Thursday, April 12th 2018
Jannus Live, St. Petersburg FL
Where’s Milo? is a tough game. You find a terrific spot on Jannus’s raised balcony in the back third, and are quickly baffled by the sight of bespectacled, ageing, happy looking men all over the place. They and many others are wearing the attractive orange and green pastel tour shirts, and yet more imposters appear to be Milos of the future. “Wait a minute,” snaps your partner in observation. “What if he’s directly behind that huge tree between us and the stage?”
Luckily, I’m as much a treehugger as my girlfriend is short, so we make the spot work well enough. Roger Lima of Rehasher might have a crunchy inclination too, his whiteboy dreadlocks swinging as he jumps about thrashing out skate rock. When I saw the band at Lucky You earlier this year I could have sworn he had short hair, so I wonder if the dreads are clip-ons, but it would later turn out he must have had them tied up. There’s to be no clip-on trumpets either, with Lima once again rebuffing apparently frequent demands for subJake performances (“no we will not be playing ska, sir”). Legendary musician status is all relative I suppose, with Rehasher blasting through songs only to pause and bullet-speed comment on this being their biggest gig ever or the headliners their favourite band. Lima is an effective and happy enough candidate to rile up our dormant adolescent enthusiasm to get cheap Descendents-anticipation cheers (Cheer!) There are no lighthearted covers this time. For you’ll surely get egg on your face offering such semi-shallow fun when everyone knows that very soon we shall have it ALL. The sun is setting over the courtyard, with Rehasher having done exactly what a warm-up act is meant to do.
In continued ecological harmony with the surroundings things get just slightly gloomier but no less enjoyable with Radkey. What’s interesting about the three Radke brothers is that they don’t shy away from their historical position as black punk contributors, but they do place it off to the side in the details. Like fellow sibling trio and latter-day stars Death they’re playing garage proto-punk with the chunk, thick chords that age well plus solos (“we like solos”). Radkey be making Rad Beats. Their first gig was opening for Fishbone, and they have some imagery that pays homage to the Bad Brains lightning strike (Bad Brains rejected being labelled a hardcore band, and when Radkey kept getting the same treatment they penned the performed Core, so at least the broken clocks might be right twice a day). Accompanying the proto-punk are Dee Radke’s dark vocals with their shock-horror similarity to Glenn Danzig. Content including black reapers and vampires and record titles such as Dark Black Makeup (later renamed Delicious Rock Noise) and Devil Fruit adds to the Misfitting about. But they have other areas of interest, with one performed cut about a Dragon Ball Z villain and another, near the end, being described as “surfy as shit”: that sort of gives you a clue as to why Descendents picked them for this tour. To draw on their beach-lovin’ youthful lifeforce, obviously.
An incredibly illuminating interview over at Creative Loafing last week must have prompted Milo Aukerman to do some tourage research. He informs the crowd that Descendents last played in Tampa Bay 21 years ago, then pushes us all down the rapturous mountain of pop-hardcore with Suburban Home and Everything Sux (a song that was new at that time, to put it into perspective). I know how that wait goes, with over 15 years of pent up fanticipation for me before I finally saw them at Blackpool’s Rebellion Festival; now I’m seeing them for a second time in under two years thanks to Milo getting the corporate elbow and putting his science career on the back bunsen burner. The first gig was an insane release of emotion. This time it’s different, but still a shade of euphoric, which is to be expected from a band who can make me feel amped up when I’m scrubbing plates in my kitchen. What I can now as a musical scientist call a trend is that Descendents want to give you value for money and they do not want to fuck about.
Over the course of an hour plus of delayed afterglow performing, most of your top 30 chainsaw cuts — a list you should have — are present here. The bald and white-bearded gents (the latter in Karl Alvarez’s case) pull out I Don’t Want To Grow Up and My Dad Sucks for the sons and daughters present. Tracks from 2016’s Hypercaffium Spazzinate such as On Paper and Shameless Halo are now officially part of the canon, which is to say we’ve had time to learn and sit with them and they largely meet the standard. I could go on, but you know the songs, and if you don’t know them, get to knowing them. Milo and Stephen: “So you’re gonna tune for a song about living in a cave?” “This song is important to me!” The time it takes for them to make this exchange is all the time that is taken tuning. Everything looks effortless because they put the effort in when they were writing the things. Every note is perfect. Even the upcoming Record Store Day release Who We Are (a protest song so limp and bathed in nationalist mythology it makes M-16 and ‘Merican seem like weighty political tomes) is enjoyable in the live setting.
It’s possible I’m both a shit fanboy and shit critic, or that the two roles tripped over each others’ ankles, but in that CL interview Milo promised Pep Talk, and I don’t recollect hearing it. But Bill Stevenson, the big beaming beautiful bear that he is, announces an encore where we get the modern friend-to-friend equivalent of Smile. And smile we should. One last quotable from the interview is that Descendents are committed to not giving it yet another decade before their next LP, with perhaps half an album already written. We are in the midst of a renaissance for the Church of ALL. You can get old. Just see this band before you die.