The funniest (and definitely the wrongest) moment in NOFX's show last night at the Fillmore came when Fat Mike prefaced "Arming the Proletariat With Potato Guns" by saying, "This is kind of a racist song, but it's okay if you're racist toward the people in your band." That was followed by bits about crossing a Mexican with an Octopus, Hitler committing suicide because of the gas bill and Erik Sandlin's grandfather dying in a concentration camp by falling off his guard tower. NOFX isn't a comedy troupe, but it might as well have been with the banter last night.
Beginning with "60%" and closing with "Kill All the White Man" -- twenty-three songs in all with only a brief break after the nineteenth song, "The Quitter" -- NOFX probably didn't exactly map out the dynamics of the show, but the flow seemed well chosen. But then again, when you've been at it for nearly three decades, you probably don't need strict planning except to make sure you can play the songs before going on tour or taking time out during tour to refresh. Last night, the guys made it look like they kind of rolled off the bus and made things up as they went along, and that made for a far more fun show.
NOFX it all seem easy. And as noted, this allowed for some inspired between song banter. Before "Mattersville," Fat Mike asked people in the balcony stage right if they had paid more money for the privilege of sitting there. Then he referred to them as the "one percent" and then let everyone on the floor know they were part of "steerage." Then he admitted that the band was part of the one percent too. After that he either got shocked by the mic or got bumped somehow and said, "Ow! That's my penance."
Between "Eat the Meek" and "Ronnie & Mags," Mike observed that it was amazing he hadn't been hit with a single shoe that night so far, seven songs in. Then he teased the crowd about throwing Nike's and flip flops and not wearing combat boots to the punk show. Hefe told him he was angry and maybe he was on pills. To which Mike quipped, "I'm not on pills; I'm on PiL."
Before "Herojuana," Mike was on a bit of a tear again and had the stones to tell us, "Your altitude sucks and your drugs suck." While some probably actually took him completely seriously and got mad, most laughed. After the song, Mike said, "You hit Jefe with a shoe, so that means we'll play 'Bob,' but not 'I'm an Alcoholic.'" Jefe, not to be outdone, said, "If you want to get the song back, you have to hit Melvin." Someone then winged Fat Mike's bass with a shoe and the sound reverberated through the speakers briefly, and that seemed to make him chuckle. Of course Melvin sang "Stickin' In My Eye" next, after which Mike told him, "You're the Barney Rubble of singing."
During "Arming the Proletariat With Potato Guns," apparently some guys must've been working themselves up real good in the pit because after the song, Mike pointed them out and said, "Thank you guys for slam dancing so much. You look tired. You look old and tired." Then jokes about the band's own age ensued before the guys got back to the music and played two songs from Ribbed, "Showerdays" and "El Lay."
After the break, the band came back on, and it turned out Jefe's guitar was not making sound, and so while he figured out what was wrong, the rest of the band teased some Journey with the riff from "Don't Stop Believin'." The guitar issues got solved relatively quickly, and the guys went into "The Separation of Church and Skate."
There wasn't too much joking at the end of the set. And one of the band's most sonically interesting, and drivingly dynamic songs in its catalog came second to last with "Cell Out." Afterward, Mike made a sincere thanks to everyone for still coming out to see the band. People laughed, but you could tell he wasn't just saying it out of habit. People expect sarcasm and joking with Mike, and understandably so, but you could tell he wasn't pandering. Going out with the "Kill All the White Man" with the mellow, reggae first half and the fast and furious punk rock second half was a great way to end a thoroughly enjoyable show.
Fort Collins' Elway opened the show with some pretty straight ahead pop punk. The way these guys played, it gave some dignity and strength to the usual subjects of the lyrics. That, and the guitar harmonics were a nice touch and gave detail in the mix. You could tell these guys were excited to be playing this show. Tim Browne noted that this was the biggest crowd for which the band had played. For the second to last song, the band asked for audience participation and actually got it. As part of his entreaty, Browne said that after the third time the band sang the chorus, the crowd should yell the lyrics and dance around "Like it's Pearl Harbor" (kudos to Mr Browne for the historical reference).
Teenage Bottlerocket from Laramie, Wyoming played the middle slot. During different parts of the set, a guy wearing what looked like a monkey mask came out on stage and held up a sign with words or the band's symbol, Ramones style, and danced. While it, too, was another variety of poppy punk, in the vocals you could hear a bit of the Misfits, and in the more intense sections of music it was reminiscent of early Circle Jerks. One song sounded like it had the same riff and rhythmic progression as "Blitzkrieg Bop" with different lyrics and later on, as though reading people's minds, the band did a bit of that Ramones original.
One of the guys brought his kid up to play ukulele for a thirty-second song, and he really went for it. We'll probably hear about this a lot from bands coming through for a while because of marijuana being made legal for recreational use in Colorado, but the band told us they had a new song they called, "I'm the One Smoking Marijuana, Motherfucker." The set ended with "Head Banger," and the band said its thank yous before leaving the stage and even had a "Thank you" sign.
Personal Bias: NOFX has written some of my favorite silly but smart punk songs of the last few decades.
Random Detail: Ran into Aaron Saye at the show.
By the Way: Fat Mike joked about the band's new album, Self Entitled, but it's actually pretty decent with some of the more reflective lyrics of the band's career.
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