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NOFX, BODYJAR And CHARLOTTE & THE HARLOTS: The Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, 20/01/24

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Words by Matt New
Photos by Angie New Photography

NOFX (1983-2024)

NOFX was a fun band, a peculiar band, and a downright hilarious band, but most importantly, they were one of the most influential punk bands of the modern era. It is extremely sad to see them call it quits after 40 years of music and countless tours, but they delivered on their promise of a farewell tour at the 2022 Good Things Festival. This would be our last chance to celebrate the music that has brought so much joy and excitement for many decades. The impact of their music can be seen across generations, and it was evident at the first of two Sydney shows.

Parents with young kids on their shoulders, sporting giant mohawks, proudly paraded through a sea of fans. The growing crowd gave a complete history of punk with the countless punk band shirts scattered throughout the building. NOFX shirts of course reigned supreme on a weekend that would long be remembered.

The band formed in Los Angeles in 1983 and have solidified themselves as one of the most important punk bands from the “skate punk” movement. Their blend of incredibly fast hardcore punk riffs, melodic harmonies, and at times dashes of reggae and ska made it clear that NOFX were not a one-trick pony.

They rose to acclaim in the Nineties along with other iconic bands of the era such as The Offspring, Pennywise, Lagwagon, and Bad Religion, to name a few, but NOFX was unique. Their style and banter set the template for the Pop-Punk movement to follow and continue to provide a never-ending source of inspiration for young and aspiring punk bands.

Sydney, along with Melbourne and Brisbane, were treated to back-to-back NOFX shows with varying support acts. The number 40 was significant, as it represented the number of songs we would get at each show on this tour, reflecting their 40-year tenure. But before we could enjoy this spectacle, we needed to be warmed up by some support acts, right? Opening for the evening were the pop-punk four-piece band, Charlotte & The Harlots.

Hailing from Canberra, they fused all the iconic elements you would expect from modern pop-punk bands. They have had a lot of recent success and have had the opportunity to support other prominent punk acts like Frenzal Rhomb and Me First & The Gimme Gimmes. So I was eager to see what all the hype was about. Their set was a bit of a slow burn and lacked the intensity I was expecting from a younger punk band. Not that their songs were bad or that they were bad musicians; quite the contrary. It just took half a set for their energy and momentum to kick into gear, once frontwoman Charlotte Jenkins took a break from her guitar duties. Once she was alone with a microphone and a full stage, she ramped it up a gear. Overall, this band has a lot of potential, and I’m sure with more experience performing live, they will achieve the success of their idols.

The Australian punk scene has seen its fair share of amazing bands and characters, but aside from The Living End and Frenzal Rhomb, Bodyjar stands out as one local punk band that can compete with the best in the genre. With a long and successful history, it was a refreshing experience to see them perform live again after so many years. The Melbourne punk-rockers instantly put the pedal to the metal, and delivered a set that included classics like One In a Million and Not The Same, as well as more recent hits like Get Outta My Head. Bodyjar’s brand of punk rock is of high quality, featuring catchy riffs, fantastic vocal melodies, and atmospheric breakdowns that make them one of the most interesting punk acts of the past two decades. The band’s genuine emotion on stage, as they shared these moments with one of their idols, was truly evident. They even took a playful jab at NOFX in true Aussie fashion, joking that their own set was their 700th last gig. This was the first time I had seen Bodyjar since the Livid Festival of 2002, and they are just as good now as they were 20 years ago. I hope to see more from this iconic Aussie punk rock band in the future.

If being an incredibly talented punk rock band wasn’t enough, NOFX also has a controversially sarcastic sense of humor that adds to their appeal. Their stage setup, featuring a small banner featuring their logo, reminded me of the iconic Stonehenge scene from This Is Spinal Tap. Additionally, a select group of lucky fans were able to watch the show from on stage, behind a barricade. Paying homage to the band’s early years and the underground venues they performed in before achieving mainstream success. It added a humbling touch that stands in stark contrast to the thousands of rowdy fans eagerly waiting in front of the stage, ready to mosh and crowd-surf to the high-intensity punk rock music.

Dancing their way onto the stage to the tune of Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, NOFX casually crammed together a 40-song setlist, which included the majority of songs from three iconic albums: Punk In Drublic (1994), The War On Errorism (2003), and Wolves in Wolves Clothing (2006).

Sarcastically asserting that they would be playing longer than the Foo Fighters, they then shifted gears to express their genuine love and appreciation for Australia. Fat Mike jokingly claimed that “Australia is just California with nice people” and shared humorous anecdotes about marrying three Australian men and identifying as “transparent“.

Despite having over 40 years of experience as a punk band, NOFX’s energy, speed, and charisma have not waned with age; if anything, they have only demonstrated their strong connection with their audience through their live performance.

Every little moment in the show was an opportunity to be roasted and the subject of politically incorrect humor. For example, when lead guitarist El Hefe‘s tuner stopped working, he was accosted by Fat Mike who said, “You’re a Mexican that’s not working.” The fear of being cancelled in this modern world is far from a concern for these old-school punks. The crowd was, and continued to be from the very start of the show, a frenzy of adolescent energy. The moshpit seemed to never stop for a moment to rest. Even at one stage Fat Mike was on the receiving end of a shoey when he was hit in the head with an actual shoe, a first for him in Australia. But in true punk-rock fashion, he let out a few expletives and carried on to the next tune like a pro.

Songs like Linoleum, Perfect Government, and Don’t Call Me White received deafening receptions from their thousands of adoring fans who were there to say farewell. Meanwhile, the band poked fun at the wafting aromas of “the Devil’s lettuce” floating through the crowd.

Finishing their set with Theme From a NOFX Album, the emotion was overwhelming. The patron seated directly behind me grabbed my arm and said “I can’t believe we will never see them again bro”. The show overall felt like one enjoyable and powerful musical wake. As mentioned before, NOFX love Australia so much, and we are grateful they stayed true to their word to leave us with this highly memorable gift that all Aussie NOFX fans will cherish forever.

No doubt, many punters making the pilgrimage will return for the second night at the Hordern as well. What lies beyond for the band remains a mystery. For Fat Mike, we know he has other musical projects and a Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas to run, and we will also continue to see his presence on YouTube with his channel. NOFX will forever remain a cherished band for their comical, fun, and high-intensity punk rock power, and their legacy will endure for generations to come.

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