Wednesday October 19 was overcast with a light mist in the air as veganjill and I headed into the City of Brotherly Love. We spent the afternoon wandering down South Street, patronizing the various quaint little stores, and stopping for a drink here and there at a few of the many bars. We met up with jesskathand and her husband for dinner at Blackbird Pizzeria, an all vegan establishment where we had several different types of fantastic pizza topped with Daiya. It was quite a unique atmosphere, having a great dinner while listening to the classic hardcore punk playing, and the experience was particularly memorable since I had the chance to meet Pat Thetic (the drummer for Anti-Flag who happens to be vegan) as he was stopping in for dinner before the show.
After dinner, we headed around the corner to the Theater of the Living Arts. This was only my second time at this mainstay of the Philadelphia music scene, and I had nearly forgotten how great of a venue it is. It doesn't matter where you stand in this place, be it on the huge, open floor, or up in the 21+ balcony area, you have clear sight of the stage. The sound is fantastic no matter where you are, which is one thing that can certainly not be said for The Electric Factory (the 21+ section wraps around in front of one of the huge speakers, making it incredibly uncomfortable at times).
After The Holy Mess started things off in with energetic, barroom-type punk, relative newcomers to the Fat Wreck Chords family Old Man Markley took the stage. I was curious to see how a punk rock audience would take to these folks, since they play an interesting blend of bluegrass with punk mentality. Punk audiences have a reputation for being very narrow-minded, but that stereotype was proven false that night. The fans were incredibly receptive, dancing and slamming to OMM's super fast picking, strumming and stomping. Amidst a set of infectious originals, they played the b-side to their first 7", which is a cover of Screeching Weasel's "Science of Myth".
The next band to take the stage was Pittsburgh's Anti-Flag, a band that is always relevant, but feels particularly so right now with progressive protests popping up all around the nation. As always, Justin Sane, Chris #2 and company worked the crowd into a frenzy with their anthems of unity (and even worked in that cover of The Clash they've been doing for a little while now), but undoubtedly the best moment of their set (if not the whole show) was when Pat Thetic set up his drum set in the crowd and played from there to finish their last song, something he's been doing for this past tour
That made two incredibly tough sets to follow, but NoFX rose to the challenge. One would think that after nearly 30 years of taking this act on the road, the songs and on-stage banter would sound tired and hackneyed, but that was certainly not the case that night. Whether they were playing a relatively new song, a long-standing crowd favorite, or even an obscure track from a seriously out of print 7", they performed with gusto and the crowd ate it all up. These four guys certainly show no signs of slowing down in their older age.
The encore of "Doornails" featuring members of Old Man Markley was a surprisingly poignant touch for a band best known for their irreverence and goofiness. They have another tour already in the works for early 2012 that will feature NoFX and Old Man Markley every night and a rotating cast of punk all-stars to back them up (No Use For A Name, Pulley, Lagwagon, etc.). If you missed them this time around, don't be a fool and catch them on that tour.