This review may have taken a minute to complete, mostly because of life, but also because of the high I was on from such a killer weekend of music and friends.
When I think of the band NOFX, I have so many countless memories, like seriously, it is probably unhealthy how much this band means to me.
I recall the first time my friend Mike put on “Linoleum” for me when we were teens. I fell in love almost instantly with them and have not stopped listening since. I have all of their albums, tons of their 7″s, plenty of ticket stubs, and a slew of merch including a 90s red bucket hat that is bleached from the sun and doesn’t even fit on my fat head.
I first saw them in 1996 at Warped Tour in Cleveland that was under the Valley View bridge at Cloverleaf, a former racetrack turned flea market on a gravel lot. Two years later they played with Hi-Standard and the Bouncing Souls at the Agora where after the show they asked me to take them to the local nudie bars, but my pals with me were underage so they moved on to the next bunch of fans and off they went.
Just like everyone else out there who appreciates this punk rock foursome, I was legit bummed out when they announced NOFX was going on one last tour.
Of course they wanted to finish up touring in style:
40 Years, 40 Cities, 40 Songs
They announced their final tour would be presented by Fat Wreck Chords Punk In Drublic and that they would be bring plenty of supporting acts with them. I about fell out of my chair when I saw the Columbus lineup and knew I had to be there:
Bad Cop Bad Cop
Less Than Jake
The Last Gang
The Bouncing Souls
The added bonus was two nights of NOFX playing five of their albums in their entirety in addition to an entire set.
The albums they picked for Columbus were:
Punk in Drublic
Wolves in Wolves Clothing
White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean
So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes
It is worth noting that the band was actually supposed to play Self/Entitled originally, but Smelly learned the wrong album so they just decided to go with it.
There was no way I was missing this weekend, and I did not. I lucked out and was able to join some of my pals who opted out of camping in favor of an AirBnB and, at my age, I was totally ok with that. What was even cooler is that I secured a photo pass and came out of retirement in a sense to shoot the set. Saying I was stoked was an understatement.
Legend Valley is actually about 30 minutes east of Columbus and is a stage, some gravel, and a hill of grass. It is like a bare bones Blossom Music Center and I was completely fine with this. It reminded me of Cloverleaf, that flea market grounds I first saw NOFX at.
Each day for the first three hours, breweries from all over handed out “10” samples of their hoppy goodness. The quotes are because it was more like unlimited. I am not a drinker anymore so cannot tell you what was the best out of them all, but my pals all were feeling pretty good by late afternoon before even buying their first over-priced can of alcohol.
Aside from the brewery tents, there was merch galore by Fat Wreck, Smart Punk, and others. There were a few food trucks too closer to the stage. Punk Rock Saves Lives was doing their thing and Dylan Flynn from Pass the Bass had a tent where he was raising money for the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) by taking donations and selling merch.
As an added bonus, Jared Gaines was selling his punk inspired flash on prints, pins and shirts. He even drew up limited edition flash specifically for the Ohio Punk in Drublic show:
Come 2pm, the bands started playing every hour on the hour. They played mostly 30-minute sets each to give enough time for the next band to get set up and have sound check.
Bad Cop Bad Cop started the festival off. This all-female band played as if they were head-lining the weekend and people were just eating it up. Linh Le’s energy was indescribable during their set. It should be noted that throughout the entire weekend, she and Stacy Dee could be seen on the sides of the stage singing loud and proud. I loved seeing this support for the touring bands as well as just two women living the moment just like all of the other thousands of fans in attendance.
Codefendants were the one act I really wanted to see, and I am glad I was able to. This punk/rap hybrid may not have fit the bill compared to the other acts, but they delivered and were just amazing to watch. Dee from Bad Cop Bad Cop came out to sing her verses in “Disaster Scenes” which honestly I was hoping for. Sadly, The D.O.C. did not join them on stage during “Fast Ones,” but goddamn that song sounded amazing live. I was overly impressed with their set and have the feeling the won over a ton of new fans.
Seeing the Adolescents live just incredible. Tony Reflex rocked a large black mask that covered his face and he tore through their set as if it wasn’t even there. I think the one thing that hit me while watching them was knowing that Steve Soto passed just around this time of the year in 2018. Hearing “Welcome to Reality” and “Amoeba” was an added treat.
Strung Out was entertaining as hell and they flew though some great tracks without slowing down one bit. Opening up with “Too Close to See” just started off their set with plenty of momentum. I was stoked to hear “Daggers” as well as “Bring Out Your Dead.”
Less Than Jake never disappoints. I absolutely adore this band and I was not the only one. Everyone was having a good time to this band, singing along to tracks like “Lie to Me”, “Look What Happened”, and All My Best Friends are Metalheads.” I lost my mind and sang as loud as I could when they played “The Science of Selling Yourself Short.”
The Circle Jerks had a bit of a longer set as they were the last band prior to NOFX taking stage. Keith Morris took some of this time just to chat it up with the crowd. Some of me wishes they played more songs, but at least I can say I got to hear “Wild in the Streets” and the version “When the Shit Hits the Fan” which may have been the best thing to happen day one to this aging punk rocker.
NOFX took the stage and Fat Mike admitted he was slightly under the weather and on some antibiotics but did not let that slow him down at all. I have to admit, they did it right by not playing the albums they planned to cover from start to finish. By mixing up the tracks from Punk in Drublic as well as Wolves in Wolves Clothing, this was more than night one of their last show, it was a straight up blowout.
They played so many great songs, but I was most stoked to hear “Theme from a NOFX Album”, “Don’t Call Me White” and obviously “Linoleum.” Hearing “Doornails” with Lee playing acoustic guitar was incredibly poignant. I was with my pals for most of the set and can honestly say I was in the best company possible. They took one break, caused many laughs, and did exactly what they said they were going to do by playing 40 songs.
