“Ok, we’re entering the hostel, we gotta keep it down.” Six pair of feet shuffle up the steps. Plastic cups of beer – one for the roaders – in hand. A patient night receptionist sits at the desk. Just prior to this we were standing in a parking lot seeing who could walk in a straight line better, the drunk or the sober. You can guess the result, but it’s not as easy a task as you would think. Ryan tried a step or two, then abruptly pointed skyward and shouted, “look it’s Orion’s Belt!” He then moshed towards us. Bladder control had to be exercised as we laughed out loud. Five minutes later we are tip-toeing into the lobby. A plastic cup drops (of course) and beer goes everywhere. The receptionist gets a mop. It’s 3:00 am.
Heading down the highway now in Italy. We exited the land of high mountains and glacial lakes and are now marveling at road signage for Venice. Fuckin’ rad. I’m struggling slightly to put words together – partly due to lack of sleep, partly due to the three coffee’s I’ve had this morning, partly due to all the shit that happened the day before. Night Birds now have a Punk Rock Holiday under their belt.
Imagine 360 degrees of beautiful (I mean, beautiful) tree-covered mountains. Snowcaps peak over their shoulders as if to photo bomb the scene. A milky blue river flows through the valley. A winding trail curves down to a mulch-covered field enclosed by canopy of emerald green. 3,000 druuuuunk puuuuunks await.
Night Birds already early set time gets bumped up. Not strangers to adapting and reacting, they are ready to go…if only the guy from MySpace Invaders could let them wrap up their paperwork at the production office. We run the merch over to the tent where a contracted company sells the shit for us. My job is somewhat done for the day. I crouch stage-side with my camera. The stage is huge; PJ looks like he is on the other side of the river. Like I need a telescope, not a zoom lens to get him in focus. Night Birds hit it. At the far end of a developing sea of revelers sits a pair of giant inflatable Monster Energy cans. One dude does a hand-stand to forward flip into the crowd. Another kid jumps on to the low platform between the stage proper and the audience, writhes and contorts wildly for a few seconds, and rolls back in. PJ breaks the intensity for a moment by licking Brian’s face like two scoops of rocky road. The fastest band of the day wraps their set with The Replacements. “Turn that shit off!”
Happy to see members of Bane checking out the NBs and then giving a shout-out during their set. So cool when two bands from different stripes of HC can cross paths at something as stylistically sprawled as a mountainside punk fest and express mutual admiration. I must say, I also felt nothing but posi vibes watching their set of classic old-school-inspired ragers. “Do you still believe?” I fucking do!
The Night Birds set behind us and the merch out of our hands meant a rare free evening. I spent the lion’s share of my time soaking up some wifi and making my best attempts at a disjointed Facebook chat with my wife. There is a guy at the fest with a shirt that proudly declares, “Fuck Facebook – I’ve got real friends.” You know, not to be an ironic dick, but that statement might actually convey the opposite meaning.
Punk rock haircuts abound. I mean that sincerely, as there is a punk rock barber shop pop-up at the fest. PJ and I are hanging in the beer tent. An Italian guy in a Brazil jersey wants to talk to us. PJ asks him which band he is here to see. No band. Just here to drink. I have a Punk Rock Holiday debit card for boozin’. I use it to buy a Slovenian burrito. Slov-Mex. Approaching midnight, I go for some Mr. Coffee sitting idle since dinner. Willkie from the NOFX crew passes on some secret information. There’s good coffee and vegan food down by the river. I work my way down there for some ice cream cake. I’m walking on a dark path in the middle of the night in the mountains of Slovenia about to watch one of the first punk bands I truly loved play. I haven’t seen them for 20 years. Not since the Punk in Drublic tour stop at Atlanta’s Somber Reptile.
I’ve got a smoothie in hand. Michl, Ryan, and PJ are double-fisting beer as we slink on to stage right. Joe and Brian are already there. NOFX explode. The crowd goes goddamn nuts. Security is mostly forgiving and so is the band as audience members hop on stage and one-by-one employ various tactics to get the NOFXers attention. There’s the arms spread wide in front of band member “look at me!” pose. There’s the steal a sip of Fat Mike’s drink move. There’s the “dude look at my sick NOFX tat” move. Finally, there’s the gift-giving move – a flask, a demo, a business card, underwear, whatever. Most stage-divers don’t attack the move with the required abandon. Rightly considering their safety, they tend to ease into the crowd like an elderly man crawling into bed for the night. My arm is in the air singing along to songs from high school that still hold up. “That’s me inside your heeeeeeaaaad!”
An extended security/stage-diver scuffle results in the loss of the diver's shirt, a tackle over the monitors and, for his troubles, the subsequent raising of his person off the ground by two hands clasping his head and lifting with vigor. He is exited thus so. Song ends. Boos and tree bark alike are hurled. Boner killer. Fat Mike expertly steps up, apologizes, takes responsibility, and the show goes on. Although that awkward moment occurred in full view of the entire crowd, center-stage, they are able to recapture the vibe with some killer closers like Separation of Church and Skate, and Kill All the White Man.
NOFX is as important to me as Kiss, Anthrax, The Misfits, Ramones, Minor Threat, 7 Seconds or Tear It Up. They are part of a musical tether ball that swings around cyclically. Sometimes I’m there to hit it back around, sometimes it just smacks me in the face. When I was a jerk teenager, my friend and I listened to “Ribbed” over and fucking over. Yugoslavia was a country, not Slovenia. It would have been nonsensical at the time to suggest that last night would eventually happen. But it did.
Last night was a ton of fun in Bolonga, Italy! Tonight is Switzerland! See you there!