with Lunachicks, NOFX at Avalon
by Scott Hefflon
This is now. This is fresh and happ’nin’. Everyone is young, filled with energy, brimming with health and vitality. I wonder if this is now, with no (or at least few) scars of yesterday, because for this audience, there was no yesterday. This is all they know.
I feel like a relic. This is a pop culture community I am not part of. I almost feel guilty for being old and angry. I feel like an obligatory footnote, added grudgingly for historical perspective, into an ongoing social commentary. I thought punk rock was about anger, rebellion and change. I thought it was, at least, about anarchy and/or fucking up whatever system happened to be in vogue, in power, at the moment. I thought wrong. Punk rock is a community like any other.
Snuff plays British pop punk with horns and keyboards. English bar rock, sing-a-long, raise your beer (or non-alcholic beverage of choice) to the celebration stuff. That’s all I really noticed; they played early and I was busily drowning my melancholy in a dark, rank-smelling liquid that tasted suspiciously like Nyquil.
“Hi, motherfuckers!” The Lunachicks launched right into “Ring and Run.” While not my favorite song on CD, it was short, fast, and interactive live. They’ve always been far better live than on any record yet. Avalon did what Avalon is good at: Charging ungodly sums of money for everything from tickets, drinks, and even water ($2.50? Get the fuck outta here!), but offered a great live show and, by far, the best sound system in Boston. Lunachicks lapped up the massive bass thumpings that rumbled every organ of every member of the crowd. The Lunachicks looked gorgeously trashy, and showed not a wrinkle or stress line, even after being angrily on tour for fuckin’ years. “You want me, don’t you?” And yeah, we all do. “Butt Plug” was a crowd pleaser, but was so fast and throbbing with bass, it was barely more discernible than “Bubble Butt” by M.O.D.. Back up vocals (if I may abuse the term) by the bassist and the guitarist with the two-tone hair was more pleasant than your everyday shout-along chorus thing; it was like being a peeping tom into a pajama party of girlish banter. They all look fit and fuckable, yet bitchy enough so that you best be sure of your come-on, or else you might lose a testicle. “See ya, love ya, and fuck ya.” A great way to bid adieu, but no encore of “More Than a Feeling” this time around.
(Needless between set soliloquy.) Seeing NOFX now is like seeing Kiss anytime after 1980-something. I don’t know, you just, like, missed it. It’s like watching the video version of a cult classic movie from a few years ago. Thank God Cobain killed himself. Nirvana would still be pumping out albums far inferior to Bleach and Nevermind. Pure brilliance occurs so infrequently (especially while under contract) that most bands should, at least symbolically, have one member commit suicide every so often. The surrounding cells cannot rejuvenate without the death of fellow cells. Evolution, baby. Is this a generation of ecstasy addicts, or are these kids just naturally happy? How un-punk. Excuse me, my aged bitterness is showing again.
Allow me to tuck my jaded opinions back in and smile the blissful smile that will allow me to fit in. …Nope, it doesn’t fit. Christ, six shots of Jägermeister and I still can’t look happy. My scowl is a little out of focus, but it’s still a far cry from any indication of enjoyment. (A bartender graciously invites me to stand in a corner behind the bar. Now I feel like an errant school boy shoved into a corner. A better view, I must admit, and now I’ve got that distantly objective thing going on.)
Fat Mike strolls onstage. “Hey, I don’t know where the rest of the band is. I’m just gonna hang out here for a while. You can put the music back on.” Red light. Stop. Green light. Go. A little interaction with the soundguy goes a long way. Killing time with humor. “Hey, we’re playing a show here. So we better play something.”
They launch into “Don’t Call Me White,” and the wait is over. Rush the stage! A minor pit erupted, but reduced to crowd surfing and that sway thing within moments. Perhaps this is the new dance craze? Huh, looks kinda passive from here. Maybe I’ve just grown so used to eating elbows I kinda transfer my taste onto this New Generation of Well-Behaved Punks®. Say, did you know Fat Mike is actually a good bassist? I thought he hired someone to come in and play all the tricky parts. “Shower Days” (a song close to my stinky heart) proved me wrong. Mike tells the tale of a fine Boston memory: NOFX pulls up to the Slapshot van as they cross the Boston/Cambridge bridge, introduced themselves, and passed CDs and stuff over to them. As Mike retells it, Slapshot threw the stuff out the window and drove off. Years of therapy ensued, I’m sure.
