When the Descendents opened for Rise Against and Bad Religion a few years ago, my brother and many of my friends gladly paid the 40 bucks and drove down to Long Beach to see them play an early, brief opening set. How could we miss it? It might have been a decade since they last played a live show for the SoCal scene that spawned them, and who knew if it would ever happen again? It was a huge, cathartic, and sweaty singalong for all of us hardcore nerds–and a little poetic for my brother and me since the first time we saw the band was at Fender’s Ballroom (R.I.P.) just a couple of blocks away on their farewell/finALL/Milo Goes Back to College M.D. tour in 1987.
Of course, the band that couldn’t sell out a telephone booth have come back many times since the Long Beach Arena show and I’ve caught each of the sold-out shows: GV30, FYF, Musink… So how could I miss a gig in a non-festival venue perfectly matched with OFF! or a special follow-up gig with ALL (featuring 3/4 of the Descendents) to celebrate the release of the Descendents/ALL documentary, Filmage?
As much as I love the Descendents and know every song inside out, I am just as versed in the first three or four ALL releases. In the early ’90s, I used to see the band practically every weekend at the Anti-Club with either the Chemical People or Big Drill Car opening. They’d attract 20 or 30 people, which was a real shame considering how catchy, polished, and perfect ALL songs could be. I wasn’t shocked that they’d leave town to be somewhere more central for cheaper rent and easier cross-country touring.
But on Monday night Los Globos was packed for the band’s homecoming: a special two-part set with Scott Reynolds and Chad Price each singing half of the set. I’ve only seen Chad a few times but he’s a great front man with an effortlessly gravelly smooth voice and demeanor. Songs like “Fairweather Friend,” “Million Bucks,” and “Original Sin” came back fast after decades of not hearing them. Seeing Bill Stevenson play drums way up close in a tiny club was a real treat, too. He’s a machine.
The Scott Reynolds era is my sentimental favorite, since I saw that lineup literally dozens of times. His set kicked off with “Crazy” and included “Dot,” “Mary,” “Scary Sad,” “She’s My Ex,” and so many other super catchy cuts that should have been hits. After playing “Frog,” even Scott had to admit what a dumb song that was. It was great seeing him jump, crawl, and work his way through the set like we were in a time machine.
The Dave Smalley era was represented by Chad singing “Paper Tiger,” and what I would have given to hear “Daveage” or “Just Perfect.” Seriously. I would have offered to personally pay for Smalley’s plane ticket from Virginia just so I could hear him sing “#10 (Wet)” with ALL but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was too late.
Following ALL’s set, a succession of guests came out to for a Descendents karaoke session. London May from Samhain sang “Descendents” and Milo from The Last sang “I Don’t Want To Grow Up.” After the show Milo told me that he actually auditioned to sing for the Descendents when the other Milo went to college, so this was kind of like a peek into that parallel universe where it worked out. The Filmage creators got a chance to take on “Cheer” and then Scott returned for “My Dad Sucks” and “I Like Food.” It was pretty cool to hear Jen from the Bombpops sing a dude-oriented song “I’m The One,” and it was also cool that Chad got to sing “Thank You” after the crowd got amped up.
I think Marko from Sugarcult was the only guy in the house that needed a lyric sheet for “Get The Time,” but maybe his pal from the Posies knew them better. It was awesome to see Dennis from Refused/International Noise conspiracy/INVSN singing “Hope” and then “Silly Girl.” Wow. I didn’t recognize Davey from AFI when he sang “Myage” and “Bikeage” but spotted Jim from Pennywise in his Dodgers cap earlier and was stoked when he cranked out “Suburban Home” and “I Wanna Be A Bear.” Matt from Blink-182 finished things off with “Clean Sheets.” I understand he handled the Q&A following the movie screening at the Downtown Independent earlier that evening… If this description sounds manic, that’s how it was. You shoulda been there, and props to Filmage and Vannen for making it happen.
The night before was a dream bill with Descendents and OFF! and their histories overlap and intersect all over the storied landscape of L.A. punk and hardcore. No city on earth can top the musical past or present of Los Angeles, and this show at the lovely old Fox Theater in Pomona provided evidence.
Opening up was a transplant from San Diego, The Bombpops. Great to see a slightly younger band featuring some women in the veteran sausage party, and they cranked out a totally fun, tight, and compact set. Perfect!
OFF! are always great, but this was my first time to see the combo with Dale Crover from the Melvins sitting in on drums while Mario is on tour with Rocket From The Crypt. No one can drum like Mario, who seems like he’s going to destroy his kit and leave the room as ruins whenever he whales. But with Dale you get the feeling that he is going to kill someone with his drumsticks. Heavy. Dark. Evil. A different and great fit.
Keith didn’t do too much editorializing during OFF!’s opening set. Maybe he had packing on his mind since the band was about to embark on a European tour. Maybe his spiel wasn’t flowing since the show was a one-off. But one can always expect 100 percent intensity from one of the raddest punk singers and thinkers of all time. He touted the new album but those songs don’t seem new any more; they’re just the latest part of a ripping catalog with O.G. hardcore anger, veteran chops, with DIY intensity that a zillion dollars of production can’t buy.
Keith did joke that 99.9 percent of the venue was there to see the Descendents and couldn’t give a crap about OFF! Sadly, I think that might have been true. So weird. Maybe Pomona was just too far for the crusty L.A. punks to make the drive on a Sunday night.
By now in the Descendents’ reunited state, everyone knows what to expect yet always leaves blown away. They have the tightest lineup, the most likeable singer, and catchiest songs. Mixing up the best songs from Milo Goes to College all the way through Cool To Be You, their playlist is supreme. They can do no wrong. The biggest differences between this killer set and the others is that there were no kids helping out with the “All-o-gistics.”
There was one surprise. I spotted my friend Tony from the Adolescents in the middle of the show and started catching up him after the set ended when he was suddenly grabbed by Stephen and whisked onstage to sing a version of “No Way.” Holy crap, that was awesome. The whole band but especially Bill had a huge smile on his face and during the entire song.
One weird thing I have to add is that I usually hate it when someone sings along at shows and acts like a fool. But at a Descendents show, everyone really should be shouting along every lyric, jumping around nonstop, and having the best time ever. The amps are cranked up so loud, no one can hear you sing along anyway. That’s how it was at Ramones shows, too…
But the night was still young. Thanks to the magic of social media, I had begun corresponding with Chris Shary, who illustrates a lot of Descendents and ALL merch. Since he also did a lot of Chems merch back in the day and they had a song called “Donut Run,” I thought we might go to one of my favorite 24-hour eateries after the show. When he agreed and said that Milo might come along, I didn’t argue. And since Tony also a friend of theirs–and a fellow Donut Man fan, to boot–I invited him, too.
Some of my favorite bands. The last weekend of fresh strawberry donuts. Hanging out with Milo, Chris, and Tony at Donut Man. Can it get any better than that? (Without having my wife and daughter around, of course…)