Friday, October 17, 2008
Having spent the past several weeks preparing CMJ coverage for Time Out New York, I was ready for a little change of pace, and I got just that last night. It's always refreshing to attend an event that would never in a million years be deemed cool by the Pitchfork crowd, and to see so many people enjoying themselves in such a completely infectious and unabashed way.
I'm talking about the NOFX concert at Irving Plaza (now know as the Fillmore New York, oddly). NOFX is a band that I only actively listened to briefly, back in high school. I was very avid enthusiast of pop-punk for a few years as a teenager, and though I don't keep up w/ the genre, I never wavered in my belief that NOFX's Punk in Drublic was one of the most enjoyable, not to mention extremely poignant records I'd ever heard.
Apparently the band thinks highly of that one as well, because they played a bunch of songs from it last night, including "The Quass/Dying Degree," "Reeko," "Perfect Government," "Don't Call Me White" and probably my favorite, "Linoleum." The latter is this awesome defiant anthem about taking pride in poverty. It seems worth throwing the lyrics up here:
"Possesions never meant anything to me
I'm not crazy
Well that's not true, I've got a bed, and a guitar
And a dog named Bob who pisses on my floor
That's right, I've got a floor
So what, so what, so what?
I've got pockets full of kleenex and lint and holes
Where everything important to me
Just seems to fall right down my leg
And on to the floor
My closest friend linoleum
Supports my head, gives me something to believe
That's me on the beachside combing the sand
Metal meter in my hand
Sporting a pocket full of change
That's me on the street with a violin under my chin
Playing with a grin, singing gibberish"
Frontman Fat Mike is a brilliantly unapologetic snotnose a lot of the time, but his writing also has this really tender philosophical quality. I love those last two lines--"That's me on the street with a violin under my chin /Playing with a grin, singing gibberish." He loves to portray himself as this sort of bumbling fuckup who can't get anything right. It was the same way at the show: After every song, he kept apologizing for all the mistakes he'd made and proudly proclaiming himself an alcoholic. At one point, he looked down at the drink caddy on his mike stand and noted that his vodka had been taken away, which led him to complaining that it had been confiscated by his roadies. He got it back after a few songs, though, and even if he was a little sloppy and hoarse, he put on a great show. That guy sings with absolute passion and for all his funny standoffishness ("Stop yelling stuff. I can't hear what you're saying anyway, so shut the fuck up."), he seemed genuinely touched by the huge turnout, and his thank-you at the end of the set was a very sincere one. Speaking of sincere, I loved his Obama plug. "Vote for the black man," he said at one point, simply and directly.
Guitarist El Jefe also deserves a special mention. He's sort of known as the silly guy in NOFX, and deservedly so. At the end of Punk in Drublic, there's this hilarious hidden track where he's imitating various cartoon characters like Yosemite Sam and Scooby-Doo, all saying the line, "This guy's more punk than me." Sounds dumb, but I got a lot of mileage out of that as a teen. Anyway, he's a hell of musician. Hefe played some really badass trumpet last night, and his supporting vocals (such as the incredible gravelly voiced intro to "Perfect Government") were intensely soulful.
Another thing about El Hefe that needs to be mentioned is that he truly shreds on guitar, which leads me to an interesting facet of NOFX: They're complete instrumental virtuosos. Hefe takes very extravagant solos constantly, and though the live show doesn't spotlight drummer Erik Sandin in that way, he's still an absolute machine. He favors this incredibly speedy version of the classic hardcore beat that incorporates a double-stroke hiccup on every other bass-drum hit, and it makes the beat really seem to hurtle along. And when the band plays their downtempo reggae stuff, which they did a little too much of last night, you can see what a great bassist Fat Mike is. What I'm getting at is that though they're occasionally sloppy, NOFX shreds. Over the course of their career, they've completely defied the idea that a punk band shouldn't be able to play. In fact, they're tight as shit and have been for years.
Also, there was something comforting watching the kids go apeshit over the band. I can't remember the last time I was at a show that had such avid singalongs. The entire place screamed every word to "Linoleum," for one. And most of the floor erupted into a giant mosh as soon as the show started. It was kind of annoying to fend off the jostling, but it was also inspiring to see people even wanting to move around that much. Add to that some good-natured loudmouths (one guy in the bathroom line was like--and I'm dead serious--"What's taking so long? You all got vaginas or something?") and you've got a rowdy, silly good time. Was this a totally obnoxious crowd? Yeah, but NOFX is sort of predicated on obnoxiousness. Overall, the show was a really wonderful respite from the oppressive hipsterdom that has reigned at so many of the other concerts I've attended over the past few years.