NOFX House of Blues December 13, 2013
It's hard to believe that a whole 30 years have gone by since NOFX first started playing music together. I'm guessing the late-forties punkers are probably thinking the same thing. Consisting of the same core lineup of Fat Mike, Eric Melvin and Erik Sandin since 1983 (El Jefe joined in '91), these guys are the epitome of your DIY punk-rock band that was ever so popular in the 90's.
Surrounded by bands like Bad Religion, Pennywise, Rancid, Green Day and The Offspring, NOFX saw decent commercial success on a string of '90s albums, but really shone in the national spotlight with Punk In Drublic, now considered a classic in many circles. They've developed an impressive hardcore fanbase over the years, which was ever-so-present at their first Houston gig in nearly three years Friday to a packed House of Blues.
While many of my early years were spent listening to NOFX, I only had the chance to see them once when they played Warehouse Live back in 2008 -- long after my teenage affinity for the group had worn off. Still, seeing them was one of those bucket-list things for me, and had me shouting out "The Brews," "Don't Call Me White" and "Bob" among my many other favorites from their '90s best. This time was different. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in an "I already filled my nostalgia slot for this, and it's not as exciting the second time around" kind of way.
Thankfully, my roots run deep with NOFX, so it was still pretty damn cool to see them live again, and their playing didn't disappoint. They performed for a good hour and a half, which is a long-ass time with a catalog mostly consisting of sub-three-minute songs. And while they didn't play "Don't Call Me White" or "The Brews" this time, it was still packed with songs I used to bounce around my bedroom to at midnight on a Friday, allowing me to forget that my mom wouldn't let me stay out past curfew.
The crowd was rowdy, fueled by the band's shoutable anthems like "Bob" and "Perfect Government." It wasn't until after about five songs that the band finally stopped to say a few words. While they more than made up for it with a huge helping of stage banter throughout the night, they brought the energy from the get go with "60%," "Murder the Government" and "Franco Un-American."
But talk they did, about everything you'd expect NOFX to talk about. They let a young lady in the balcony know that everyone could see up her skirt, forcing her to quickly exit the situation (surrounded by jeers from the band). One kid in the front row was treated to a lesson in sexual situations throughout the course of the night, with Fat Mike and El Jefe teaching him the ever-so-charming Chili Dog, Pearl Necklace and Snow Ball. (Do yourself a favor, and don't Google those terms... or do; just know I warned you). After brandishing the terrible tag unto his parents, NOFX dedicated "Fuck the Kids" to the kid, as if the rest of the night wasn't lesson enough.
They touched on Christmas ("There really was no Jesus Christ... some Roman guy made him up... sorry to bum you out."), Houston ("We love your town... racism in America! Titties!"), Dallas ("You don't like Dallas because they're better than you") and lesbianism ("There's nothing wrong with a little cunnilingus every once in a while!"). They also didn't shy away from politics, religion or race, but I'll leave those at the show.
Review continues on the next page.
NOFX are pretty funny guys if you can take a joke, and their blunt personalities and crude stage banter are a huge part of what you're paying for. Some people might not approve of their taking breaks of several minutes to address their crowd and would prefer them ripping through a 40-song set, but this wasn't the show for them.
The second half of the show was a hodgepodge of punk, ska and dub numbers spanning NOFX's entire repertoire. Newer stuff like "Ronnie and Mags" and their not-so-cheerful holiday tune "Xmas Has Been X'ed" were draped by classics like "Linoleum," "The Seperation of Church and Skate" and "Louise," which featured "some lesbian chick" replacing Sandin on drums for the tune.
After a somewhat lengthy encore break, which found a lot of people heading for the door, they came back unassumingly. They gave us a "song they haven't played all tour" in "Leave It Alone," a cover of Tony Sly's "The Shortest Pier" and a set closing "Kill All the White Men" dedicated to the security guys in the pit.
It was fun while it lasted, but that was about how far it went. Although the banter was humorous in that 8th-grade fart joke kind of way, it was just not enough to keep this show going. People around me seemed a bit bored with the five-minute breaks while the band pointed out different flaws in society. The crowd even started to thin throughout the course of the performance.
But when NOFX did decide to play a song or two, it was actually pretty great. Even the new stuff sounded full of life. You could tell, though, as we all made our way for the door, those there for the music were a bit let down by how the night turned out.
Still, though, for some aging punk rockers, it was pretty damn good.
Personal Bias: When I was an angsty little teen, I was rocking NOFX on the daily. I still can sing pretty much every lyric from White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, Punk In Drublic and Heavy Petting Zoo. Try me.
Overheard In the Crowd: The lyrics to "Perfect Government" sung very loudly by the guy next to me to some poor soul on the other end of his phone. Front to back.
The Crowd: You know.
Random Notebook Dump: It's crazy to me that people throw $12 beers and $9 cocktails around the room. That's not very punk rock.
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