October 10, 2011
It was definitely a strange start to the evening, pulling into the parking lot of the VFW across the street (I’d rather shell out cash to the cool old vets than the Starland crew) from Starland Ballroom to witness the return of NOFX, who dragged along vets Anti-Flag and newer act Old Man Markley on tour this time out. Apparently, the crowds of punk lovers have gotten increasingly younger than they were when I first stumbled into the scene in 2000, either that or smaller. I constantly passed groups of early teens and what appeared to be mini-people pre-gaming the show, and I definitely felt the age gap (which isn’t much in my case), until I stepped inside the venue. Because when you’re at a punk show, everyone is equal…as long as you’re not a dick.
Old Man Markley was the first band up. A large punk/bluegrass outfit hailing from California that offered tunes which constantly rang of the Dropkick Murphys, only with a more traditional roots-based slant. Although they played well and seemed to hold their own with the audience, the much-needed direct connection between band and audience (which goes double for punk shows) was not there. I have never cared for that type of roots-infused punk, and from what I saw a good portion of the crowd didn’t either. However, that’s not to say that they didn’t play out well and put on a good show. Although it wasn’t my musical preference, they certainly did not suck.
Next was the increasingly “political” act Anti-Flag, fresh off a set at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. I have never liked their overly political agenda, with constant lyrical cries of “Bah! Government bad, police brutality everywhere, financial disarray, Wall Street is EVIL MANNNNN”. Their views constantly overshadow what many times can be great musical chaos, and this night was no different. Truthfully, while I do understand the things they reference in their lyrics, even going so far as to occasionally agree with their complaints (yes, Wall Street bad, police need to chill out sometimes, don’t let the Government abuse its power), it still seems that after all the years of their staunch political existence, they continually fail to understand that the kids they are preaching to genuinely do not understand the subject matter of the songs or why the band believes what they do. They continue to play out songs dripping in leftist beliefs with anthemic qualities, because as long as the rebellion is catchy, the fan base will love it. Otherwise they played a crowd thrashing set, making that ever-crucial band to crowd connection that the Markley’s couldn’t quite develop.
The kings of the evening were of course NOFX, who never fail to disappoint when they come to town. With their usual style of ‘drink, drink, set list selection, crowd request, crowd insult, random song’, they took complete control of the room, almost making the crowd forget that there were any opening acts to begin with. The band never fails to put on a good show, continually delivering multiple sets littered with old favorites, newer tunes and random covers, carried by their distinctive sense of humor, which is borderline retarded by way of asshole. And I mean that it a good way. One could not have asked for a better set list for the evening, which included such venue destroyers as “Fuck the Kids,” “Stickin’ in My Eye” (my personal favorite), and my favorite song of the night “Bob,” which is ten times as silly when you see it played live. The Awesome Award for the evening goes to guitarist El Hefe, who amazingly managed to juggle guitar shredding, horn playing and drinking heavy amounts of beer, sometimes simultaneously, and never screwing up. And with the appearance of an extra-extended crowd participating version of “Theme From a NOFX Album,” the chaotic evening came to a sad, but inevitable close. Shows like this are nearly a thing of the past these days, but when Fat Mike and Co. show up, you feel like the punk scene is alive and well.
Just a word of advice guys: next time, play “You’re Bleeding”.