HomeMusicPop-Break Live: NOFX at Starland Ballroom

Pop-Break Live: NOFX at Starland Ballroom

maxwell barna and giuliano messina give it to you straight about the Old Man Markley, Anti-Flag and NOFX show from Starland Ballroom last week …

Maxwell Barna: So uhh, I don’t know if you folks were aware of it, but last Monday punk rock legends NOFX played Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, N.J. with Anti-Flag and “newgrass” newcomers, Old Man Markley. NOFX played Starland three years ago with Dillinger Four, and me, being the immense dumb ass that I was/am, missed the show. From that day forward, I vowed that if NOFX should ever play a place within a 15 minute drive from me ever again, I wouldn’t miss it. And luckily for us, the folks over at Fat Wreck Chords were generous enough to hook Pop-Break.com up with a couple spots on the guest list and a photo pass. So after class, G (Giuliano Messina) and I headed out to the show, snapped a couple photos, and had a great time.

Old Man Markley has caught guff from the scene’s uber-punx since the band signed with Fat Wreck last September. And I’ll admit, before they took the stage, I was a little sketched out about having to listen to a punk-rock bluegrass band. Now, don’t get me wrong — I like Old & In The Way and Earl Scruggs as much as I like Stiff Little Fingers and The Descendents, but the thought of seeing them both in the same venue freaked me out, quite frankly.

But their set was just different. It was great. I love being able to look at a band and know they’re genuinely enjoying doing what they do. And that is exactly what I saw when Old Man Markley took the stage. It seemed more like a bunch of friends with a bunch of talent playing music they like and loving every minute of it than an actual set. And kudos to them for having the balls to come out here with cowboy boots, a washboard, and a homemade standup bass comprised of a wash basin and a plunger (yes, a fucking plunger) for a stand — absolute brilliance. I’d say the best part about it was how into it the crowd was. And with that, kudos to the local punx0rz for being open-minded enough to groove to a new, often-unfamiliar sound around these parts.

The fellas (and ladies!) in Old Man Markley were also incredibly good sports. Somehow, about three songs into their set, the standup bass lost power. From what I gathered, something was wrong with the amplifier from which it was plugged into, but don’t quote me on that, because I’m not a sound tech. I don’t know how to make music into sound magic or any of that fancy schmancy hippidy dippidy stuff … and neither did the sound tech, apparently.

Either way, after a couple impromptu acoustic songs from a quick-on-his-feet frontman, the bass situation got sorted out and Old Man Markley finished what I’d consider to be an otherwise consistent set, full of energy and fun, and well-crafted by skill and talent.


Giuliano Messina: As the lights went down and Starland’s signature projector screen went up, I’ll admit the crowd was thinner than I expected. But by the time Anti-Flag was halfway through “The Press Corpse,” I looked back and found that everyone decided they were done with their cigarette break, and rightly so. The circle pit forming in the center of the floor quickly became the only open space, the only way to escape being crowd surfing to the front.

If there’s one thing I can expect from Anti-Flag, it’s that they won’t fail to deliver their message. And that they’ll rival the crowd in how much they move around. OK, so two things I can expect from Anti-Flag. Whether it’s holding up the peace sign or playing the political anthem “You’ve Got To Die For The Government,” they’re a band that makes you feel like you might be part of something bigger.

Admittedly, “One Trillion Dollars” slowed things down a bit and made me long for something a bit older. Then they apparently read my mind far too literally, pulling out an Anti-Flag-fueled version of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” and we were back in business. The pit agreed, and then showed its approval again the only way it knew how when Anti-Flag reminded us what 90’s street punk sounded like with “Fuck Police Brutality,” making sure to reference the appropriately related Wall Street protests.

I told myself I wouldn’t badmouth the newer, slightly slower songs or sound guy, but maybe next time we could have the second guitar and background vocals brought up just a bit? Come on, just a little. Otherwise, Anti-Flag’s high energy never disappoints, no matter how long they’ve been going at it. They’re one of the few bands with a consistent message, and they know how to get it across, even when they only have a half hour to do it.


And then, well you know, everyone came to see NoFX. This time, the room stayed packed as everyone anticipated the hour-long finale. In good form, Fat Mike walked out the side of the stage sharing food with fans on the edge of the barricade before everyone took their spots and got right to it. When you want to get a crowd going crazy from the start, you play “Stickin’ In my Eye.”

The mix of old and new songs was spot on, just as you’d expect from a band and base that know how to keep things loud for over a quarter century. Even so, I couldn’t help but find myself holding back satisfaction waiting in anticipation for “Linoleum.” And once more, I had my mind read. They played it fast and loud as always, and the packed venue reacted in step. The old and new back-and-forth was well planned, moving between songs like “We Called It America” and “Perfect Government” flawlessly.

In decidedly different form from Anti-Flag, NoFX reserves talking to the crowd for when they’re drunk and feel like making fun of everyone (and each other), but they made up for it by letting the crowd pick the next song. In New Jersey, I suppose, we prefer “Moron Brothers.” We must, because the crowd sang every word. Even the occasional slower song like “Eat The Meek” got the same treatment from the crowd and rivaled the actual vocals.

As I enjoyed a cold $5 beer (plus a tip — I mean, seriously can you believe this shit? I even had to pay just to park!), NoFX pulled out one of my favorite new songs of theirs, “Orphan Year,” before ending with “Theme from a NoFX Album” and Eric Melvin’s five-minute accordion solo.

Oh, and there was an encore, too, but really you should have been there if you wanted to hear what they played, I’m not your personal stenographer.


Most Recent

Stay Connected