The crowd at Gas Monkey Live was in a festive mood as they waited for southern California punk rockers NOFX to take the stage. When the band did take the stage the crowd exploded. Mosh pits, crowd surfers, and general bedlam ensued. There was literally more beer thrown around as any show I’ve seen in recent memory. The mood was celebratory to say the least. The audience sang-a-long to every song and giggled at nearly all of front man Fat Mike’s between song chatter.
In 2013, NOFX played a show at House of Blue’s that the Dallas Observer criticized for Mike’s offensive and homophobic and racist banter; and even questioned the bands punk authenticity. Almost three years later, Fat Mike still pushes the line. He invited everyone who voted for Trump to leave, he mocked a fan near the front of the crowd who was wearing a Bad Religion tshirt, but “looked more like a Slayer fan,” and jokes about “Mexicans” and “Jews” were abundant. None of it came off as politically charged, intelligent, or punk. It just came off as Fat Mike being Fat Mike. Let’s not forget their 1992 album was titled White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean. Fat Mike wasn’t playing any kind of punk icon role, he was just the guy at the party with a microphone.
The only thing he did that pissed me off was the mocking of the dude who paid his money to see NOFX only to get ridiculed for “looking like a Slayer fan.” That was the most un-punk moment of the night. Judging someone by their appearance is the most immature and ignorant thing a 49-year-old man with a Mohawk can do. Total poser. What’s more, this is one of your fans! This guy bought his ticket and somehow made his way near the front to rock out with you and you make fun of him for looking like a Slayer fan? Fuck you.
The band played a set that spanned, damn…9 or 10 albums, including their most recent release First Ditch Effort. Playing the final date of the tour, the band possessed that quality you can only have with 20 or 30 shows under your belt. Everyone in the band knew what the other person was going to do before they did it. They were in such lock-step it almost looked effortless. Drummer Erik Sandlin was indefatigable and guitarists El Hefe and Eric Melvin were so crisp and precise it made the studio tracks sound sloppy. And while it is often overshadowed by his antics, Fat Mike is a damn good bass player. NOFX classics like “Linoleum” and “Leave it Alone” from 1994’s Punk in Drublic enthused the crowd, as did the new tracks “I’m So Sorry Tony” and “I Don’t Like Me Anymore” from this years’ First Ditch Effort. NOFX has probably done a half a dozen albums I haven’t heard as I’ve meandered between fandom and indifference over the years. But, I was probably the only one in the crowd who didn’t know every word to every song.
I think making judgments about how punk someone or something is isn’t punk at all. NOFX has written plenty of political songs and social commentary has always been part of their shtick; but NOFX is also really funny and the show last night just felt like a big party. I had fun. If you want to cast a critical eye towards their punk credibility, there’s one thing I know for sure: Fat Mike doesn’t give a damn what you think. If that makes him punk or simply an asshole is up to you. But, why let all that noise get in the way of a good time?
– J. Kevin Lynch