My favorite band: NOFX live in Birmingham 2015

After a whole year of so many different concerts, bands and gigs that I’ve been to (see here to see my other articles on various bands), I wasn’t holding out much hope for NOFX being any good live.
What I forgot is that they’re primarily a punk band, and like nearly every punk band (and riot grrrl band, for that matter), they ALWAYS sound better live.
I guess I wasn’t sure because I just didn’t know what could possibly sound better than NOFX’s recorded albums.

Well…. seeing them play live is a better experience. It’s like having someone playing your favorite music AND seeing them in person in front of you AND being surrounded by people who know their back catalog as well as you do AND do you know what’s better than that?
Fat Mike came on stage in a fucking MAID DRESS mauling his guitar like it was a toothpick and I could’ve died right then and died happy.

Can you tell it's from before I got my new camera?
Can you tell it’s from before I got my new camera? Click to enlarge.
Fat Mike in a maid dress while Hefe plays the trumpet for the trumpet solo that he plays why is my internet taking so damn long to finish uploading this stupid picture it's still terribly slow I don't know when we are getting it fixed but this is taking far too long to upload and if I stop typing it'll blank this caption when it finishes fucksake why won't it fi
Click to enlarge. Fat Mike in a maid dress while Hefe plays the trumpet for the trumpet solo that he plays why is my internet taking so damn long to finish uploading this stupid picture it’s still terribly slow I don’t know when we are getting it fixed but this is taking far too long to upload and if I stop typing it’ll blank this caption when it finishes fucksake why won’t it fi

It was literally the BEST concert I’ve been to ever.
It’s like everything I wanted all those other concerts to be, everything I was looking for in this quest to see all the bands on my bands bucket list, it all culminated on this one evening in July.

I took my step-dad and my half-sister, against my better judgement, because while her and I have had a pretty big rift that got even worse after my mum died last year, I’ve never really had any huge issues with him after I got over the whole “you didn’t want me when you went for custody after the divorce” (he didn’t).
That bit.
But we’re over that. And it was a milestone birthday for him this year so I decided to extend my good fortune of having enough time and money to go to concerts, and I bought 3 tickets for NOFX.

My half-sister didn’t really know who they were. But my step-dad did (I was brought up on metal and punk because he was the biggest ever metal fan when he married my mum then over the years moved more into punk; I still can’t listen to Sepultura or Slayer without cleaning my house, because that’s just what we DID on Sundays when my mum was still in bed).
I don’t know why I’ve always loved NOFX. I guess their sound reminds me of simpler times while their lyrics are so fresh and relevant (and I wonder whether my stepdad actually gets the lyrics).

Here’s some of their stuff (from one of my favorite albums – aw hell they’re all my favorite) in case you don’t know them:

From start to finish their gig was AMAZING. They were being supported by Lagwagon (who were the first band that Fat Mike signed to Fat Wreck Chords – aside from NOFX of course) and Alkaline Trio.

I thought Lagwagon were a good warm up band but their sound system was a bit loud (same as The Who – it was just so loud that it cut loads of the sound out of the audible range – what is the point of this?) as there weren’t enough people in the room by then to absorb all the sound, and they sounded totally different live than they do on their recorded stuff. I like them better recorded, they’ve got a good sound. They still had me bobbing my head though.

Alkaline Trio were a bit EMO if I’m honest. I thought their lyrics sounded very angsty and I was surprised because I thought they were one of the bands that was slightly more “out there” than NOFX. Like, proper American punk. Putting all argument about whether America has any “proper” punk aside because that’s elitist and it’s not my job to keep punk rock elite: That’s Fat Mike’s job:

