Punk rock legends the Descendents delivered a devastatingly crushing performance at a sold-out Roseland Ballroom Friday, delving deep into their nearly three decades-plus arsenal to further spread their philosophy of ALL to the hungry and rabid masses of yearning fans.
Their last studio album being 2004’s Cool To Be You, the Descendents—currently consisting of bassist Karl Alvarez, guitarist Stephen Egerton, drummer Bill Stevenson and singer Milo Aukerman—weren’t playing in support of any one release or new material; rather, the gig was a sonic celebration of sorts highlighting their whole career, a powerful, moving set featuring incendiary renditions of tunes spanning their entire six-studio album, multiple-EP catalogue. The band displayed a passion and ferocity as alive and visceral as on any of their recordings, launching rapidly from one song to another with little talk between each.
Ska-punk vets The Suicide Machines and hardcore stalwarts H2O opened, though by the time my friends and I made it to the show from pre-gaming on Eighth Avenue, the Descendents were just about to take the stage.
Typically my brother and I only watch gigs from the front, right up against the barricade, with sporadic forays into the pit. Sometimes we make it onto the stage, too. A recent appendectomy, however, made me more guarded at the Descendents lest several incisions stitching my abdomen together rip open and require hernia surgery; though perhaps that would have been even more punk rock.
This was a rare gig. The Descendents have only really played a handful of shows here and there the past several years, mostly overseas. The last gig prior to Roseland had been April in California, which was the first time they had played SoCal since 1997—and the latest since a total of five shows worldwide in that long, according to OC Weekly’s Ryan Ritchie. Needless to say, the gig was a must-see and attracted various members of other bands inspired by Aukerman and Co. since Milo Goes To College in 1982. (Word is Aukerman, a biochemist, is currently using the degrees he earned during the hiatus that followed that album to research genetically altered corn.)
Sipping two cups of rum while scribbling down notes—a feat that garnered multiple thumbs’ ups from passing fans streaming toward the stage—I noticed Latex Generation’s Tommy Rockstar standing a few feet to my right, bobbing his head to the beat alongside the singer of the Monkey Chunks. Hugo Lee Nowhere, of Desperosity, Ten-Cent Fuck Flicks and Endangered Feces infamy, was there—his arm wrapped around a voluptuous woman wearing a ripped black Ramones T-shirt. Hard to miss the bass player of Playing Dead and members of Death Spiral Financing, Everyone Must Go Out With Molly, Goblin Market and Wiretap Crash—always raising hell. Could have sworn saw Heavy Metal Chris from Devastation Wagon and Morning Glory dancing a traditional Cypriot jig in the back there, too, but can’t be sure.
Aukerman, also wearing a black Ramones shirt (but nowhere as voluptuous as Hugo’s squeeze), kicked off the set with a fiery, triumphant “Descendents,” sparking a venue-wide sing-a-long that lasted pretty much their entire set. The songs were tight. So was the crowd. Punks lined the walls, stood on the wraparound snaking Roseland’s sides, crammed the floor from the back bar to the front of the stage, dancing and chanting along to every tune.
There was not so much your typical long-lasting, kick-and-punch-and-toss eye of a mosh pit as witnessed at Gramercy Theatre when Stiff Little Fingers played a few months ago; nor were there handicapped fans in wheelchairs passed atop the crowd and joining Aukerman and cohorts onstage as at the Bouncing Souls’ stage-diving frenzied sold-out July gigs at the Highline Ballroom. Didn’t need to be though, really—this was the DESCENDENTS. Still, there was a decent-sized clash up in front, a lot of crowd-surfing and tons of smiles—along with that sense of solidarity only punk rock shows and witnessing one of the best bands in the universe at a packed gig in New York City while singing your insides out alongside hundreds of others can instill and inflame.
But for a Leffe Blonde with a friend over a steaming bucket of mussels about a week earlier, this gig was my first off the wagon due to surgeons recently removing my appendix through my bellybutton, and thus, the equally raucous barrage of rum, Jameson and Brooklyn Lager leading up to the show rendered much of my note-scrawling during it pretty much indecipherable; therefore, a complete set list I unfortunately can not provide. [Here’s what setlist.fm says.]
I do, however, recall pulverizing renditions of “Hope,” “Sour Grapes,” “I’m the One,” “Bikeage,” “Here With Me” and “Suburban Home,” to name a few.
Couldn’t sell out a telephone booth? Maybe 30 years ago. Maybe. Nah.