band and play a set full of Dead Kennedys songs already? Please? Anybody?
Critic's Bias: This show would've been much better had I had a half bottle of Jameson, a vodka tonic and a handful of beers beforehand.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "How's my Mohawk look?"
"We Called it America"
"Leave it Alone"
"Murder the Government"
"Quart in Session"
"Radio" - Rancid cover
"Seeing Double at the Triple Rock"
"Insulted by Germans (Again)"
"Fuck the Kids"
"Pimps and Hookers"
"What Now Herb?"
"Cokie the Clown"
"Eat the Meek"
"Dinosaurs Will Die"
"Stickin' In My Eye"
"Bottles to the Ground"
"Theme From a NOFX Album"