As CeCe Peniston once exclaimed, “Finally, it’s happened to me.” This time for me, it was a long-overdue gathering with fellow worshippers of the almighty ALL to witness Descendents in concert! In-between a double dose of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Milo Aukerman, Bill Stevenson, Karl Alvarez, and Stephen Egerton were the ones to see in Minneapolis back on September 15th.
Milo’s cartoon visage was introduced to me in the mid-nineties by my friend Carla. She gave me her vinyl copies of Milo Goes to College and I Don’t Want to Grow Up, initiating an emotional attachment to the trailblazing punk rock band. The ’90s punks had nothin’ on these guys, so average, yet so cool with honest attitude and songwriting ability. Around this time in President Clinton’s U.S., punk rock was popular again and the scene was prime for Descendents to record the remarkable Everything Sucks after several creative and catchy, but Milo-less ALL records. The Hurtin’ Crue wiped the floor with many of the ’90s superficial and spoiled punk bands, but Milo soon returned to a life of science allowing ALL to reappear. I was fortunate to catch ALL on their 2000 Punk-O-Rama tour and thought that was to be the closest to the ‘Dents I’d ever get. 2004 saw the release of Cool to Be You and ‘Merican EP, but traveling to attend a tour date was unfeasible for me and that was the last release from the ALL / Descendents groupage for over a decade.
Descendents fail to disappoint me with each finely roasted release. Their latest, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, is nearly as good as their older LPs, hanging tough with 2016’s mix of surprisingly healthy albums by other music elders. Metallica, Metal Church, Anthrax, The Monkees, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., A Tribe Called Quest, Lush, The Pretenders -I’m looking at you all.
My friend Mark, with whom I saw D.R.I., called me months before the First Avenue performance to make plans to buy tickets and travel. He is as giddy a fan as I, and wasn’t going to pass up the rare concert opportunity. When the night befell, Mark, I, and my wife, JoAnn followed the line through security into the nearly packed venue just before opener Modern Life is War fired up. Their style of hardcore is not my taste, but I recognize the band’s talent and chemistry which gives them a much deserved following and ability to motivate a crowd. We perused the merch table and then scoped out an acceptable spot to stand several minutes before the headliner. A clumsy curtain opening summoned a charming Milo introduction and Descendents welcomed the audience before pummeling through nearly an hour and 15 minute set. All seemed to enjoy! the Spazzinate songs that made quick friends with “the hits,” a feat sometimes difficult for olden bands. I can’t deny the return of long-dormant teenage emotions and excitement when perfect songs like “Sour Grapes,” “Clean Sheets,” “Pervert,” “Bikeage,” and “Silly Girl” were performed. Many others of my generation and beyond clearly had their own emotional responses, too, manifested in either very pretty or intrusively obnoxious ways. The band looked to be in fine health and it is reassuring to see the punk rock gold standard “Drum Ogre” Bill Stevenson in action considering his documented health issues (see Filmage). Milo’s vocals are still captivating and nerdy, Stephen’s guitar still solidly distinct and inventive, and bassist Karl, well, he’s universally praised for a reason. For my senses, punk and hardcore bands don’t tend to age well musically, losing the passion, fun, and authenticity that Descendents still hold tight and still convey well. I’m happy to declare that my memory of the evening is a keeper, made better by having shared it with JoAnn and Mark.
Thank you to all the readers of Thrashing Through the Decades. As LL Cool J once whispered to my wife, “You’re beautiful.” Now here’s the full audio of Descendents’ First Avenue concert.