Descendents, Black Flag and more at GV30
Santa Monica Civic Center
Dec. 19, 2011
Punk isn't dead, it's just really fucking old. And by that, I mean, it's at least 30 because that's how long concert promotion company Goldenvoice has been around. Anyone who knows anything about punk knows that 30 in punk years is the equivalent of 75 in regular years, so last night's show featuring a bunch of classic bands from Southern California punk's halcyon days was more like the high school reunion you wanted to go to instead of the one you actually went to.
Headlining the show was the Descendents, who have been playing one-off shows for about the past year. The foursome -- singer Milo Aukerman, drummer Bill Stevenson, guitarist Stephen Egerton and bassist Karl Alvarez -- have played three shows in Southern California this year, which ain't half bad considering Aukerman lives in Delaware, Egerton in Oklahoma and Stevenson and Alvarez in Colorado.
If you slept on this show because you saw the pop-punk pioneers at the Long Beach Arena or the FYF Festival, then you done fucked up because of three Southern California Descendents shows this year, this was hands down the best. The Descendents were one of my two favorite bands as a kid (the other being Black Flag) and one of the few groups from that period of my life that still makes me giddy like a schoolgirl, which makes me either the absolute wrong person to review their shows or the absolute best. You decide.
That said, during their previous SoCal visits, Aukerman's voice showed some wear and tear by the end of those sets. But not last night. Dude was killing it, which put him and the crowd in a damn near euphoric spirit. The singer bounced around the stage and did his classic "lean-to-the-side-with-his-back-arched" move and even jumped off stage to pass the mic around during "Suburban Home."
The fact that this wasn't a festival or an arena rock show meant the Descendents were afforded the proper amount of time to play. Granted, they could play every song twice and I'd still walk away feeling a tad bit cheated, but you know what I mean. Seriously, they played pretty much every song you'd want to hear, including "Catalina," which fucking ruled. I wish they would have thrown in an ALL song or two ("Fool," anyone?), but that's what dreams are for, right?
And you know what I think is pretty damn cool? The fact that Aukerman doesn't sing the end of "I'm Not a Loser" verbatim because, well, times have changed. For those who don't know, the song includes some phrasing that in 2011 would get a group labeled as a bunch of homophobes. Keep in mind, these same words were written by high school kids in the late '70s, a time when saying something like, "Mr. Buttfuck, you don't belong here" might have been more acceptable than today. Instead, Aukerman changed some of the words or just didn't sing the offensive lines and, really, no one around me seemed to mind. For once, I'm siding with political correctness, which in this case seems to be the right move. So kudos Descendents!
Before the Descendents, four guys who the crowd was calling "Black Flag" played. Sorry people, but no Greg Ginn = no Black Flag. That said, the lineup of singer Keith Morris, bassist Chuck Dukowski, Egerton and Stevenson ran through the iconic punk band's Nervous Breakdown EP in order, which is to say they played "Nervous Breakdown," "Fix Me," "I've Had It" and "Wasted." And that was it. The crowd booed after the short set, so Morris took to the mic and explained that they didn't have much time to practice, which is ironic seeing as how half the crowd (including me) knows how to play Morris-era Black Flag songs. To the quartet's credit, they never called themselves "Black Flag," although everyone else did.
Critical bias: As far as punk rock reunions go, there's the Descendents and then there's everyone else.
The crowd: Punker dudes in their 40s and 50s with jean jackets and band logo t-shirts and cute punker girls who most certainly weren't into the Descendents when I was a teenager.
Overheard in the crowd: "He actually writes for the L.A. Times" -- some dude in the VIP section introducing his friend to a girl.
Random notebook dump: Before you call me a poseur, let me explain why I caught only a few songs of the Vandals but missed all the other opening bands. Last night at 5 p.m. was the only time my two brothers and I could get together for a picture with Santa Claus at the mall. Our mom is going through chemotherapy and we thought she'd really enjoy that for a Christmas gift. So call me lame. Call me old. Call me whatever. I don't care.
My Dad Sucks
I Wanna Be a Bear
I'm the One
Nothing With You
I Like Food
When I Get Old
I Don't Want to Grow Up
Get the Time
I'm Not a Loser
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