LIVE REVIEW: NOFX, Comeback Kid, Anti-Flag, Lagwagon, Hatfield, UK, 28/05/2023
Photo Credit: Susan Moss
NOFX have always had a long-standing relationship with Hatfield and Leeds. Having had the infamous Punk In Drublic stage situated on both Slam Dunk Festival sites over the years, named after their fifth studio album, to say NOFX’s love with Slam Dunk Festival felt like a match made in heaven is an understatement. So as the long-standing punk icons wrap up a forty-year long career built on borderline inappropriate sarcasm, flippant wit and punk anthems that will stand the test of time and last the next forty years, when charismatic frontman Fat Mike swaps the snarky comments for a moment of sentimental solitude midway through the bands final UK shows down in Hatfield saying, “It just feels weird saying we are never playing Hatfield again” you can’t help but think he means it.
And with a little help from their friends in Comeback Kid, Anti-Flag, Lagwagon and beyond, a gathering of bands a Tony Hawk Pro Skater Soundtrack would be proud of, NOFX wave goodbye to the UK, proving they have been no punk-rock cliché the past forty years.
Mohawks, check pants with chains hanging off them and leather jackets painted with beers not bombs litter Hatfield, the day after annual dual day festival Slam Dunk South took place, luckily there was no hour-long food queues or backlog of cars piling into the car park by the time Canadian hardcore collective Comeback Kid comes onto stage. “We are Comeback Kid from Canada and we came a long way to be here” that’s Comeback Kid’s vocalist Andrew Neufeld moments before the band unleash a chaotic live version of their set opener Heavy Steps.
It’s not very punk when there is an abnormally large gap separating a band from their fans, especially when bands from the hardcore punk scene such as Comeback Kid and Anti-Flag are coming off the back of playing shows at Bear Cave or The Fleece, in the words of Neufeld there “is a moat between us, if I came down would you make it worth my while?” before he bounds down into the crowd screaming the lyrics to Wake The Dead, battling a borage of oncoming crowd surfers by doing what any good hardcore singer does, shoving the mic in fans faces and letting them do all the screaming. 8/10
One major thing that is noticeable during every band’s set preceding NOFX’s is that every band before NOFX was influenced by NOFX. That’s the legacy they leave in their wake. Whether it be Comeback Kid commenting “make some noise for the bands coming after us in Lagwagon and NOFX. We all grew up on those bands” or Anti-Flag’s bassist Chris 2 perched behind NOFX during their final hurrah, looking at the band that arguably shaped, sculpted and influenced his. And it was the Pittsburgh punks’ time up next.
“Ladies and gentleman brothers and sisters show your power in unity by raising your fists to the sky” commands Chris upon bulldozing into the band’s politically charged anthem This Is The End (For You My Friend). Amidst the backdrop of their latest LP LIES THEY TELL OUR CHILDREN, a closed book exploding with imagery of protest and politics, Anti-Flag launch into its lead single LAUGH. CRY. SMILE. DIE, proving that not only twenty years on have Anti-Flag arguably “wrote too many songs” but they still have that same sickened fed-up fire deep in the pit of their stomachs about the world that lays outside as they did when taking it back to older tunes The Press Corpse or Brandenburg Gate. A set symbolising unity, community, peace and harmony, Anti-Flag have formed an unbreakable relationship with the UK, vocalist Justin Sane reiterating “Hatfield you look beautiful, it’s good to be back.” Up the UK PUNX OI. 10/10
A surprisingly short setlist makes up Californian Punk Rockers Lagwagon rare appearance this side of the world. Though their time on stage at Hatfield is short lived, it’s full of the bands slow drooling punk and bass guitar solos, songs such as Violins, Falling Apart, Weak, Mr. Coffee and a rendition of Van Morrisons Brown Eyed Girl making the crowd going from screaming about their love for said bass guitar solos one minute to shouting aloud if you possess brown eyes the next.
“It’s officially the end of an era in a way. I want to dedicate these last few songs to NOFX” notes Lagwagon’s head Joey Cape and as the band round off their time in Hatfield with Razor Burn and May 16, Fat Mike watches from the sidelines, his bright blue hair making his presence noticeable when he hasn’t got his mouth open, coming on stage for an embrace brace with Cape. In that moment, NOFX’s final farewell finally felt like an emotional goodbye and not a potential practical joke you would expect from a band like NOFX to pull out of the hat afterwards.
When you look back on NOFX’s setlist from tonight’s final UK show in Hatfield, it could look like a Foo Fighters set and at times it felt like it. But the pointless banter and dark humour outside of the punk rock classics that have been part of the cogs that have kept the NOFX wheel ticking over for the last four decades is part of the parcel. Yet for the first half of their thirty-eight-song set, just falling two tracks’ shorts of their promise to do 40 songs across 40 cities, the pack of jokes was kept on a tight leash as the band blitzing through some of their best despite Fat Mike thinking the band only have “two good songs” in Linoleum, Kids Of The K-Hole and Fuck The Kids.
It was only a matter of time before NOFX let the jack out of the box filling their set with digs at their peers “Was anyone here last night? Did you see the Offspring, I mean we are better because we practised,” and funny jokes that caused thousands to erupt in fits of hysterics “I’m like Avenge Sevenfold’s bass player. No, you’re more like Rancid’s bass player. Hey number 2 from Anti-Flag can you come and play my bass.”
Momentary pee break “because we are pushing 60” is where things felt serious. Under the sarcasm there is sentiment, Fat Mike thanking fans “for coming to the last NOFX show” before the reflection of one of punks best come into full force, the band performing Buggely Eyes, Kill All The White Men and Theme From A NOFX Album, before bounding off stage to drink vodka leaving fans with this last hurrah as a fragment of the memories NOFX have provided punk with for the last forty years. 8/10
Written By: Katie Conway-Flood