There has been a scarcity of Descendents shows for the majority of the past 20 years. They did drift off into a form of hiatus from 2002-2010 and since that time have never fully returned to the road.
To be fair, their lives have taken divergent paths throughout this time span. Once petulant vocalist Milo Aukerman moved on to to become a successful research scientist. Drummer Bill Stevenson became a prominent punk/metal producer. Guitarist Stephen Egerton went on to spend a great deal of his time mixing and mastering punk records in Oklahoma. Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez both had health scares throughout this time period as well.
But with last year’s release of Hypercaffium Spazzinate, their first record in 12 years, the band opted to hit the road in earnest. Their schedule remains more intermittent than most touring acts (performing 4-5 concerts per month), but this surely is a bountiful time to be a Descendents fan. In fact this year will see them play more shows than any year since they were on Warped Tour ’97.
Toronto’s recently rebranded Rebel nightclub remains a confounding spot to take in a rock show. The 3000+ capacity mega-club generally hosts prominent DJs and rappers. But the ostentatious surroundings and overpriced drinks seemed irrelevant when Descendents took to the stage.
Aukerman immediately fawned over Canada and threw shade on the ol’ US of A before starting things off appropriately with Everything Sucks which was over in a gasp. Then it was into the momentary dejected sing-along Hope. With so many of their songs clocking in at just 1-2 minutes trying to catch your breath at a Descendents show is akin to attempting to do the same at the bottom of the ocean. Hopeless.
During Rotting Out Aukerman leapt around the stage kicking balloons and banging the microphone against his head for the photographers below. Egerton’s hairless dome banged fervently while he disseminated his potent power-chord crunch. Then they rolled it back to 1985 and the lecherous adolescent anthem Pervert. The now grizzled cadence of the 54-year-old Aukerman sounded comically ludicrous while he growled “I’m not gonna let you get away, I want fuck you every day.” At first glance he appeared to be aging into a punk-rock Quasimodo, but the Camelback straw sticking out over his shoulder dispelled that thought.
They did salt-and-pepper new tracks into the setlist, but as one would expect many of the night’s best moments came when the group reached back to their seminal LP (SP?) Milo Goes To College. The audience on average was of a more advanced age than you would encounter at a typical punk show, but during indelible bass heavy ditties like I Wanna Be Your Bear and Myage moshers could occasionally be seen knocking into more than a few sullen onlookers. For the majority of the evening the audience was relatively subdued.
“I see you Toronto” Aukerman shouted as he reached out from the edge of the stage during Testosterone. They then started into Who We Are, a song released earlier this year, all proceeds of which were being dispersed amongst the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
Following a blistering Suburban Home, Stevenson hopped off of the drum kit and took a moment thank the crew and appreciate the band’s longevity. “We’ve been together for 38 years” he beamed. Taking his semi-recent run of health issues (both a brain tumor and a heart attack) into consideration, it’s safe to say most everyone on hand was more than content to let him take all of the time he needed to speak.
They went on to encore twice, dropping in I’m The One and Bikeage and Catalina. By my count they were over 35 songs in by the time they packed it in.
Fans have been blessed with this recent resurgence. Let’s hope they keep it going.