It was June. It was Las Vegas. It was hot as hell.
I was in town for a conference and had decided to check out one of the pre-conference get togethers.It was June. It was Las Vegas. It was hot as hell.
I was in town for a conference and had decided to check out one of the pre-conference get togethers. At the very least, there would be free food. Once I got there, I realized that being fashionably late was a mistake. All the seats with people I knew were filled, so I got stuck at a quiet table off to the side. It could have been worse, but it definitely wasn’t better than sitting in my hotel room watching Family Feud.
It was a tapas place, and I perked up a bit when they brought out the first course. But then I saw that it wasn’t vegetarian, so I went back to that place of comfortable disappointment. The second and third courses weren’t any better. My table mates felt bad for me.
In the middle of the awards reception part of the gathering, a familiar face materialized. His breath smelled strongly of booze and, to be honest, it was kind of like coming home again. This guy was one of the only reasons these conferences were fun for me. He suggested we get out of there. I took my napkin off my lap and bade my single serving friends farewell.
We left the restaurant.
“Fuck, it’s hot,” he said. “Let’s just walk down a little ways so we can catch a cab. We’re going to have to wait an hour in line here."
My pal was having trouble staying awake. He’d taken quite a few pills with his quite a few drinks. And the non-vegetarian tapas he’d consumed were not agreeing with his system. He was a fucking mess. I laughed my ass off. We had to stop at every hotel along the way for him to use the restroom and try to get us a cab. Turned out there were, like, eight hundred events going on that day, and all the hotel folks just laughed at us. We sat in a lobby for a while, and my friend fell asleep. I roused him, somewhat concerned that he might not wake up again.
“Fuck it,” he finally said. “You just want to walk?"
“Sure,” I said. I didn’t care. Las Vegas was hot, but I lived in Phoenix. It was uncomfortable, but doable. He, however, was from the east coast, and the sun was destroying him. He was sweating and high and drunk and dehydrated. Again, funny.
At some point, he saw a cab stopped at a red light and bolted toward it, throwing open the door and climbing in. Luckily, the cab was empty and the driver was cool with that behavior. He told the driver an address, and fell asleep again.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
His eyes opened. “What?"
“Where are we going?"
“We rented Fat Mike’s house."
“The Fat Mike?"
“You know him?"
Not personally, no. I have never had a conversation with Mike Burkett, lead singer of NOFX. But I’d stood in a dozen sweaty crowds of people in relatively close proximity to him. Back when I was still discovering punk, I used to wear a NOFX shirt all the time, even when I’d never heard their music before. Fat Mike, as far as I was concerned, was the godfather of my era of punk rock. So, yeah, I was aware of him.
When we pulled up to the house, I was sure he was mistaken. It was just an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood. I was slightly disappointed, but not surprised.
But then we went inside. And it was Fat Mike’s house.
The place was a NOFX museum. There were piles of punk CDs next to a beat up stereo, a beer vending machine, a mini-golf course, and, of course, lots and lots of S&M gear. The house rules were written on the wall of the kitchen, and NOFX’s gold Punk in Drublic record was on the wall of the master bedroom.
It was amazing, and felt incredibly personal to be in the man’s home (even if it was just his Las Vegas vacation house). The experience was very similar to reading this book (I bet you never thought I’d get there). The book is the most graphic and intense musical biography I have ever read. With touring musicians, I always expect some level of debauchery, but NOFX makes guys like Tucker Max look like the minor leagues. At times, it was really hard to read.
But there’s honesty, wit, and wisdom in these pages. There are many things to be learned from this band’s triumphs and catastrophes. I think it’s probably worth a read even if you aren’t a fan of their music....more