Live: Fat Wrecked for 25 Years with NOFX, Strung Out, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Lagwagon, Good Riddance, Sick Of It All,
Date: Aug 21, 22, & 23, 2015
Location: Thee Parkside, San Francisco, CA
Setting the Stage:
As my plane touched down at Oakland International Airport the gravity of the situation began to set in. This trip was booked when news first broke of the two-day Fat Wreck Chords 25th anniversary celebration in the City by the Bay. The Fat Wrecked for 25 Years Tour had rocked select cities across the United States and Canada, and the San Francisco show was certainly going to stand out.
The weekend began with the premiere of NOFX’s tour diary reality series Backstage Passport 2 at Thee Parkside, a small dive bar with walls covered floor to ceiling with stickers located on 17th St and Wisconsin. The select few in attendance had an opportunity for a brief Q&A with Fat Mike, El Hefe, and Eric Melvin before the venue was surprised with a secret show with The Dickies. A photo surfaced the morning of Aug. 22, 2015 of Fat Mike up front in the pit with a fist high in the air.
I woke up at 8:00am in the back of the Prius the rental car company gave me parked a block away from Thee Parkside. I strolled down the street and met a guy wearing a No Use For A Name t-shirt who spoke of past shows and how this was the line-up he had waited for since the old Warped Tour days. He proudly displayed his Strung Out tattoo as he waited for his concert buddy and ex-wife by which punk rock had obviously kept their relationship from going sour.
A chain link fence blocked Wisconsin Street between 16th St. and 17th St. to serve as the outdoor venue for the weekend’s festivities.
The gates opened as aging punk rockers and the younger generations alike flooded into the streets. Cardboard cutouts of Fat Wreck Chords co-owners Erin Burkett and Fat Mike were available for photos, the San Francisco Roller Derby team was on hand to serve the featured beers Fat Wreck Lager and the Stickin’ In My IPA, which was, dare I say, “mediocore”.
Merch booths lined the side fence and I caught a glimpse of the MDM Custom Drums snare nearly complete with every Fat Wreck Chords family member’s signature available for one lucky winner at the end of the tour. Representatives from the Alternative Music Foundation set up a booth with literature and information on the history of Bay Area music as well.
Jeff Pliskin of Raised Fist Propaganda was in attendance armed with his camera and keen eye to help capture images of the weekend. He made the most out of his Bay Area adventure by visiting multiple musical landmarks including 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, where East Bay legends Operation Ivy, Rancid, Green Day, and The Offspring kicked off the start of the punk revival during the final decade of the twentieth century.
The Future of Fat:
ToyGuitar kicked off the weekend as the first set of Fat Wrecked For 25 Years hometown show in San Francisco on Saturday followed by Night Birds and Western Addiction. Sunday started with Uke-Hunt featuring the enlightening vocal chords of Spike Slawson from Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Their island feel was a welcome opener to the loud, hard, and fast weekend, and Spike’s stage banter rivals that of San Francisco’s stand up comedians.
The felonious foursome Masked Intruder made their mark on a crowd and Blue Intruder told the kids to stay off drugs and try a life of crime instead. Their supervising security Officer Bradford was his usual sourpuss self shaking his head in discontent and waving his middle finger to everyone in attendance. His supervisor will surely be notified after he stripped his uniform and took over the mosh pit in a tight blue spandex singlet.
Part of Fat Wreck’s success involves their keen ability to sign unique talent with varying sounds as the crowd went crazy for The Flatliners. Lead singer Chris Cresswell also performed a solo set inside Thee Parkside the afternoon before.
Dead To Me followed with a solid set and even performed an after party in Oakland later that evening. PEARS nearly reduced the small bar to rubble with a circle pit that looked like it could have kicked out the supports to the entire structure after a DJ set from Eric “The Melvinator” Melvin. Last but not least, the future of Fat is certainly in good hands with the energetic and harmonious quartet Bad Cop/Bad Cop.
25 Years of Fat
Fat Wreck alumni Bracket returned for the first time in nearly five years. Seeing Bracket reminded me of the first time I picked up Fat Music for Fat People and my life spiraled into a continuous journey through music venues and record stores in all parts of the country.
I met Kyle, a fellow San Diego sports fan from my hometown of Poway, CA, and his friend Adam at the bar. We exchanged punk rock stories in addition to our affinity for the San Diego Chargers and Padres when a girl randomly handed me her full beer so she could snag a good spot for longtime Fat vets Swingin’ Utters, supporting their 2014 release Fistful of Hollow.
Guitarist and songwriter Darius Koski also performed songs from his recently released his solid solo debut record, Sisu, on Sunday. We attempted to make our way inside Thee Parkside to catch Joey Cape’s acoustic set. The extraordinary demand to see The Caper created an absurdly long line and we gave up.
