May 23, 2023 Review by Rachael Contreras & Kevin Gomez
It was a beautiful, but overcast day in San Diego for Punk in Drublic. Crowds from all around dressed in their most comfortable, yet fashionable punk attire and swarmed downtown SD to be a part of the festivities of NOFX’s final tour.
Kicking off the day of music was SD’s own four-piece band, Urethane. Next up was San Francisco’s Western Addiction, who opened with the brutal “The Church of Black Flag.” I saw Sean Sellers of the Mad Caddies (playing later that day) and Steve Caballero side stage catching their set.
Lead singer Jason Hall jokingly asked the crowd, “Is this music pairing nicely with your tiny beers?,” a reference to the commemorative plastic cups for the day’s beer tasting. For the band’s last song, “Utter Despair,” Hall – who stands at least 6’5” – jumped down into the audience and stood on the barricade before climbing onto a lucky fan’s shoulders.
The Bombpops walked out to Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” made famous from the “Kill Bill” opening credits. They launched into “Blood Pact,” followed by “13 Stories Down.”
Fellow Fat Wreck Chords labelmate, Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID) was filling in on lead guitar and backing vocals in place Remmington, their usual fourth. For “CA in July,” lead singer and guitarist, Jen Razavi sang the last chorus, “On my couch, and I made you listen to all the songs,” and changed the next line to “like the Descendents!” The Bombpops went on to “cover” one of the punk rock legends’ songs, “ALL,” which is literally one-second long with the song’s title and one chord. Josh Lewis is still one of my favorite drummers, as evidenced on “Zero Remorse” and especially, “Jerk.” Razavi’s vocals were lovely on their last song, “Notre Dame.”
Finally, the free tastings ended and onstage was Fat Mike Burkett’s newest project, Codefendants with Sam King of Get Dead and Ceschi Ramos. King and Ramos, in their signature black suits started with, “Def Cons” then “Suicide by Pigs.”
For their popular song, “Fast Ones,” rap star The D.O.C. joined them onstage to perform for the very first time in San Diego. A few weeks prior, we asked Fat Mike if he was going to surprise us with an onstage performance during Codefendants, but he said it was unlikely due to him getting ready for a really long NOFX set later. However, we did see Burkett on the side of the stage watching the performance with a big grin.
Solvang’s Mad Caddies started things off mellow with the two reggae-centric tracks, “Lay Your Head Down” and “Backyard,” before going into the punk-meets-jazz “Tired Bones.” They played a new, unreleased track, “Brand New Bed,” before kicking into the wildly popular punk-ska “Leavin,’” which garnered the biggest pit of their set.
The band’s current lineup had come together recently, and it doesn’t hurt that they have seasoned drummer Sean Sellers from Good Riddance, and Brandon Landelius of Authority Zero. They played the pirate shanty “Weird Beard,” which allowed trombonist Stéphane Montigny to shine through with what seemed like a minutes-long solo that rightfully earned huge applause. They closed their set with two unreleased tracks, “Palm Trees and Pines” and “Arrowheads.”
Between sets you could find other well-known industry people walking around the show enjoying themselves, like comedian and Side One Dummy Records founder Joe Sib, and Jorge and Eddie Casillas from Voodoo Glow Skulls. We even bumped into BMX legend Rick Thorne, and skateboarding legend Jeremy Wray. This was clearly an event that no one wanted to miss.
Up next was Orange County’s own Vandals. They immediately started with “Café 405” and went straight into “Pizza Tran.” Although we normally see drummer Josh Freese behind the percussion kit, on this day Derek Grant from Alkaline Trio was playing.
The Vandals slipped into “People That are Going to Hell” and the crowd was getting larger and larger while the fans in the VIP section were now at a standstill to watch the stage. Guitarist Warren Fitzgerald wore his usual neon outfit and hat, and during “I Have a Date,” he grabbed the mic and danced around the stage before making his usual climb onto the bass drum and jumping off at the end of their set.
Even though the set times were a bit short throughout the day, it was a little longer for Descendents so they were able to squeeze in 24 quick punk songs! Starting off their set was “Everything Sux,” to which the crowd responded with a massive mosh pit and cheers.
Going straight into the old school song, “Hope” then “Silly Girl,” the crowd was enjoying themselves almost as much as the band; guitarist Stephen Egerton had the biggest smile on his face for most of the set.
Although there wasn’t much chatter from the band between songs, front-man Milo Aukerman told the crowd that Descendents were never really a political band, but bassist Karl Alvarez penned the heavily political “’Merican.”
Getting to the end of their set, they played “Thank You” and Aukerman crossed the photo pit and sang directly to the crowd from the barricade. The band ended with the highly anticipated “Suburban Home.”
After what seemed like eternity from all the excitement, Smelly, El Hefe, Melvin, and Fat Mike (donning a neon rainbow faux fur coat) got on stage for what might be their final time performing together in San Diego under the name NOFX.
This fact was not lost on the crowd as it seemed like every person in the venue stopped what they were doing to watch this set. Thousands of people all standing still as the sun set, watching the stage with anticipation of what would happen next and hoping to hear their favorite song.
With a tiny NOFX sign hanging behind them, the band started off with “Dinosaurs Will Die” and seamlessly slipped into “Stickin’ in My Eye.” They played so beautifully and with such precision, you’d have thought you were listening to the album. The sound quality throughout the night was so tremendous and you could hear the band perfectly from front or back of the venue.
While NOFX played, you could see multiple mosh pits open up through the giant crowd. Some guy dressed as a banana went flying over the tops of people’s heads, another guy did a backflip off someone’s shoulders; it was complete controlled punk mayhem at its finest.
At one point in the set, Burkett said, “I gotta pee, we’re gonna take a break,” and the band walked off stage for a few minutes. Everyone thought the band was joking but they really took a bathroom break in the middle of their set and received applause for it. Once back with empty bladders, Burkett donned a light pink bra over his shirt and continued to play. The band was having so much fun that drummer Eric Sandin, aka Smelly, grabbed a guitar and danced around the stage playing the instrument for a song.
As advertised, NOFX played 40 songs (in 40 cities) including their 1997 album, “So Long & Thanks for All the Shoes.” Twice during songs from that album, shoes were thrown at Burkett’s face. What appeared to be a boot hit Burkett square in the face and seemed to jar him for a moment. He responded with, “That must have been the lead singer of Pulley. He’s been trying to get me for years!” The lead singer of Pulley being Scott Radinsky, a former MLB pitcher.
Around 9:30 p.m., fireworks were set off nearby that happened to be perfectly timed with the end of NOFX’s set. The last song, “Theme from A NOFX Album,” had guitarist Eric Melvin switch gears and break out his accordion. At the end of the song, Melvin kept playing while Burkett said his thank yous to the gigantic crowd and took photos with close friends. When Burkett tried to say his final goodbye to the crowd, Melvin would chime in with more accordion and a big smile. This kept going for a good five minutes before he finally put the accordion to rest and the band left the stage for real.
It was an amazing show that left fans wanting more, even after 40 songs. The Final Tour festival is underway until the fall of next year when it comes to completion in Los Angeles.