Fuse recently began airing NOFX: Backstage Passport, a reality show-esque endeavour that shows the long-running punk band hitting a variety of exotic locales and straying from the safety of the North American and European tour circuit. Few purely independent bands could even attempt an trip like this, and even fewer could make it interesting. Fortunately, NOFX's worldwide trip is not just an great feature for fans of the band, but also quite compelling as a road trip comedy of errors.
Largely set up like a reality show, the program intersperses talking head features from NOFX and their crew with segments shot in many of the cities the band visited on their tour. It's quite remarkable to get this running commentary from the entire NOFX gang as they dryly discuss the vast amounts of insanity that greeted them at nearly every stop on the tour. From the opening in Fat Mike's remarkably domestic home life to the sheer madness that awaited them in Peru, Backstage Passport is a remarkable little tour video. More than just a set of quick cuts between footage, the producers seem to have carefully assembled a plot for each episode with each episode telling an efficient story while maintaining a steady dose of humour.
Part of the appeal of the program comes from how darn likeable the entire band is; because they have apparently never approached the band as a "business" or "career" despite clearly being both, the quartet (and crew) seem to be having a drunken, rowdy blast everywhere they end up. Amusingly, one of the few missteps the band takes is when Eric Melvin becomes a little too professional and obsesses about tuning, leading to a relatively stern rebuke from Fat Mike.
If anything becomes very clear from watching the program, it's that North Americans and Americans in particular are downright spoiled by the volume of bands coming through their cities. Watching kids in South America completely elated by a single NOFX performance shows you both how devoted the fanbase is, and how much they appreciate the attention. Despite how modestly the band approaches the tour, the enthusiasm they feel from the fans must be incredibly rewarding and they certainly return it in kind.
While the band maintains a pretty healthy optimism throughout, some of the highlights come from the slightly less idealistic crew who provide some of the funniest moments in the show, from the over-the-top drunkenness of the tour manager to one crew member's promise to strangle a particularly disappointing promoter, the amount of screen time given to the people who are responsible for so much of the unspoken elements of a tour like this is something as well. Along with the nitty gritty of touring, there are some truly moving moments captured on film, particularly the impromptu acoustic set in Peru, particularly when juxtaposed against the events which precede it.
That's not to say that the show is flawless; there are some unfortunate concessions made for episodic TV, which do tend to ruin the flow of the show. For example, before each and every commercial break, the producers show pieces of what will follow immediately after said break. I understand the need for teasers, but the fact that a sentence will be repeated verbatim 30 seconds after the teaser does tend to get a little annoying.
By the same token, the producers often overdub studio recordings over the live performances, which makes very little sense. The aforementioned acoustic performance begins with an acoustic take on "Franco Un-American" but is quickly overlaid with the album recording. Considering how important the performance is to the narrative of that particular episode, it tends to blunt some of the force.
It's been 14 years since Ten Years of Fuckin' Up, the last home video released by NOFX and Backstage Passport is a more than a worthy successor. Instead of the excessive minutia that most bands put on their video features, the show is a efficient and enjoyable escapade and one definitely worth catching for fans of NOFX or touring bands in general.
After the show wraps up its run, one can only hope for a proper release on DVD or iTunes. It's ironic that many of the kids shown in the program can't legally watch the program; let's hope that it's rectified and those poor kids in Peru can finally find out what happened to their NOFX show.