Support for LAist comes from
Made of L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

When Did Punk Rock Become So Safe?

Our June member drive is live: protect this resource!
Right now, we need your help during our short June member drive to keep the local news you read here every day going. This has been a challenging year, but with your help, we can get one step closer to closing our budget gap. Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership.


NOFX mosh pit/Ian Dickinson for LAist

After twenty-five years of punk rock, PCP and hippie bashing, Fat Mike and the boys of LA-born NOFX haven't stopped their fight to uphold the tenets of the punk ethos. Having playedthree shows at the Henry Fonda last week, the band highlighted songs from every era of their history, never once failing to entertain the crowd with their signature hilarious, immature and oftentimes bigoted banter.

But Mike and his crew, now pushing past 40 years old, realize that their long-standing legitimacy hasn't always been just about boozing on stage, harassing the crowd, or screwing up a song or two. On their 2003 album The War on Errorism, Mike wonders what happened to the scene he grew up with, posing his inner turmoil by asking when punk rock became so safe, when the scene became a joke, and what ever happened to the fight against complacency. With their 12th studio album currently in production, NOFX has achieved what few punk bands have done in the past; consistent relevance in terms of current events, social commentary, and of course, their unique brand of crass humor, all of which has resonated with fans worldwide for nearly three decades.

Support for LAist comes from

Sitting down with Fat Mike on Sunday afternoon just before the band's last of three LA shows offered a brief period of embellishment. What seemed like perfect timing as the pinnacle event of the collapsing music industry was set to occur 7 miles east at the Staples Center, Mike elaborated on his band, the blossoming scene in L.A., and his views about how the punk rock scene has evolved.

"We used to take the bus over to Cathay de Grande. Hollywood was such a sketchy place, especially for a 15 year old kid. It still is pretty scary." Beginning his musical journey at Fairfax high school in a band called False Alarm, Fat Mike honed his craft and met up with the rest of NOFX in the years to follow, writing songs that split time between beer bongs and politically minded prose.

"We were singing about politics and social commentary long before The Decline", Mike noted, in reference to their 18-minute opus chronicling the downfall of American society, released in '99. "We don't differentiate ourselves just because we're a funny band."

Funny to say the least. If you've ever been to a NOFX show, they almost always disclaim what a disaster the show will inevitably be, and while the crowd usually goes for the music, they stay for the banter. But that's not to say that Mike isn't able to express his mentality outside of a two-minute song.

"Although I think Obama is totally awesome, he can't fix this fuckin' country," he noted when asked if and when music would be able to turn the tides of the national psyche and start to speak to the current shift in mentality. "f you think Detroit is a nice place to live, then yes, we can fix this fuckin' country. Cause I think we're gonna be a big Detroit. It'll still be the US, we'll still make movies, and we'll still have freedom, but it'll be a violent battle of the classes from here on out."

Pretty bleak outlook for a guy that writes songs about paraplegic punk chicks, Ketamine benders, and a girl that only speaks monosyllabically. But if that isn't punk rock enough, then what is? Maybe it was when he started clipping his fingernails during the interview. Or maybe later on that night at the show when he gave a kid in the crowd a hundred dollar bill to leave because he acted all self-righteous when Mike started talking down on religion. It was possibly when the stage at the Henry Fonda was momentarily turned into a family garage as Fletcher from Pennywise led the crowd in an impromptu rendition of Bro Hymn, only moments before trashing the band's drum kit leaving guitarist Eric Melvin playing the accordion for ten minutes.

But it was most likely embarking on a world tour of obscure countries in 2007 to play shows for kids who might not ever have the chance to see them live. Or dedicating an entire tour to persuade kids to be more politically active. In any case, as the country shifts its mentality and corporate shills continue attempting to dictate the public's taste in music, Fat Mike and his band of rockers seem to be up to the challenge of upholding their punk statutes. "I think punk rock still dominates L.A. Bad Religion, Rise Against, all those bands that are selling out the Palladium, those are the bands that are still dominating." While a few people in music press may disagree, it would appear that, while punk rock did become safe, it certainly isn't dead just yet.

Backstage at the Fonda image courtesy of Gerry Block

Most Read