Nottingham Rock City
Given their 20 year history Iíd consider myself a relative late comer to NOFX as after a few odds and sods on compilations it was only after getting their "Pump up the Valuum" album say 3 years ago that I finally got how good they were. Seeing as this was their first tour in 6 years and that with an over 14ís show (ranging up to over 40ís!) people are obviously "getting" them all the time so I didnít feel quite so bad.
The sweatbox that is a packed out Rock City seemed full of chattering anticipation which wasnít much interrupted by The Epoxies. Theyíve had a little hype recently but struck me as slightly more style than substance, all wrapped up in tape and with matching strip visor shades (Seemingly confirmed by 2 of them talking to each other on the exit corridor at the end, hoping to be treated like the stars they were as everyone passed unfazed). The girl singer was at least lively, jerking about the stage, high kicks that came close to the face of the quirky/annoying keyboardist, connecting would have given a bit more to remember. The music had a retro 80ís feel, like an edgier Blondie or a more straightforward Souixsie, there was some quite good chorus harmonies but very little to actually catch my interest. Not even the bubble machine. ("Iím the prince of fookiní darkness")
A much better reception for the Swinginí Utters and outbreak of considerably pit mayhem indicating what was still to come. Again, despite their long life I hadnít heard any more than their name before, another US punk band. The music was pretty straight up punk, ably led by the raw vocalist, sounding a little Oirish and giving them a touch of the Pogues or the whole raft of other Irish-American sing-a-long pub punks. To be fair though they had a bit more impact than cliché, the set seemed to pick up in the second half, with some stabbing guitar breaks and excellent catchy lyric hooks to songs like "Tell me lies", "Next in Line" and "Teenage Genocide". They definitely actively helped whip the crowd up for the headliners and are well appreciated in their own right
Wrestling another beer from the bar back to the floor didnít have much time to enjoy it before NOFX took the stage, under the banner of the clown Dubya, just one element that summed up perfectly well their perfect balance between comic entertainers and purposeful punks. "Burn Down the Government" straight into "Dinosaurs must Die", things unsurprisingly went mad, and I was quite battered in the fun-time mosh. Attempts were made to create circle pits maelstroms but these soon collapsed under the surges of the sea of bouncing souls all around. On with "Franco-Unamerican", "Green Corn", Bottles to the Ground" and "Whatís the matter with parents today?" The whole show seemed to be conducted in the spirit of the big cheesy grin on Fat Mikeís face, pop-punk in its purest form. And only the other week I was saying it did nothing for me, just goes to show if itís done right itís fantastic. I would even go so far as to describe them as the anti-Busted. Everything thatís wrong with those corporate whores is right with NOFX, they are DIY on a massive, influential scale, they have meaning and humour in their songs, and they have charisma in spite of being ugly(!). But tonight the music has such an incredible clarity and polish as well as the catchy tune I canít see how anyone can not be caught up in liking them. While I wouldnít describe this as my favourite band or even my favourite genre I am simply blown away by the brilliance of it.
Sure, they do cock up some bits occasionally but theyíre constantly self-deprecating not only about that, but even about entire albums in their back catalogue. Some of the banter can seem a little staged at times but they do actually engage with people in the crowd, and itís good to hear they prefer this to a bigger venue like Brixton the previous night. Someone asks Fat Mikes opinion on George Bush Ė derrr, "we could bring out the list from back stage or just do 5 songs about it instead?", great to hear massed voice sing-a-long to the awesome "Idiot son of an asshole", genius. Guitarist El Hefe takes big vocal parts (as well as trumpet breaks) for sleazy lounge blues "Straight Edge" and their own dub reggae classic "Kill all the white man", some passing herb knocks me for six with perfect timing. In the thin air rocking and rolling sauna Iím tripping out on how good this all is, fortunately they are mixing song tempo to give slight respite to us without the stamina of youth! The twisted humour of "Louise" and "Oops I O.D.ed" also gets an airing.
Finally an appropriate anthem to finish on, "Theme from a nofx album", everyone joining in its celebratory refrain, winding up with an endless accordion solo from other guitarist Eric Melvin. While plectrums are chucked out and farewells made he goes on and on and on. The lights go up, he still goes on. He builds to a climatic ending. He carries on. Repeats about four times. Thereís no need for an encore, we are happily, if bizarrely, entertained. Show of the year for me, so far.