Having made it to the end of the night, we opted to skip the Melvinator after show DJ set in lieu of heading back to the house we were staying at, but we screwed up and sat in a van in a field for likely the entire performance. At least there was A/C in there… I am kicking myself for missing that one as I heard it was a good time.
Day one was just what I was hoping for. I got to see tons of bands I appreciate and did so with pals I have known for almost 20 years. The crowd was awesome all around too and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I had thought I would see more drunken debauchery around the grounds, but maybe I was not looking hard enough. I also learned that a certain minivan had a kick to it and may have done an accidental burnout in front of a cop on the way out…
Day two came up quick and literally flew by. My pals went for the beer tents as soon as we arrived and I went for the merch booths and stood my ground preparing to take more shots of the bands.
I just have to add that out of all the shows I have shot in my life, this was the first show/fest that I buddied up with other photographers. If you guys are reading this, thanks for being rad and I enjoyed covering this weekend with y’all.
Ok, back to what most of you likely care about…
The Last Gang stsrted off the second day and completely won me over. I admit I sat on this ska punk band for years now, and that ended on a Sunday afternoon in Columbus. Brenna Red and crew played hard and promised the crowd they would come out and sign things after the set. I can confirm they did this for some super excited fans. Their set was just awesome and almost matched that Bad Cop Bad Cop-day-getting-started kind of energy. Their cover of “Guns of Brixton” was well received by many in the crowd as well as some of their originals like “Gimme Action” and “Noise Noise Noise.”
Mustard Plug literally pulled in a good crowd and as soon as ” Not Enough” started, the place went crazy. I am not sure security was ready for that one so early in the day. The energy these guys had was just outstanding and you could tell they were enjoying the response from the crowd. At one point they played their version of “Waiting Room,” and naturally everyone sing along. Their set was from start to finish just perfect and hearing “Aye Aye Aye” as well as “On and On” just ruled.
Get Dead was another band I was really excited to see. They played a great set full of old and new tracks including “Hard Times” and “Stickup.” Seeing them pull off “Abscessed” was just incredible. I loved that they also played “Fuck You” and I was not the only one as everyone joined in on singing duties.
The Suicide Machines had the place going crazy the moment they tore into “Islands.” Jason Navarro admitted he too was partaking in the fun and was feeling good. I swear, he spent more time against the crowd letting them take turns singing than on stage. Aside from a slew of tracks, “Break the Glass” and “New Girl” were sung loud and proudly by yours truly, along with thousands of other fans. I loved the moment when he gave a shoutout to my dudes in the Toledo punk band, Shitty Neighbors.
The Bouncing Souls certainly had plenty of fans and one of them even had a gift for them. It was a small toilet with “TOILET SONG” written on it. It made its way to the stage and Bryan was happy to hold it up, but the band admitted it was not on their set. No one really cared because they played plenty of old and new tracks for all to suck in. “The Gold Song”, “Sing Along Forever” and “Hopeless Romantic” were the tracks I enjoyed the most. I honestly wish they took the stage longer and I know I was not the only one.
The one band I was most stoked to see play was the Descendents and they sounded perfect. They nailed every song and played a hell of a set. I loved hearing “Everything Sux”, “Silly Girl”, “Clean Sheets”, “.Merican”….I should stop here right? No way, not this time. They also played “I Don’t Want to Grow Up”, “I’m the One”, “Bikage” and even “Weinerschnitzel.” It was just freaking perfect.
So something happened to me before NOFX took stage that sadly I will never forget. I was catching up with one of the other photographers up my the merch tents and an inebriated, young man approached us and spotted our VIP tags and cameras. He asked us if we could get him backstage to which we explained to him this VIP was not really all access, but more of an opportunity to use a bathroom with AC. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked me if I could help him grant his dying wish. I told him it really depended on the ask and he told me he had cancer and wanted me to get his bracelet to Fat Mike in hopes Fat Mike would yell at him. I told him I was not sure I could commit to that and encouraged him to try and just get close and give it his all. I am not sure the truth behind the interaction, but I really hope the best for that young man.
NOFX took the stage likely for the last time in Ohio before the sunset. Just before this happened, the band, along with many performers over the weekend took a moment to do a celebratory shot behind Smelly’s drumkit. It was seriously bittersweet to see this moment. They came out son after just as they did 24 hours ago dancing to the “Time Warp Dance.”
Once again, they blasted through songs off the albums they promised to play in their entirety: So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes and White Trash, Two H–bs, and a Bean and well as tossed in some others including their cover of Rancid’s “Radio” and even “Can’t Get the Stink Out.”
I enjoyed their second set slightly more than the previous night’s. Mostly this was due in part to finally seeing NOFX play “The Decline.” For years when I would see them play shows since the song came out, they would tease it, but they never committed. I was happy and sad as they played this punk rock opus. In fact, at the very end, I was overcome with emotions, and I know I was not the only one. If this band never plays Ohio again, at least the last song I got to hear was the one I have been hoping they would play for me for years.
For two nights, NOFX played my favorite albums in their catalog and more. I was in great company and could not have had a better time. They brought on so much talent with them to make the festival even more special. I left that Sunday night on a high I have not felt in a long time. It was an incredible sendoff for a band I have been listening to for 30+ years.
As my friends and I left, I could not help but to think to myself how lucky I was to have been able to make this one. Fatherhood has changed life for me over the years in the best ways, and I was not sure I was going to be able to make this one work let alone cover it, but there I was, leaving Legend Valley with my pals about to do one more burnout in the mini-van just to get some last laughs by everyone with me.
Day 1 Photo Dump (more will be added soon):
Day 2 Photo Dump: