NOFX at the Cabooze, 12/5/12
Photo by Erik Hess
NOFX With Teenage Bottlerocket, Banner Pilot, Arms Aloft Wednesday, December 5, 2012 The Cabooze
It was a temperate, perfect outdoor night at Cabooze Plaza on September 14, and only one thing was amiss: Fat Mike 100+ fever. The rare Midwestern NOFX tour date was cancelled, and eventually rescheduled for an indoor December show instead. The least the California punks could have done is donned some parkas and hit up the stage outdoors last night, right?
Well, they did the next best thing. The rescheduled dates may have axed Dillinger Four from the line-up, but the back-to-back evening sets at Cabooze made up for the untimely illness and the band showed full energy while plowing through their discography amid a dark, early-evening crowd. On a two-week run of tour dates to support the now three-months old Self-Entitled, the band hit Minneapolis is full form, even if that was an admittedly unrehearsed one.
Expectation can pretty much go out the window with the long-running punk band. They make no secret of their focus: it's more on good times, tasteless humor, and drugs than it is any artistic endeavor. Wednesday night, the second Minneapolis show (and all ages one, at that) made that point clear. Taking the stage with a quick, "This is Wednesday night. Your parents don't care about you...want some tequila?" to the young crowd, they eventually moved past the banter and started to rock. But it took several minutes of stage banter beforehand.
Photos by Erik Hess
The show did kick off with a few old favorites, but really it relied on the back-and-forth between vocalist/bassist Fat Mike, guitarist El Hefe, and the crowd--an equal participant in the show. The tone of the humor was mostly about age (specifically the band's -- happy recent 47th to guitar player Eric Melvin -- and the youth of a few acne-tarnished attendees), drugs, and cheap racism jokes that hit all subjects equally, be it whites, Somalians, Mexicans, Jewish, or other. While it may not fly on prime time, the general nature behind all of it was well-intentioned, and largely self-deprecating.
And, yes, this hasn't even touched on the music yet. Really, with NOFX that's only a fragment. The band has released two live records over the past two decades and it's no secret what their balance of stage banter-to-performance is. That said, Wednesday night was an excellent rendition of a number of their "hits." While claiming that it only contained five or six songs from the 18+ show on Tuesday, the band rocked through a number of tracks, from 1991's Ribbed to this year's latest. If anything, the set was so balanced that one would be hard-pressed to call it a support tour of the new record at all, with only three new songs played from Self-Entitled. And two of those came with disclaimers: "72 Virgins" that it had not been practiced, and "Cell Out" with an audience vote amid two choices.
It would be a stretch to say the band was tight. Errors were abundant and Fat Mike even left the stage for half of "Mattersville," but what can one really expect of a band with a custom cup-holder built into their singer's mic stand? Oh, did I mention that said cup holder also had a straw taped to it?
Photo by Erik Hess
What makes NOFX so strong live is the band's chemistry. Despite the miscues and sometimes slurred vocals, there is a clear camaraderie that allows the band to fill the holes. When a misstep occurs, the others step up and fill it, whether through ad lib vocals or picking up harmonies, and it pays off with a strong live set that's also a different product from the record. For a band that rarely plays full sets in town (typically coming through for festivals instead), a full-length set brings the full depth of their catalog and gives a personal feel that can't be captured on record or with a larger venue.
The setting at the Cabooze was surely limited by sightlines and sound barriers, but the smaller room also created a feel that can't be mimicked in a larger room such as First Avenue, the Myth, or the Metrodome parking lot -- all venues the group has hit up this millennia. Instead, the confines and limited front floor space at Cabooze were a welcome setting for the band. One just had to make his or her way up front, as the sound definitely had its limitations as distance from the stage came into play.
All in all, NOFX played for nearly an hour-and-a-half, dodged making their re-emergence to the stage feel like a campy encore, humored and perhaps offended the crowd and, at 9pm when curfew came down, they left everyone fully aware that the party was still just getting started.
Critic's Bias: This wasn't the same show it would have been with Dillinger Four also on the bill.
The Crowd: Older than expected. This isn't the mid-'90s anymore
Overheard in the crowd: Only 1 bartender?
Random notebook dump: The sound during the openers was rather lackluster.
Dinosaurs Will Die
A Perfect Government
Murder the Government
Eat the Meek
Ronnie & Mags
What Now My Love (Herb Alpert)
Together on the Sand
I Believe in Goddess
The Man I Killed
We Called It America
Fuck the Kids
Seeing Double at the Triple Rock
Bottles to the Ground
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