Words by James Lavel
If your head is pounding, your eyes are blurry, and your ears are ringing, there’s a good chance you were at NOFX last night at The Fortitude Music Hall. After over 40 years, NOFX played their final Brisbane show ever last night, and it was glorious. I have seen this band every time they have made the hike down under since ’07 and once again, they did not disappoint.
This was their second show in Brisbane in as many nights, and the venue was buzzing. The Brisbane punk scene never fails to impress me with their sense of community and camaraderie, and tonight, they were out in force.
Kicking the night off was Brisbane locals VOIID. It was great to see some local acts get to share the stage with punk rock royalty and I could tell they were stoked to be there. This band was everything cliché about the 90’s: baggy pants, coloured hair, and a “shove it” attitude. To be honest, I couldn’t help but feel like I was listening to Garbage or watching Daria, perhaps just my age showing here. VOIID ripped through a quick set that showcased their brand of grunge pop? Is that a thing? I guess it is now. VOIID have been smashing the scene over the past few years and have amassed a hefty following, if you are a fan of The Pixies or early Smashing Pumpkins this band just might be able to fill that VOIID.
The Bennies took the stage and jumped straight into Detroit Rock Ciggies quickly reminding everyone we were here to party. Anty, in his red and black pinstriped pants, jumped around on stage like a madman, swinging his arms and playing the keyboard with his forehead. He was joined by a different line-up from the last time I saw these guys, but I have to say, they absolutely nailed it. They moved through Heavy Disco and Legalise (But Don’t Tax) and a handful of new songs that did not disappoint. Including a ska song with a breakdown “who would have thought a ska band was more hardcore than a hardcore band”. The Bennies are the ultimate party band seamlessly blending punk, ska, dub and rap into their set. I was not expecting to see a circle pit at a punk gig, let alone for an upbeat ska band such as these guys, but that’s exactly what happened while Anty stood triumphantly on the stage with a grin ear to ear. The room was a sea of movement by the time they played Party Machine; the perfect finish to a fantastic set.
No matter how many times I see NOFX, I still get giddy waiting for them to take the stage. Last night though I couldn’t help but feel sad about it all, knowing this would be the last time I would get to see a band I had grown up listening to kind of sucked. That is until they took the stage. Mike shuffled his way to his microphone – “who was here last night? Tonight’s going to be way worse” – and busted straight into Dinosaurs Will Die. NOFX live is 45% punk rock, 45% comedy show, and 10% mistakes and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This set was jam packed! They quickly smashed through: Murder The Government, Bob, Stickin’ In My Eye, Kids of the K-Hole, All Outta Angst and a stack more songs showcasing their monstrous back catalogue. In between each song Melvin, Hefe and Mike cracked jokes about people wearing New Balance to a punk gig and laughing at all the mistakes they made in previous songs. Hefe busted out the trumpet and they played Eat the Meek before moving through more of 1997 album ‘So Long and Thanks for All The Shoes’. The stage was jam packed with VIP ticket holders huddled in every corner. The Bennies may have brought the party, but NOFX were the kick-ons that you never want to end. Sadly, this was the end I was reminded of as the band took “a piss break”.
“We weren’t doing drugs”, Mike proclaims as they return for the second half of the show. They slipped straight into some ‘White Trash Two Heebs And A Bean’, with Soul Doubt, a personal favourite of mine. Watching Eric Melvin on stage is always a blast; for a guy that’s been doing this for so long he still employs the energy of a 20-year-old with his signature jumps. Erik “Smelly” Sandin is really the heart of this band. No matter what amount of chaos is happening in the front he manages to keep everything in time while laying down some of the best damn punk beats you have ever heard. Crowed surfing was in full swing by this stage with flailing limbs framing the stage in front of me. The addition of Karina Deniké on keyboard and vocals was a great touch especially when Karina jumped up for some lead vocals on Champs Elysees. NOFX played I’m So Sorry Tony, a touching tribute to the late Tony Sly. Alas, it was time for the show to come to a close, but not before NOFX played all 18 mins of The Decline. I couldn’t think of a better song to end this final ever Brisbane show. Wrapping up 40+ years of music into two shows is no easy feat but It’s safe to say no one was left disappointed and it felt like a perfect send off to one of the most important punk rock bands of our generation.
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