After Alkaline Trio finished, there was an OBSCENE interval, in which my stepdad got VERY drunk (by normal people’s standards – not by his standards, he could’ve probably drank 3 times as much before he’d be as rowdy as he can get) and then complained that this is why he hadn’t seen NOFX when they’d played Blackpool’s Holiday In The Sun (or whatever it’s called nowadays. Google says: Rebellion Festival) – he just couldn’t be arsed with waiting around to see ’em. He also said that aparently NOFX were banned from this year’s Blackpool Rebellion Festival (the big punk one) because they’d been too offensive last year.
Too offensive to play a punk festival… whuttt???
Something to do with things they’d said being taken too seriously by festivalgoers.
Well, when NOFX came on stage and Fat Mike was punking his maid dress and Hefe was looking like he hasn’t aged since the early ’90s (in fact, they’re all doing pretty well in that regard), in between songs Fat Mike did make a few jokes which could have been taken to be offensive by the wrong crowd, so I guess if you don’t “get” NOFX then there’s no hope for you. Like, literally.
I say this in the full knowledge that my Dearest had seen NOFX at Leeds in 2004 and told me several times that they were “a bit meh.”
Fuck only knows what that’s supposed to mean. I thought they were the best band I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of bands.
Here’s a list of live bands that NOFX are better than (by me, Bender):
Iron Maiden,
Slayer,
Anthrax,
Slipknot,
Muse,
Kiss,
Billy Idol,
Motley Crue (but I’m seeing them again in 2 weeks so I’ll report back),
Slash (but only because NOFX has better lyrics than the old GnR stuff, if it was all like Anastasia they’d have to have a rock off for me to work out who was best),
Mallory Knox (by a country mile),
Marilyn Manson (by a country mile),
The Who,
Steeleye Span,
Judas Priest,
Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I’m seeing Alice Cooper on 4th November, Megadeth on 12th November, and Bob Dylan TOMORROW (24th October) so I will let y’all know how they size up against NOFX.

So what did they play?
Only the entirety of their album Punk In Drublic and when they started playing Linoleum I was just gone. GONE. Just… raving? Is that the right word? I was waving my arms and jumping up and down and banging my head and the whole universe just made sense and it all converged around a moderately sized man in his 40s wearing a maid dress and wielding a guitar, surrounded by other men in their 40s who were not wearing girly costumes and who were still equally mesmerizing. What impressed me most was that they knew their shit. They didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t lose their thread (unlike Bruce Dickinson when we saw Iron Maiden). They just sounded like they do on their records, but BETTER. That’s the first time I’ve said that about a band. My step-dad disappeared into the moshing and I later saw him crowd-surfing. They also did Franco Un-American and some other stuff I’ve forgotten because I was just totally lost in the experience which is why it’s taken me so long to get to a point where I could write about it. Putting it into words I’d say it experientially was like being in a BDSM scene. Which I’m patently bad at writing about (hence my other, VERY ADULT CONTENT DON’T GO THERE IF YOU GET OFFENDED BY BDSM, no reblogging, blog only having one proper scene write-up, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU –it’s here– NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED although much less extreme than loads of stuff out there) when it’s something I’ve experienced rather than using my experiences to write stories.

Speaking of which… I was intrigued by the maid outfit but I thought Fat Mike was being ironic: I didn’t know that Fat Mike was like BDSM’s biggest fan. Then I found this interview and when the guy asked him the question, “you’ve got your finger in many pies, what are you first, are you a musician first?” And he said, “Oh, no. If I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be, er…” [long pause] and I instantly thought about my own answer to that question, which would unequivocally be BDSM. I would literally abandon everything else going on in my life if it was a choice like that, stop writing, acting, traveling… anyway, I was whispering “BDSM, BDSM…” (the way you do when you know how you’d answer a game show question) then I took a gulp of tea, Fat Mike said, “BDSM” and I literally spat my tea. It happens around 28 minutes 30 seconds (although you can’t see me watching it and spitting my tea I guess).

I felt like such an idiot, there’s this punk guy being interviewed in a pink negligee with a chain around his neck fastened by a padlock and I totally MISSED the fact that he’s someone’s bitch. So anyway I did some googling and found out he’s actually married to a dominatrix (lucky him) and has a dungeon in his house (lucky him) and my respect for Fat Mike and all things NOFX just went through the roof. I thought S&M airlines (an album by NOFX) and all their dominatrix-themed shirts and him turning up to the gig in a maid dress and that song about Japan (Cool and Unusual Punishment) were all just another example of people incorporating BDSM imagery into popular culture. It happens a lot.