I could hear the usual punk show conversations from “That band sucks” to “They’re still together?” Although the crowd has clearly mellowed out over the last twenty-five years, some things will never change.
Missing Joey’s solo set would have been a depressing set-back had Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s not dawned the stage in their sleek white pants and festive aloha shirts an hour later. Lagwagon was also still prepping to close out the weekend prior to NOFX’s second performance and concert finale.
No Fat Wreck Chords show is complete without the speed, soul, and solid set list from Strung Out. Anyone who has had Jason Cruz’s sweat poured all over them while singing along and sharing the microphone knows exactly what I am talking about. New York’s hardcore hero’s Sick of it All were a pleasantly refreshing last minute addition to the line up. They surprisingly instigated what was perhaps the biggest circle pit of the show until Santa Cruz’s Good Riddance performed their classic tracks along with songs from their recent release Peace in Our Time.
Throughout the weekend I repeatedly heard people’s despondency due to Propagandhi’s untimely cancellation. Surely a set from one of the most original, brutally honest, and talented bands in the last quarter century would have been a phenomenal addition to the already epic line up. The reason they were not able to show up was not confirmed but if the story I heard was true, we wish them our best and hope to see them on the road, or as they said, at the Fat Wrecked for 50 Years celebration.
Never Forget Tony Sly:
As Fat Wreck Chords had previously posted on social media, there has been a hole in our hearts since the community lost Tony Sly and it would not be an anniversary celebration without No Use For A Name. In what was perhaps the most anticipated set of the entire tour. Matt Riddle, Rory Koff, and Dave Nassie were ready to play our favorite No Use songs with the help of a plethora of Fat Wreck family members:
Old Man Markley’s Johnny Carey came in with “Chasing Rainbows” followed by “Soulmate” with Jason Cruz. “On The Outside” was well taken care of by Rob Ramos, Karina Denike, and Fat Mike. Strung Out’s bassist Chris Aiken took his turn with “Invincible” and Joey Cape owned “Straight From The Jacket”. The set also included appearances by Brian Wahlstrom, Sly’s band mate from Scorpios, Russ Rankin from Good Riddance accompanied again by the striking voice of Karina Denike.
Tony Sly’s family looked on as the packed venue sang along to their late father’s memorable tunes. His memory and legacy are going to be taken care of and solidified with each song and passing year. It was a special moment for everyone in San Francisco that day and an event that cannot be fully captured through social media.
Fat Family Reunion:
Security guards told me they had no issues the entire weekend and they were sharing smiles almost as much as the bands and the fans. Twenty-five years has given members of Fat Wreck Chords bands enough time to start and build families of their own. Band member’s kids ran around the backstage area pounding on drums, strumming guitars, and dancing to their parent’s music. It was one new scene that has definitely been added since 1990. The San Francisco show was not so much of an anniversary special as it was a family reunion.
I have been trying to get a few minutes with Fat Mike for the last 10 months since I began my article on Fat Wreck Chords long time producer, Ryan Greene. He was shunning interviews when I first began and was in Europe right before the article published. Before the show, The Pier’s owner and editor, Mike Patti, called me out to try and corner Fat Mike at the show. I realized how busy he must have been performing in three sets in addition to the countless appearances on stage, enjoying the other bands from the side or front stage, and catching up with friends backstage.
Finally Cornered Fat Mike… Now What?
While I was having a conversation with Johnny Carey about Old Man Markley, Fat Mike walked up. At that moment I couldn’t think of anything to ask him so I just said, “Thank you.” Not really expecting a reply to my asinine comment, he immediately said, “You’re welcome.” I was not sure what I was thanking him for and I’m sure he did not know what I was thanking him for either but it was sincere gratitude I felt the whole weekend.
Perhaps it was for the incredible access to one of the most memorable musical weekends in my life. It could have been for providing a welcome distraction with his music as I grew up developing my own opinions. Maybe it was for bringing attention to all of the other talented and timeless bands Fat has signed over the years that keep me going to shows and enjoying their records. It had to be a little bit of everything.
We did get a chance to briefly talk about the musical he had worked his ass off on for four years, Home Street Home. He told me there are fourteen songs in the production missing from the soundtrack giving more depth to the already complicated characters he has developed. He also told me it would be heading to Los Angeles soon before making a well-deserved trip to Broadway.
A lot of credit has to go to the staff behind the scenes. Fat only has a few full time employees and the effort it took to organize the entire Fat Wrecked For 25 Years shows why they have been doing this for that long. They pulled off a memorable show in San Francisco proving they are the best at what they do and they are proud to still do it independently.