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[whitespace] Big as the Stones

NOFX stays young by not taking its role as skate-punk legend too seriously

By David Espinoza

IN ONE OF MY FAVORITE movies, The Commitments, about an Irish-soul band, manager Jimmy Rabbit conducts a mock interview with himself while lying in bed, asking, "In your wildest dreams, did you ever think [your band would be] this big?" "To be honest, I did." "As big as the Rolling Stones?" "Who the fuck are they?"

Such are my sentiments when it comes to America's quintessential skate-punk band NOFX, which sold out the Catalyst two nights in a row (last Wednesday and Thursday), only in this case the Rolling Stones are Blink 182, and the proper question should be "Blink 182? Who the fuck are they?" Unless you wanna feel old, let's not pinpoint the exact year NOFX first made its way onto L.A.'s '80s punk scene. Let's just say that Mr. T was still pitying fools, a chump actor similar to the president we have today was in the White House and a young band named Bad Religion was beginning to generate some underground buzz.

Unlike its aging contemporaries (Bad Religion in particular), NOFX has never really taken itself seriously--perhaps it's the band's secret to staying young. To put it another way, NOFX has never aspired to be anything more than a bunch of ganga-smoking, drunk-ass, slovenly jerk-offs, hence the group has never let us down.

And talk about influential: NOFX practically invented the suburbanite punk sound--a combination of Minor Threat machine-gun drumming (no raw screaming, though), spoiled juvenile vocals and simple melodic guitar lines, provided the band ain't too drunk to remember them. It's the same sound dished out by countless boarder bands from Pennywise to that Blink one-eighty-something crew and has made NOFX a staple in every dude and dudette household. If you check out pictures of Operation Ivy in action circa 1988, there are NOFX stickers on the drum set.

At the show on Wednesday, the band started right in with talking smack before even playing a single note. "Chances that we play good tonight are about 30 percent," guitarist El Hefe (the boss) exclaimed to a crowd of hormone-pumped teens rowdier than English soccer fans. His remarks were only met with enthusiastic screams and jock-type offerings like "You suck!" "This song is for the kids," El Hefe continued. "Fuck the kids!" and the pit combusted like Saturn Café on New Year's Eve. When it comes to talking up a mountain of trash, no one is spared at a NOFX show, and Fat Mike and El Hefe did their best to entertain/piss off anyone and everyone in the crowd.

Fat Mike had the props too, bringing on dirty undies and an inflatable love-lamb. The biggest cheers came when the guys dished out an obligatory anti-hippie remark, a thinly veiled jab at Santa Cruz. Hippies are, of course, punk rock's oldest piñata, because capitalists and bankers are way too heavily protected. Whether or not the kiddies smelled the irony when Fat Mike brought out the trumpet for some old rasta-time reggae (i.e., hippie music) is unknown. One thing's for sure, when it comes to making dirty jokes, noise, and basically living as perpetual teenagers, NOFX has the best job in the world.

The Ruins Are Coming, Look Busy!

Right about now, we should all be holding vigils outside the Rio Theatre in anticipation of Japan's absolute imperial rulers of metal-experimental noise, the Ruins. For almost three years now, disciples from the Santa Cruz area (I believe there are three or four of us, not including the Lowdown) have been tearing our hair out waiting for the wicked "God of Thunder and Lighting" drumming of Yoshida Tatsuya. Rumor has it that Tatsuya, prior to performing, must hammer a nail into the stage just to keep his bass drum from sliding away. A new album just came out last month, and the Ruins hit the Rio on March 30--bring a bag for hyperventilating.

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From the March 7-14, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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