Mind…. blown…

It gives me another reason to place NOFX at the top of my list as my all time favorite band. It’s like there’s this fundamental rightness to the sound of NOFX that I have only ever heard when listening to Bikini Kill. *stares off into space thinking about Kathleen Hanna’s voice and feels a bit sad that Bikini Kill aren’t still touring* Bikini Kill were, in fact, the whole catalyst that started me on this Bands Bucket List quest, because I felt it was such a tragedy that I never got to see them live on account of being FAR too young. I need to see NOFX again. Like, every day for the rest of my life.

Anyway this article needs an ending. We staggered out of the venue and then went on a hunt for some food and it turns out there’s a deficiency of fast food in Birmingham on a Sunday night. So I think we got back as far as Stafford before we found a McDonalds and ordered large quantities of dead animal flesh to fill our faces with.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

My Official Bands Bucket List

So I keep referring to my bands bucket list when I write about things I’ve been up to.  Today I wanted to go back and explain what it is.

You are probably aware that a bucket list is usually something written by people of all ages to ensure that they get to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing in life – all the things they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” to coin a term.

In my case, that would be my ever-dwindling 30-list and my currently being written 40-list, which are the things I want to do before I reach age 30 and age 40, respectively.  It would probably not surprise you, then, to know that, when I was eighteen, I started this whole thing by writing a 20-list, a set of things I wanted to do before I turned 20.

The Bands Bucket List is very separate.  My age-lists are really more a set of things I feel would be achievements, accomplishments, or that I have some control over.  Things you can get with work and dedication.  They are lists of things that are within my power to make happen, however unique the circumstances would need to be for the achievement to be made.

The reason I don’t include bands on my 30-list and 40-list is because anyone can buy a ticket and travel to a gig.  Yes, some bands only tour in their homeland of Japan or The Faroe Islands, but by and large, live music is a capitalist, class dependent commodity (ooh er) that anyone with time and money can engage in.  For that reason I don’t think it’s an achievement to see The Who or Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the same sense that it would be an achievement to climb a mountain or get a master’s degree.  It would certainly be an achievement to play in a band, an honour that I have never been privy to (flutes tend to get stuck with orchestras rather than popular music bands, and ukuleles are the sonorous pariah unwanted in most ensembles), but seeing a band?  I am responsible for quality control of my lists and I decided it would cheapen the accomplishment of a PhD or climbing Everest to liken them with going to Download Festival (sorry, Download, it’s not that I don’t think your wonderful, but you are very easy).

I did need to keep track of a large set of data though, to make it possible to organize, and as I was spending more and more time on the internet typing different band names into Google, I thought I needed a spreadsheet.  I do love a good spreadsheet.

So I wrote them all down in alphabetical order, every band I could think of who, if their members died in a plane crash and they ceased to exist, I would feel like I’d missed out if I had neglected to attend them.  I know I won’t see all of them, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to see as many as I could while I could.

The list doesn’t distinguish between bands who have been apart for 30 years and those who are still coherent, it does separate out individual artists who are known to currently have a solo career and also link them to the band they used to be in (so, for example, the entry for David Gilmour states “Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd” and Roger Waters’ entry is “Roger Waters/Pink Floyd”) ensuring that the musical genius that spawned the bands are placed to be seen even when they can’t be in the same room as one another.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are another example, where their entries are “Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin” and “Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin” respectively.  Either entry can be ticked off once the required people have been seen, so if I’d seen Jimmy Page, it would then be at my discretion whether I decided the performance was sufficient to tick off Led Zeppelin, or whether I also wanted to see Robert Plant first.  I have ticked Guns n Roses off because I’ve seen Slash, and his performance with Myles Kennedy would be sufficient to tick off Guns n Roses (although GnR weren’t on my list) even though I haven’t seen Axl Rose and the band he’s put together when he kept the name Guns N Roses.

This list, and the ticking off part especially, has raised two very interesting dilemmas facing the modern music fan of older bands:  To what extent does the name of the band matter if none of the original members survive, and what actually counts as having seen a band?

