DENVER — Writing a review of a Descendents show is something I am doing knowing it’s been done many times and it’s been done very poetically and accurately. I could easily write, it is something very special and add an exclamation point. Then insert some photographs and walk away from the keyboard. I’d be safe. That would not be going for “All.” I’m going to do my best to review the show and tell a brief history of Descendents.
Descendents are a band led by a drummer and a scientist. Bill Stevenson, an honorary Coloradan, he’s the drummer. He’s played for the bands Black Flag, ALL and the Descendents. He is punk rock at it’s best, a thinking man, whose best thoughts become songs. He calls Fort Collins home and his recording studio, The Blasting Room, which is co-owned with Jason Livermore, where many artists like Rise Against have recorded, is there. Milo Aukerman is the singer and a real true life biochemist. Milo left the band many times because his All was trying to improve life through the periodic table. Bill and Milo share the words to many of their greatest songs.
I first saw the Descendents play in 1997 at the Lost Horizon in Syracuse, NY. It was something I never thought I’d see. They had broken up after the release of the record ALL in the 1980’s. When the Descendents reunited to release their album Everything Sucks I was blown away by the opportunity to see them and their performance is something that still inspires to this day. Twenty years have passed and I feel lucky to see them again.
Thinking as I sat in the balcony of the Fillmore Auditorium about my relationship to this thing. The Descendents are more than a band and they are certainly a thing. They are the quest for All. The achievement of All, in my interpretation, is being the best version of yourself you can be in life and never settling. The concept of All was created by Bill Stevenson in the early 1980’s and appeared in the song “All-O-Gistics” on the record ALL in 1987. It’s great to see the Descendents are still questing All in 2017.
Another constant theme is coffee. So many Descendents records have anthems to caffeine from “Kids,” “All-O-Gistics,” to ”Coffee Mug.” The new album is simply amazing and so is the name, Hypercaffium Spazzinate. A perfect platform for both the quest for All and a Bonus Cup of coffee. Getting to see the new songs performed, they’re robust and have a stories straight from the lives of the band.
Descendents records read like chapters in a journal, if you look at the lyrics, each entry on the page is a moment in time. The moments just keep evolving. The early records are a base, Milo Goes to College and I Don’t Want to Grow Up are formative. Enjoy! And ALL are growth in the band’s point of view and line up. From Everything Sucks to Cool To Be You and current to Hypercaffium Spazzinate they tell a story. The ideas grow. They build on 40 years of very unique music making. ” Shameless Halo,””Feel This,” and “Without Love” are my personal favorites. The best entries in the journal are the freshest. The stories are well told and the music is played so well by the whole band. A Descendents concert is something that leaves you in awe. So much energy, so many songs and a timeline that chronicles almost all of punk rock history. Beginning in 1978 and continuing today.
Each time they reunite, they don’t disappoint. Their Denver performance was as good as can be and maybe better than the 1990s. They are certainly at a peak and achieving their All musically. When I saw the set list, a mile long, I knew it was going to be a great show. Stephen Egerton on guitar and Karl Alvarez on bass, they’re such accomplished musicians. Thirty five total songs, nine from Hypercaffium Spazzinate, six from Everything Sucks, six from Milo Goes to College, the rest from Cool To Be You, Enjoy and Fat.
Having a thirty year history of enjoying the Descendents’ music from the release of ALL and a twenty year history of thinking they’re one of the greatest live bands. Sitting in the balcony, watching the circle pit spin like an offshore hurricane. It never slowed for an hour and a half, a full set and two encores. Milo announced, after the singer of opening band The Bronx, spent most of their set singing from the pit in the crowd, he would not be doing the same thing. Nonetheless, they launched into the song “Thank You.” Milo climbed down to the crowd and suddenly many voices, boys and girls, singing “thank you for playing the way you play.” The lyrics to the song sunk in, after almost forty years, they’re still the best. Thank you Descendents for playing the way you play.