Something tells me that you are free again
In a place that feels like home
It’s never easy to understand
Why memories hold our hand
But people let go
-“Feels Like Home”, lyrics by Tony Sly
Punk rock lost a good one this week in Tony Sly, the singer/guitarist/songwriter of No Use for a Name who passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday. In addition to ~25 years and 10+ albums with NUFAN, Sly released several albums of solo, acoustic-based material on his own and with Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape. His untimely death at 41 came just days after finishing an acoustic tour with Cape. A public memorial will be held Friday, and a fund has been set up to help support his wife and two young daughters. The cause of death has not been made public.
Like hundreds of other punk fans, I find myself strongly affected by Sly’s death for reasons that don’t seem very cogent. I never met him, was never a huge No Use fan (though I did enjoy them), and probably saw them less than 5 times. Yet the news of Tony’s passing strongly affected me. Maybe it’s because No Use and the rest of the Fat Wreck Chords family (NOFX, Lagwagon, Strung Out, et al) were such important elements in my initiation into the punk rock community in the late ’90s. Maybe it’s because Tony seemed like one of the good guys: a regular, genuinely nice person whose songs were introspective and who cared more about substance than style.
In retrospect, I may be a bigger No Use fan than I thought. They’re practically all I’ve listened to since learning of Tony’s death, and I own everything they released in the last 11 years (I’m now seeking to catch up on the older material). Even so, I never thought of them as one of my favorites until now, but on reflection Tony’s songs were some of the most memorable of my halcyon punk rock college and post-college years. His death hits hard, a sentiment I feel is shared by many other punk fans my age who grew up on ’90s California bands. Tony was one of us, and we thought he and his band would always be around, maybe not as active as in their heyday but certainly aging gracefully. At the time of his death they were working on a ninth studio album, which would’ve been the first with their new lineup (in recent years guitarist Chris Rest and drummer Boz Rivera had replaced longtime members Dave Nassie and Rory Koff). I feel fortunate to have seen them back in January, opening for NOFX:
My fondest NUFAN memory is a show at SDSU’s Cox (now Viejas) Arena back in 2001. The lineup was Guttermouth, No Use, Face to Face, and Pennywise. Guttermouth singer Mark Adkins broke his foot running around onstage and had to finish their set sitting on a stool. Although the show was sold as general admission, nowhere had it been advertised that wristbands were required for floor access, and they wouldn’t sell them to us once inside even though the floor was far from full. Those stuck in the seats, including me and my best friend from college, were pissed. NUFAN started playing (I think the first song was “Invincible”) and Tony shouted for us all to get down to the front. I looked at my friend, and we immediately joined the wave of fans shoving their way past the security guys guarding the stairs. Very quickly we were down on the floor and I was in a huge mosh pit. It got so out of hand that the house lights were turned on and the sound cut during Face to Face’s set, which didn’t stop them from playing their cover of the Descendents’ “Bikeage” using just their amps until the powers-that-be gave up and let the show continue.
The last song Tony Sly performed was a cover of NOFX’s “Linoleum” with Joey Cape on the final night of their tour last Sunday in Florida:
One of the best tributes I’ve seen came on Wednesday, the same day news of his death broke. Yellowcard cancelled their acoustic set on the Milwaukee stop of the Warped Tour, and instead practiced for 2 hours learning the No Use for a Name song “Chasing Rainbows” to perform in their main set, wearing homemade NUFAN shirts:
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