Once your average group of faux-hawked musicians can draw a crowd of 500 and sell a couple of dozen T-shirts per show, community opinion would seem to say that they've made it, and don't need any silly radio airplay or marketing department. In reality, most of these acts are all too happy to sign with a major label and spend the summer warming up arenas for the likes of Blink-182 (a choice made even by Bad Religion). The trick is to act like you don't care.
NOFX, however, has actually prevented recognition by the mainstream. Several times in the '90s, radio and 120 Minutes came calling; NOFX repeatedly sent in then-label Epitaph Records to pull its own music from the airwaves. For most of the band's career, requests for interviews have been categorically denied; what exceptions have been made are usually for smaller zines.
Ten studio releases and 25 years into the band's run, it seems the strategy is working. NOFX has remained steady as the punk scene has shifted and commercialized. The band endured and ignored through straight edge and the Green Day/Offspring boom, through the ska revival, and came out the other side of emo and screamo, unscathed and unchanged. An unfriendly categorization might lump its music into pop-punk, but it's pop-punk with the speed and frenetic energy of hardcore -- both intense and listenable, often with surprisingly intricate and creative songwriting.
The live show, documented in last year's They've Actually Gotten Worse Live album, is an odd mix of casual, directionless banter and furious performance. At one point on the album, band members joke about mistakes in the previous song, quickly compose an impromptu birthday tune for an insistent fan, then launch into one of their most careful and somber songs, "Eat the Meek." A moment later, they announce that they're going to attempt eight songs in six minutes or less.
The live release also features plenty of political fury. Frontman Fat Mike founded www.PunkVoter.com in 2004 as a political-awareness and voter-registration tool, in hopes of mobilizing apathetic punk youth into unseating President Bush. Perhaps as a result of the last election, the band has been mostly quiet through the current cycle. It'll be interesting to see whether ample time is devoted to political commentary at the band's Pittsburgh date, Tue., Oct. 21 -- a mere two weeks before the general election. In all likelihood, however, most of the set will be devoted to beer and power chords.
NOFX with Dillinger Four and The Flatliners. 7 p.m. Tue., Oct. 21 (doors at 6 p.m.). Club Zoo, 1630 Smallman St., Strip District. $20 ($22 day of show). All ages. 412-201-1100 or www.clubzoo.net