NOFX Dropped By Their Own Festival After Their Las Vegas Shooting Joke
What does it mean to be punk exactly? If punk is an idea (as Richard Hell said) or an attitude (as Joe Strummer said), there’s certainly no need to have a Mohawk to be punk. This weekend, I have seen enough kids with hirsute haircuts giving the middle finger, I have seen enough ‘no gods no masters’ tattoos (or any variation of it) to realize that punk, or at least the idea of being punk, was still alive and it was very reassuring in this politically correct era. Punks are not afraid to offend or to disturb, not afraid to be different and independent, and Punk Rock Bowling seemed to be a gathering of the most unruly, lawless, anarchy-thirsty people, proclaiming their strong and independent spirit.
So when NOFX’s Fat Mike and his band members made offensive comments before playing ’72 hookers’, joking about potentially getting shot because the ‘song is about Muslims’, and adding ‘I guess you only get shot in Vegas if you are in a country band, I barely noticed as I was just moving out of the pit after the 3 songs allowance. During their stand-up comedy minute, there were only laughs coming from the crowd and nobody, really nobody around me, looked close to be offended. I did not hear one ‘boo’ from the audience, as everyone expected that kind of offensive joke from Fat Mike… after all, this is what NOFX are known for, beside their hooky pop punk songs.
But, it has to be expected, someone filmed the part and sent the video to TMZ which made a big deal about it… and suddenly many people get offended – not people who attended PBR for sure – making PBR officials publish an apology on social media:
‘In light of NOFX’s comments during their performance at Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival, we would like to offer a formal apology to those in attendance, the City of Las Vegas, the victims, and the families of 10/1.
Las Vegas is home to the Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival, and we do not condone the statements made from our stage on Sunday night. We take the safety of our festival goers seriously and want to relay that, there is nothing funny about people being shot and murdered, ever.
Mark Stern and Shawn Stern
Founders of Punk Rock Bowling’
What. A. joke. I hate to live in a time when a punk festival has to apologize for a sarcastic joke made by a band known for its sarcastic jokes. It’s also interesting to notice that this happened on Sunday night, and that they didn’t say anything until the video was released on the internet. This was once again a result of the internet mob mentality.
Never apologize should be the nº 1 rule of a punk festival, I understand why they did it, they want to exist next year with the same sponsors, because who is doing DIY these days? Punks need corporate sponsors too and the social media pressure is a big one in a time when people get regularly fired or trashed in the mud for a bad tweet. But I would never want to compare this incident to Roseanne Barr’s last debacle on Twitter. Her comment was a coward and very racist one, unforgivable and unfunny, whereas NOFX’s rant was provocative, totally insensitive yes but hilarious… of course I understand how such a joke hurt people who lost relatives in the Las Vegas shooting, but this is a band which has joked about the holocaust, and whose career is a long series of offensive jokes… They even wrote a song called ‘There’s No ‘Too Soon’ If Time Is Relative’.
Interestingly, I thought the backlash would be about their anti-Muslim comment, but it turned to be about the Las Vegas shooting because it was so recent in people’s memory, and PRB took it as a potential attack against their security measures and thought it was necessary to reassure people about security, as the grounds of the festival was surrounded by buildings, just as it was the case for the country festival where the slaughter occurred last year.
The massacre was still in everyone’s mind and it was surely a joke made to send a chill along everyone’s spine, but NOFX made it regardless, like a dare, like a middle finger to a potential terrorist attack while making fun of country fans,… at least this is how I got it. At this moment NOFX looked like the most punk band of the night, they did not care about political correctness, they didn’t care about being offensive, they didn’t care about losing fans and other bad consequences…
But condemning NOFX for this rant means that no joke about any human tragedy should be ever made, no joke about the holocaust, no joke about 911? And that’s plain ridiculous, humor is necessary to fight off our fears, it’s a relief and a release, a cure for any existential crisis, but Fat Mike obviously picked the wrong one, because this one was too close in space and time.
However, NOFX did something they never do, they wrote an apology!
‘I can’t sleep, no one in my band can. What we said in Vegas was shitty and insensitive and we are all embarrassed by our remarks. So we decided we will all get together to discuss and write an in depth, sincere, and honest apology because that’s what the people we offended and hurt deserve.’
This was probably due to the fact that Stone Brewing, the primary sponsor of their Punk in Druble festival, has decided to dissociate itself from the band, whereas the festival itself announced a bit later that they had finally decided to go on without NOFX.
Banned from their own festival? This is the dumbest thing ever, and punk died a little bit last weekend in Vegas.