While seeing NOFX always makes for an exciting and unpredictable evening, tonight’s show was extra special. This was the second of NOFX’s twenty-fifth anniversary shows being interspersed in their tour up and down the California coast. The fact that the band is older than me feels a little odd, to say the least. To make a point of this being a show about being around for a while, NOFX switched out their normal touring openers and brought out a few “old timer” bands for this show: Sin 34, Channel 3, and Youth Brigade.
I got to the Fonda just in time to catch Sin 34 nearing the end of their set. Sin 34 has always existed as a flier band for me, meaning I’ve seen their name on old posters, jackets, show bills, and whatever else from the ‘80s, but never actually heard them. As such, all I really knew about them is that they have a woman singer. I made it into the main room just as the band was finishing up. By the time I had my camera out, they were done. I wasn’t even able to get an idea of what they were like. I think I heard them playing Iggy Pop’s “I Got a Right” when I was walking in, though, which I’ve never heard a bad version of, so they’re alright by my book.
Channel 3 was up next. I’ve seen Channel 3 probably four or five times over the years, but seeing them once is probably enough for me. The band does have several really great songs, all of which they played (i.e. “I’ve Got a Gun,” “Manzanar,” “Wet Spots,” and two songs I would say are probably tied for best punk rock power ballad, “Indian Summer” and “I Should of Known”). The main problem with Channel 3 is that they’re not very exciting live. They don’t move much, their songs aren’t particularly intense, and there’s no real element of unpredictability to their show. They strike me as sort of being the dependable bar band of Los Angeles punk, who you don’t dislike and will watch when they’re on, but you’ll never go out of your way to see. The crowd did get a pretty raging pit going though, and the band played a cover of the Cramp’s “Goo Goo Muck” in tribute to Lux Interior, whose death was announced earlier that day. That said, I’m pretty good to go on my Channel 3 live quota for a long time.
Next on the bill was Youth Brigade. I’ve probably seen these guys over a dozen times at this point, but I still get a little buzz of excitement every time. Tonight’s show was special for Youth Brigade, as they had Johnny “Two Bags” Wickersham playing second guitar just like when To Sell the Truth came out (lately, bass duty has been taken over by Joey Balls rather than third Stern brother, Adam). The two-guitar Youth Brigade is something I’ve never seen, since I was only eleven when To Sell the Truth came out, but it added an extra kick to the set. The band rolled out the hits like “Violence,” “Men in Blue,” and “Punk Rock Mom.” Oddly enough, I don’t think they played one of their most popular songs, “I Hate My Life.” I also wish they would play “Believe in Something” just once, since it’s one of their best songs. The crowd was going appropriately ape shit though, as evidenced by the multiple times I got crushed by crowd surfers. The band closed out, as always, with “Sink with California,” which should probably go on any decent ‘80s SoCal punk mix. The main complaint I have with Youth Brigade is that, as much as they still play out, they really need to write some new songs. I think the last album they released was a split in 2000. Nine years should be more than enough time to pound out a few more tunes.
An interesting time was had waiting for NOFX to come on when the drunken ex-sorority girl tried to punch another girl in the face for dancing next to her (and not slam dancing either, more like unobtrusive pogoing). It was sort of awesome to watch one of the huge bouncers who watched the whole thing chase the girl after she bolted. Sometimes, one has to wonder what people expect when then go stand up front at an extremely crowded punk show and expect the jam-packed crowd to kowtow to them and their unrealistic personal space needs.
The Liberal Animation NOFX came on and ripped right into it with former member Dave Cassillas manning his old guitar spot alongside Fat Mike, Erik Sandin, and Eric Melvin. The band played a few oldies like “Beer Bong” before Casillas smashed his guitar (an SG style guitar with a weird vine design), and cheerfully handed out the various parts to the crowd. Between the dude’s huge smile and blue spiked hair, he kind of resembled the punk rock version of the Joker. Steve Kidwiller quickly moved in with his Telecaster and thus began the S&M Airlines and Ribbed portion of the evening. The band busted out some choice cuts like “Moron Brother,” “Together in the Sand,” and “Green Corn” before Melvin’s guitar started to crap out, making for some awkward banter time. Fat Mike took this opportunity to accapella some Bad Religion for the crowd. The band got on its feet again and played a couple more songs with Kidweller before El Jefe (or as Fat Mike called him “the good Mexican in NOFX”) came out to take his place.
With the present lineup now onstage, the band kept going with the chronological album thing and busted into songs from White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean and then Punk in Drublic, Heavy Petting Zoo (which Fat Mike called their worst album), and So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes. The band also played their version of Rancid’s “Radio” (Which Fat Mike said was the best song NOFX does). From the last couple of years, the band played “The Separation of Church and Skate” (Which Fat Mike called the best NOFX song that NOFX actually wrote), “Franco Un-American” and “Seein’ Double at the Triple Rock” among others. Somewhere in all of this, Fat Mike’s bass broke down and there was a completely gratuitous encore chill-out break after NOFX re-emerged in their original three piece lineup and played the super early songs “Six Pack Girls” and “Ant Attack.” Interestingly enough, the evening ended with the band and road crew coming out and lip-syncing along to the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from Avenue Q. Considering the amount of choreography that must have went in to that, it might have been the tightest number of the night, and was a fine way to close out the evening.
Questions, comments, stunning observations?