When did punk bands get so modest? We’re not sure what tonight’s lot have been drinking backstage, but there’s a strong whiff of dubiety in the O2 Brixton Academy air. It all starts with Capdown singer, “Shakey” Jake Sims-Fielding, who declares “some of you are looking as old as me,” before admitting the ska-mob couldn’t pass up an opportunity to stand on stage, get drunk and be paid for it. Which is, admittedly, pretty punk. Factor in a suitably subdued set by California quintet Lagwagon and it’s over to Alkaline Trio to act as low-key as possible.
“We’re going to play ‘…Here To Infirmary’ in full, if that’s okay?” Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba asks politely after ‘Private Eye’. In reality, it’s the pull of hearing their 2001 record in its entirety that’s justified a double Brixton billing. The previous night may’ve been a sold-out affair, but tonight it’s the loyal fans who’ve turned out to see two of punk rock’s most prestigious albums from start to finish. So as Alkaline Trio proceed into ‘Mr. Chainsaw’ and ‘Take Lots With Alcohol’, the seamless, co-vocal dynamic shared between Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano glistens softly in the spotlight. Having both stretched their muscles on separate projects in the fourteen years since the record was released (as well as five further Trio albums), the men before us are more self-assured, controlled and at ease than when they recorded these early-noughties songs.
The same can (sort of) be said for headliners NOFX, who reluctantly dive into 1994’s ‘Punk In Drublic’ in full. Much like when they were billed for the same set at Groezrock in 2014, the influential four-piece chop up the track-listing, urging fans to stop them when they’ve heard enough. Fat Mike and co may not want to indulge the 21-year-old album, but the likes of ‘Leave It Alone’, ‘Dig’ and ‘Jeff Wears Birkenstocks’ keep things ticking nicely. True to form, it’s an encore of ‘Fuck The Kids’, ‘Don’t Call Me White’ and ‘Kill All The White Man’/’I Wanna Be An Alcoholic’ that ensure this is a typical NOFX show. Despite being overtly self-depreciating in places, and still with the cringe humour that feels lost on today’s average music fan, having NOFX’s name above the Brixton doorway is still a great thing. After all, punk has never been about keeping everyone happy – NOFX are ensuring it stays that way.