Waiting for NOFX to show up in NYC is like staring at a pot of cold water and waiting for it to come to a boil; you never think it’s going to happen. In the case of NOFX it seems like water boils faster on the west coast, Europe, and Australia.
I’m old. I grew up going to see Agnostic Front, Dead Kennedys, Descendents, and Murphy’s Law shows. Although I enjoy going to see the huge influx of new would-be punk bands that represent the broad spectrum of punk, punkish, and often not-so-punk music, there is an enormous mushy clot in my heart reserved for the old guard, and any chance to catch one of their shows is a real treat. Such was the case on Friday and Saturday nights when NOFX rolled into the historic Irving Plaza Fillmore East, a 1,200 capacity venue, 2 blocks away from Union Square in Manhattan.
2 bands opened up for the headliners; Old Man Markley, a self-described LA Punk/Bluegrass band founded in 2007 (signed to NOFX’s label Fat Wreck Chords in 2010), and Anti-Flag, formed in Pittsburgh, PA in 1988 – a real, no-question-about-it punk band of the purest order signed to various labels during their 15 years making records (first self-released album Rockin’ with Father Mike 1993), including New Red Archives, their own A-F Records, Go-Kart, Fat Wreck, RCA, and most recently, Side-One-Dummy.
Old Man Markley
The floor of Irving Plaza’s open (no) seating space was still filling up when, driving, legitimately inspiring banjo riffs signified that Old Man Markley was about to kick our collective asses with what I can only describe as American bluegrass-based rock. Punk? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever they want to call themselves, they brought it. Playing repertoire representing their 2 album discography including “Do Me Like You Do” and “In a Circle Going Round”, they did seem a bit miscast opening up for Anti Flag and NOFX, however.
24 year old Josh Berkhart assessed, “If they had opened up for Mumford & Sons I would have understood, but I was here to see NOFX – but they were cool.” As it turns out, later on during NOFX’s set I saw Josh again – he was the only crowd surfer to actually make it past security and onto the stage for a dive. Markley did have a passionately loyal following present though as evidenced by a number of fans singing the lyrics and “sort-of” moshing.
Old Man Markley has endured numerous lineup changes over the years, but arrived with their current configuration John Carey (lead vocals, guitar), Annie DeTemple (Autoharp, Vocals), Aaron Higgins (Drums), Joey Garibaldi (Bass, Vocals), Ryan Markley (Washboard), John Rosen (Banjo, Vocals), Katie Weed (Fiddle), and Alex Zablotsky (Mandolin).
Markley offered bright, incredibly tight harmonies, infectious good vibe, and such energetically pleasing twang that even the most jaded punk-loving attendees left the set feeling glad they were on the lineup.
Old Man Markley Frontman John Carey
John Carey, Annie DeTemple, and Ryan Markley
And then there was Anti Flag: cue the mosh pit and the spitting. It may simply be that I shave my head, but it felt like 1,200 people were trying to spit on me – which is a lot better than going to a Green Day show and feeling like 80,000 fans are spitting at me. More importantly and less contrived than the band’s proclivity for expectorating onto each other and their fans was their hardcore, straight up, no nonsense point: fuck the incestuous corruption of the establishment. Their energy was relentless, and they were on message.
On Friday night, among his varied inter-song repartee Justin Sane segued into “Turncoat” with, “This song goes out to a congress and a president that believes in taking care of bankers and brokers while they leave the average American behind to suffer! It’s four words my friends, ‘TURNCOAT-KILLER-LIAR-THIEF!” Later, in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests (thousands of individuals, celebrities, unions, and other sundry organizations conducting an outdoor sit-in to protest what they see as a number of corporate and governmental abuses) he implored everyone to meet him downtown the following day to join the effort and sing songs with him.
By way of performance, possibly the most inspired moment of the show was when drummer Pat Thetic (and a phalanx of security) moved his kit into the center of the mosh pit to play out the rest of the set surrounded by a suddenly befuddled and quickly frenzied crowd. Somehow it went off without a hitch.
Somewhere in there is Anti Flag drummer Pat Thetic playing drums in the mosh pit
Anti Flag delivered. Sure they’ve made some ducats capitalizing on a young audience whose only recourse beyond bands like AF are a variety of industry created punky boy bands. But like NOFX their music and lyrics are more thought-provoking and unique than derivative. Thankfully, a lifetime trying to survive in a competitive industry full of bubble gum punk bands has not morphed Anti Flag’s authenticity and turned them into a shiny pop turd. Their music, message, and performance took careful aim, fired, and struck us like a shotgun blast to the face. No one was disappointed.
Side note; Woody Guthrie’s famous guitar inscription and marching slogan “This Machine Kills Fascists” has been adopted by bassist Chris Barker’s ax and titles one of their songs. I just want to mention that punkers giving props to one of our founding folksters is hardcore goodness.
SET LIST: Saturday, Oct. 8
Death Of A Nation
The Press Corpse
War Sucks, Let’s Party
The Economy Is Suffering…Let It Die
One Trillion Dollars
Fuck Police Brutality
911 For Peace
This Is The End (For You My Friend)
Die For The Government
Power To The Peacful
Anti Flag frontman Justin Sane
Anti Flag guitarist Chris Head
As impatient fans anxiously awaited Fat Mike, El Hefe, Melvin, and Stinky, they cheered the rise and fall of a lonely balloon as fans slapped it into the air, and booed it as it fell back into the awaiting hands of the crowd until it finally popped resulting in a collective shriek of annoyance.
Now the floor was packed with punk fans of every variety; throngs of college kids amped to try their hand in the mosh pit, jailhouse skin heads planning to try their hand at decapitating those college kids, old timers like me who were wondering whether or not this might be their last hurrah in a mosh pit, and industry execs who loomed overhead removed from the impending chaos in the security of the balcony – I never go for the balcony if I really want to experience a show.
The excitement was palpable. Yes, yes, Anti Flag. But NOFX is about to come out, man. There’s no place we’d rather be.
I’ll tell you right up front that my sweater was torn off, I lost one of my sneakers, I was almost strangled twice by my credential lanyard, I suddenly found a crowd surfer’s sneaker in my mouth, the sound sucked, and they played badly – IT WAS A GREAT FUCKING SHOW – I’m not kidding.
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