London Stratford Three Mills Island

Welcome to planet punk, 2000AD.

There’s a girl onstage and she’s got her finger up the ‘back-end’ of a guy called Mark ‘Mercury’ Adkins. The lead singer of California frat-punks GUTTERMOUTH, Mercury helpfully sucked the girl’s finger before forcing it in his rear and is now singing a song called ‘Asshole’. There are groups of men in their mid-30s rolling around on the floor, slipping in vomit and mashing up their mohawks, while posh punk students skip gingerly over them on their way to watch the action on the skateboard ramp. Welcome to planet punk, 2000AD.

There are about 10,000 miscreants of every shape and size gathered here today to witness one of London’s biggest ever punk festivals. Mohawks, dreadlocks and sad Johnny Rotten lookalikes rub shoulders with baggy jeaned skaters, Blink 182 doppelgdngers and straight-edge skinheads. Every possible incarnation of punk rock has come here to see eight bands for the highly affordable price of #13. It’s the punk rock Big Day Out.

Set up last year, the Deconstruction tour’s aim is to bring the cream of American hardcore/punk acts to the masses. In the absence of any Vans Warped tents at this year’s festivals, it’s a lifeline for punkers. Today’s bands – save from ska metallers Mighty Mighty Bosstones – all come from independent labels like Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords – a label owned by NOFX‘s Fat Mike. So we’re all here to kill the corporate MTV pigs and fuck the police – right?

“I’m here to see loads of fit punk skaters,” says London student Yana. “I’ve had a bottle of cider and loads more.”

Back to Guttermouth and the charming ‘Mercury’ Adkins. His band fire off half-an-hour of dumb-ass Californian punk-by-numbers to an enraptured crowd. Like Blink 182 but dirtier and funnier, Guttermouth sing of hating pretty much everything. Adkins, clad in lime green beach shorts, swigs from a bottle of wine before telling us: “This wine tastes like shit. It’s French. The French are fucking peasants.” Cue cheers of approval.

The vibe goes distinctly more PC when straight edgers SNAPCASE take to the stage. Like an aerobics team with guitars, they jump up and down in perfect unison while cranking out dark, metallic hardcore to the faithful. The serious-looking tattooed boys with backpacks nod approvingly while checking the Xs on their hands aren’t smudging. These guys are at the wrong party, dude.

“I am really pissed now,” says 23-year-old Al from Stoke Newington, a man with the kind of haircut you only ever see on documentaries about the Sex Pistols. “It’s #13 to see eight bands, so I’m pissed.”

He’ll be pleased, then, that today’s only English band are comedy punks SNUFF. A pisshead’s dream band, they play 100mph hilarious punk cover versions of your favourite TV themes and ads to one of the biggest moshpits of the day. Sadly for Snuff, their original material doesn’t get quite the same crowd response as their take on ‘The Theme From The Cricket On Telly’, but their appearance on today’s bill is the most welcome so far.

It seems that since Bloodhound Gang and Blink 182 exploded, it’s now [I]de rigueur[/I] to be a manic masturbator if you’re to be a punk rocker. Maybe it’s because, for a lot of the kids here today, their first exposure to punk was through skateboarding and snowboarding videos, a culture notorious for fratboy humour and ‘soggy biscuit’ games. Where bedroom floors were once littered with rusty safety pins and glue bags, they’re now covered with tissues, [I]Men Only[/I] and Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding on PlayStation. Not exactly ‘Anarchy In The UK’, then.

Which brings us to the MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES‘ comedy ska metal. The sight of nine rotund mid-30s American dudes in suits skanking around the stage is a spectacle, to say the least. They look like car salesmen who’ve just walked out of the crackhouse for the first time. Frontman Dicky Barrett is a man with more punk rock credentials than most, starting his career with Boston Oi! band Impact Unit in 1982. Their ‘hit’, ‘The Impression That I Get’, is received by the sight of the middle-aged part-time punkers – now COMPLETELY steaming – running from the back of the site into the crowd, banging, spitting and punching anyone in their way; it’s a great sight. But for all their suit and tie sophistication, Bosstones were always going to pale next to tonight’s headliners NOFX.

To those who’ve never heard them, they sound pretty much exactly the same as MTV-sponsored, multi-platinum-selling punk goons Blink 182. Thing is, NOFX have been like this since 1983 and do not GIVE A FUCK for major label fame. Like Fugazi, they’ve developed a no-press policy and recently banned MTV from playing any of their records.

Sell-out fakes should be ashamed, because when NOFX kick into gear on near-genius two-minute anthems like ‘Fuck The Kids’, ‘Murder The Government’ and ‘I Wanna Be An Alcoholic’, they show they’ve got more firepower up their sleeves than most. So they tell worse jokes than Green Day and the Blink boys put together, but NOFX embody punk rock, old-style and new. Snot-nosed, grubby, pissed-up, masturbatory AND revolutionary, they’re living proof that punk – in all its many different forms – will never die. Even if it is currently trying to wank itself into an early grave.