“Bob” was a crowd-pleaser as you might well expect. I’ve never heard the word Oi! so much in a single song. Never. Mixing the hair-fling thing, beautiful trumpet segues, and the driving drums of stadium punk… Ah, one hears such sounds and what can one say but NOFX? The “For Your Love” intro to “Johnny Appleseed” was a cool kind of, um, something. Great parody accents and all sorts of mimickry. Fun for the whole family. The pit broke out to “Moron Brothers,” as it should’ve. The top harmony by señor guitarist (and much, much more!) was a great effect. Fast and furious, broken up only to harmonize better than most processed rock bands can muster live. “They’ll go down in history, or at least on your sister, and your mother…” Then, as these darn “punks” so often do, someone spit at the band on stage. The Sex Pistols may have encouraged such behavior, but Fat Mike just doesn’t like it. He’s said so repeatedly, but, again, some asswipe spit at him. “Who did that? Somebody must have seen who did that!” Mike leapt into the crowd, bass and all, after the rude little fucker. Bouncers scurried. Once back on stage, he offered a bit of perspective, “You spit in my face on the street, I’ll kick your ass. Same thing on stage, motherfucker.” To regain composure, they played “Perfect Government.” The song is a bona fide rebel anthem and has the word “fuck” a lot. To wit: “Even if it’s easy to be free, what’s your definition of freedom? And who the fuck are you, anyway? Who the fuck are they? Who the fuck am I to say? What the fuck is really going on? How did the cat get so fat?” It’s not often a band can hit the mark so well AND say the word fuck so often. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” is pretty fuckin’ good, too, but I digress. Next, NOFX treated us to a love song. I know this mainly because Mike introduced it thusly, “This is a love song.” Upon receiving gasps of shock, surprise, and other assorted emotion of the ilk, he encouraged, “Hey, it’s OK!” Well, if you say so Mike. So they played “Hot Dog In A Hallway.” It’s about luvin’ fat chicks. (Pretty much the only song off the new album, eh guys? Heavy Petting Zoo (Epitaph) is a great, bitter album and all, but I agree – the older stuff is classic.)
Then came “Liza and Louise.” Ya know, I take back the Kiss comments. As the band members and road crew throw out many, many inflatable fuck ewes (say it a few times, you’ll get it), I realize; yeah, they rock. They rock fucking hard. Even on the new stuff. They’re bitter as all fuck, but keep that dark humor. They play with such spite, such sarcastic venom, that they make the glossy sneer of the young ‘uns look like the unfounded fashion statement I always suspected it to be. “Kill All The White Man” had the mile-thick reverb on vocals and drums you’d expect from reggae. Better than the record! Fat Mike finished the punk rock ending with that patented punk snarl. Others may imitate, but Fat Boy is one of the originals and will successfully fend off come-latelies for a long time coming. Wendy O. Williams (of the Plasmatics) did the dripping sarcasm of one of my favorite songs of all, “Lori Meyers.” I don’t know what it is about this song, but the frustration hits me every time. Watching an old friend fucking up his/her life, and you, helpless. Your efforts spurned, told to go save someone else, and who made you a fuckin’ saint? I’m doing just fine, so fuck off. I need a drink. Fade out – launch back in. They don’t want the song to end; brilliant. “Boy, she sounded good!” they crooed. But she was fully clothed. No tape on the nipples. Ah, the past.
God, they’re crowd-surfing to the shwaltzy version of “Straight Edge!” Have they no sense of perspective? Grab your partner and swing, baby, swing! Toast your bottled water to clean living and all that jazz. The “baa, baa, baas” they sing never made so much sense as now. Ah, but they slam to “Linoleum” and reality is righted, or as close as it was before. Here we go! Riot! Slam! No form! There is the incredible buzz of overloading monitors. Is the drum mic farting? Harmonies mixed amid the belches and screaming guitars. “Something Sticking In My Eye.” Ah, yes, the pit explodes on command.
“OK, here we go. Hup. OK. Yup, here we go.” The profound stage banter of NOFX. Words cannot describe the rambunctious ribaldry with which they rant. Pure and fuckin’ simply, they rock my lame ass. “The Brews” (Oi! Oi! Oi!) got that nasty guitar sound just right. This song just plain needed to be done, it’s day had to come, “We’re the Brews, sportin’ anti-swastika tattoos.” Ya gotta love it. “Come on, mates! See you at IHOP!” They had the shortest encore response time I’ve seen at any live show ever – they never left the stage. And I was all set to chant “NOFX! NOFX!” (It doesn’t translate too well to print, but it sure is fun to yell. And for once, people wouldn’t look at me all funny. I feel gypped. This was the time, the place, robbed.) “Did you ever go to sleep with Bo Derek and wake up with Marvin Lane?” I’ve never understood that, but I’m not really sure I want to. Come on, bitches, dance! A bit of whatever that song is that goes “Love or leave me, but let me be lonely, ’cause I’d rather be lonely with you, than happy with somebody else.” The crowd probably knows it from, what, Thelma and Louise? Nina Simone, I believe. Sure, this is the radio-friendly version with keys masquerading as piano, but Nina is too cool for words. Know it, love it, live it. Pass it along to those less fortunate than thou.