The naming question is difficult.  So for example, there’s only one founder member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, but when I went to see them you could tell straight away that it didn’t matter.  Trying to define a band as who they were when they first signed on the dotted line of that fateful first record deal in the 1960s is a constrained and counterproductive way of going about things.  Take Pink Floyd again – guitarist Dave Gilmour wasn’t even in the original line-up, but for many people, he IS Pink Floyd, moreso than any other member.  Likewise, I need to be cautious about letting too many things be defined as the correct band.  It gets to a point where the only member of a band worth seeing is the drummer, and unless it’s Ringo Starr or Keith Moon, you might as well go and see a tribute band and tick off the real thing.  It’s false.  So somewhere between these two polarized opinions lies the way forward.

With The Who it was easy – the lead singer/guitarist and the lead guitarist are both still knocking around, the drummer is Ringo Starr’s son, and the bassist is an excellent session musician.  Hearing them play, you can tell they’re the real deal not some tribute band which have learned their songs meticulously to the letter and never deviate from the script.  They had the spark of Who-ness that made them Who-lesome.  I make no apologies for the wordplay.  Not all wordplay is a pun.

With Guns N Roses it would have been harder, since Axl kept the band name but is the only remaining member.  Seeing Slash play was such a jaw-droppingly stirring experience that I decided there was no way any replacement guitarist could ever possibly outdo him, unless Axl had hired Hendrix or Jimmy Page (which he hasn’t, which is a good job because Hendrix is dead and in either case, they’d want to play like themselves so you’d not get the same result).  It’s all a matter of style and substance.  Tribute bands and lesser replacement musicians can copy the style but have no substance.  Replacement musicians who are greater than the original will have substance but a differing style.  It takes a rare genius to walk the line between these two and still come out on top.  So I ticked off Guns N Roses.

The second dilemma is also one that I could spend years obsessing over if I wanted to:  How much of a band counts as “having seen” a band.  Here are my criteria:

1. It has to be live.

2. I had to be close enough to see and hear the band, not just watch the video screen, because that defeats the point.

3. I have to have heard the actual band play at least one full song.

4. Televised appearances are lovely, but there is so much loss of quality and atmosphere that they can’t possibly count, and the same goes for Youtube and other ways of seeing them.  For example, I watched the Pink Floyd Live 8 performance live on the BBC as it happened less than 20 miles from where I was sat (2 days after my mother had tried to kill me resulting in my being removed and never returning home, and 5 days before the 7/7 bombings), but it doesn’t count as having seen them, even though it had a profound and evelasting impact on the course of my life after that moment and probably stopped me killing myself.  That bit where they played “Wish You Were Here” and dedicated it to Syd had me in tears.

5. It doesn’t matter what they play:  If I wanted to hear a specific song I could buy and listen to the proper recording studio version.  That’s not what I’m looking for in my quest to see these bands.

Then there’s the single criterion for removal from the list:  If there are no living members of a band or if a solo artist dies, they are taken off the list.  Here is the list so far, there are currently 60 entries, and things are always being added:

Click to enlarge, again to zoom.
Click to enlarge, again to zoom.

For planning purposes, only the bands in white/orange matter:  The ones in pale grey are supposed to be ones who are just not touring at all, so they’re discounted from planning purposes (but breakups/reunions etc are so fickle that I don’t exclude reunion tours until the last member has kicked the bucket).  The ones in dark grey are ones I’ve now seen.  The ones in lime green are currently not attainable due to either dates, cost, or some other factor of sheer preposterous awkwardness that makes them unachievable such as announcing on the day of sale, selling out in 10 minutes and placing ridiculous resale criteria on the tickets, that only means that WHEN the tickets are resold, they’re triple the price they would have been so the resellers make even more money.  The ones in lime green are generally ones I’ve written off for this year.

So that’s my bands bucket list.  What do you think?  Who would be on yours?

Download 2015 Day One: Slipknot

Friday started off so well.  It was sunshiny as my best friend and I packed the car up, my teepee/tipi had arrived and I’d sprayed it with Solarproof waterproof spray to keep it extra dry.  I’d got my patches on the way for the bands I’ve already seen (new sewing project).  Everything was set to make it a memorable summery weekend of relaxation, good music and great company.

