Live Concert Review

NOFX, Anti-Flag, Old Man Markley, Brendan Kelly

Live (October 14 & 15, 2011)

House of Blues - Chicago, IL
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This October, NoFX brought 2 nights of debauchery, booze, and don’t-give-a-fuck punk rock to the Chicago House of Blues. After almost 30 years of playing, the band—all in their mid-40s—can still sell out a venue (2 nights in a row, at that!), make a crowd laugh, and somehow perform while being out-of-their-mind drunk/high. Singer/bassist Fat Mike even made a daring, face-first stage dive onto the concrete floor the first night; ah hell, he’s even more punk than me… It just goes to show that after years of being professional punkers, NoFX is still relevant in today’s scene.  

Brendan Kelly started off the evening with a half-hour set consisting of songs by The Lawrence Arms and The Falcon along with some new original tunes that will likely be on his upcoming solo record. The first night, a kid heckled Kelly for most of his set, calling him a pussy—probably because he thought acoustic guitar is not punk rock. Songs like “The Devil’s Takin’ Names” and “The Unicorn Odyssey” had a decent amount of concert-goers singing along. Kelly talked about how shitty all the music is in children shows his kids watch, so he decided to write his own kid’s song. Kelly’s take is more a depraved song about a dirty old men abducting people and chipping away at their bones, not your typical toddler fare. Kelly also performed a hardcore tune he claims he wrote when he was thirteen about dicks— it was a typical night with Brendan Kelly.

Old Man Markley was next; they’re a punk bluegrass band with 8 members including both male and female vocalists and instruments ranging from the mandolin, autoharp, banjo, fiddle and washboard. OMM was definitely the most energetic band of the evening, and had a huge dance pit going at the Friday night show. I know this is an awful comparison, but since I rarely see bands like this, I felt like I was watching the grown-up Disney Country Bear Jamboree, with much better songs of course. The band seemed to win the hearts of the crowd when they busted out a kazoo and encouraged circle pits. 

About ten years ago when I was 15 years old, I was a big fan of Anti-Flag. In fact, I could probably still sing you all the songs from New Kind of Army and Die for Your Government, but I would definitely consider them one of those bands that you kind of grow out of as you grow up. To my surprise, Anti-Flag is still as popular as ever, even with kids that are old enough to vote. They’re just as good live with the same amount of energy they had ten years ago.

Anti-Flag played a few songs off their major label records, but a good chunk of their set consisted of favorites like “Fuck Police Brutality,” “Underground Network,” along with a cover of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” which was a big hit. On Friday night during the last song, drummer Pat Thetic brought his bass drum into the crowd and played on the floor surrounded by fans—pretty fantastic. Overall, it is really impressive that they still look and play the way they did ten years ago; it must be because they avoid all those delicious animals and beers, being vegetarian/vegan and straight-edge.

NoFX played two completely different shows Friday and Saturday night. It might have something to do with Fat Mike’s admittedly drug-addicted, alcoholic lifestyle, but with as fucked up as he was Friday, it made for an entertaining show nonetheless. Friday, NoFX played all of their classics, including “Linoleum,” “Leave It Alone,” “Murder the Government,” “Stickin’ In My Eye,” and more. Great, great set list. The only problem was that Mike’s singing was not the best… and I guess there are a lot of words to remember in “Mattersville,” so who can blame him for forgetting a few lines? Their set also started at midnight on Friday, opposed to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, so not only had the band overindulged in drugs and alcohol, but the crowd had as well…at least with booze. The floor was violent—pits would pop up all over the place from one drunk-ass deciding he needed to start crashing into everyone around him. Needless to say, it was a mess and it’s doubtful anyone even noticed Mike was skipping a few words. The only event that made it apparent that Mike was at his crashing point was when he fell off the stage during their last song “Theme from a NoFX album.” One second he was singing onstage, the next he went falling face-first into the floor with mic and bass in hand. I have to applaud him for finishing the song from the floor of the House of Blues, though.

The next night, NoFX were much more composed at the early set time of 8:30. Fat Mike proclaimed, “8:30 isn’t punk time,” and launched into songs like “Dinosaurs Will Die,” “Quart in Session,” and “Fuck the Kids.” During the hour-and-a-half set, there was a decent amount of banter from Fat Mike, but still over an hour of songs, and they were even played well!

They left a few of their classics off the set, instead playing a few more songs off their latest release Coaster. There were Mexican and Jew jokes exchanged between El Jefe and Fat Mike, as well as a few slower jams like “Orphan Year” and “Kill All The White Man.” They even played their cover of Rancid’sRadio.” For anyone who paid to go both nights, the sets were pretty different, no joke was retold, and the stage presence was completely different from one night to the next; totally worth dedicating the weekend to NoFX.