It started to go wrong when we got off the M1 motorway, and E’s car suddenly slipped out of gear, doing a strange thing which meant we coasted a bit and the gears wouldn’t engage.  The car conked out, and we had to fiddle with it to get it to go again.

We hoped this would be the end of our troubles.  It was only the beginning of one of the longest days of my life.

1. Queueing for entry: We had taken a sizeable armload of stuff so we could hurry to the campsite, pitch up and get set up quickly.  We were then left holding it for an hour and a half while we waited to get into the campsite.  Festival security was pretending to be stringent while not really bothering, and they only had half of the gates open.  Why they were bothering was beyond me – there were plenty of people inside selling things they shouldn’t be, and the staff didn’t check my handbag (the logical place to stash anything) but patted down my sleeping bag and tent.  Next time, I would recommend gaining an entry wristband, then going straight back to the car for the equipment.  We thought it had been a long walk with our stuff but the journey from the entry gate to our campsite was about twice that same distance again.

2. Campsite full – pitched on nettles.  We actually got the very last pitch in  the quiet camping – no-one else wanted it because it was covered in nettles and thistles.  Other people were turned away and told to camp even further away in the furthest campsite.  I worried a little about my tent because I got stung by nettles through the groundsheet, but it was sunny and I thought it would be fine as long as it remained sunny.

3. Once the tents were pitched, we went to the arena, which was a phenomenal walk – I missed Lacuna Coil because it took so long to get in and pitch the tent at the campsite.

4. It started to rain a bit.

5. Lost E. when she wanted to see some random band and dragged me away from Judas Priest.  Rain got worse.

6. Gave up looking for her.  Rain got worse.

7. Went to see Slipknot.  They were actually pretty good, the 2 drummers both played on a revolving drum kit each side of the stage, and they did all the classic favourites.  They officially christened this festival “Downpour 2015” which was pretty apt.  Rain got worse.

8. Went back to tent.  Rain got worse.

9. My tent was absolutely flooded.  Turns out they had used the most non-watertight zips in the history of tent zip production, so while the panels were keeping the water out (due to the spray I had used), the water was streaming in through every zipped area (which was 4 of the 6 panels).  From hers, I could hear that she was not alone.  Rain got worse.  Unfortunately, waterproof spray only works on things which were waterproof in the first place.

This was the floor of my tent.  One of many puddles.  The sleeve here was absolutely sodden and the water just kept coming.
This was the floor of my tent. One of many puddles. The sleeve here was absolutely sodden and the water just kept coming.  Behind it is another puddle in the background.

10. I went to bed in a wet tent, thinking it couldn’t get worse.    All I could do was cower in my sleeping bag and try to protect my phone and cuddly unicorn.  Thankfully, they both survived.

This was another puddle that I tried to bail out with a cup but it wasn't making a dent in this thing.
This was another puddle that I tried to bail out with a cup but it wasn’t making a dent in this thing.

11. I was awakened by a drip on the head.  The waterproof spray had capitulated and the whole tent was raining water over me and my belongings.  Luckily, she was awake and alone again by now, so I could at least get my less wet belongings into her less flooded tent…

Another puddle in my tent that didn't go away when I spent ages trying to bail it out.
Another puddle in my tent that didn’t go away when I spent ages trying to bail it out.

…As a comparison, on the day we left, we only tipped about a litre of water out of hers.  That was after it had 2 days to dry out under a gazebo.  Mine was worse.  We left it there because it had failed in its basic function as a tent.  I was heartbroken because it had looked so awesome.  All across the campsite, people with the same tent as me took them down on Saturday morning; I guess they either shared with someone who had a fit-for-purpose tent (like I did), went home, or checked into a hotel.  I would imagine that tent will get a few bad reviews now.  The brand was Yellowstone and the tent was the Yellowstone Festival TiPi.  I have no faith in this brand now, because it started to flood long before it reasonably should have.  I would link to it on Amazon but I’ve come home to find they’ve axed my Amazon Associates account because it didn’t generate any sales in 6 months.  Oh well, it was clearly a huge waste of time anyway.

Find Download Festival 2015 Review Day 2 here…

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.