Rise Against/Bad Religion/Descendents/Four Year Strong
April 7, 2011
Long Beach Arena
On any other night of the year, you'd be hard-pressed to say you feel sorry for members of Rise Against and Bad Religion. Both bands make livings playing music to die-hard fans each night while jackasses like you and me have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to fight traffic for hours just to sit at a desk to work all day. But last night wasn't any night of the year: It was the night when the Descendents made a triumphant return to Southern California.
The South Bay kings of pop-punk opened with "Descendents" and wasted no time before getting to more hits. The second number was "Hope," which, in case you didn't know, is the best song of all time. After that tune, the group tore through a number of tracks from its discography without saying much between songs. This might have had something to do with the fact that the group was playing second on a four-band bill. It might also have had to do with singer Milo Aukerman's voice not being in tiptop shape. To his credit, the Manhattan Beach native belted out his material as best he could and, honestly, he could have just stood there while the Descendents faithfully sang the words and no one would have minded.
Yes, guitarist Stephen Egerton encountered technical difficulties during "I Don't Want to Grow Up." And, yes, maybe the instrumentalists missed a beat during the stop/start section of "Coolidge." But who fucking cares? They're the goddamn Descendents and they ain't played Southern California since 1997. In fact, before last night, the band played a total of five worldwide shows since '97, so cut 'em some slack. I know I did.
For about a half hour, I was a teenager again. As I stood at my seat ('cause old punks get seats), I thought back to how, during the Descendents late '90s treks through SoCal (at places such as Frog's in Lawndale, the Whisky A Go-Go, the Warped Tour, the Glass House, the Palladium, the unannounced Hermosa Beach Fourth of July show on the Strand and some gig in the 909 that got shut down), I was that kid up front singing and sweating my heart out to every tune.
Once, at the Palladium, Aukerman jumped down and passed me the mike for the "Kwa kwa/kwa kwa" chant of "All-O-Gistics." Next to the time I met Magic Johnson and losing my virginity to a girl who was way too hot to be messing with me, it was the best moment of my life.
Last night was slightly different, as I felt too old to shove my crotch into the back of a stranger (otherwise known as pogo-ing), so I stood like the well-mannered adult that, unfortunately, I've become. I didn't bounce around, nor did I sing as loudly as possible. But on the inside, you'd best believe I was loving every second that the Descendents were on stage.
Aukerman--rocking a black Ramones T-shirt and shorts--did his patented pose where he leans to the side while singing and Egerton made funny faces that come only from playing music in front of thousands of people. Bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson might be the most competent rhythm section in punk and proved it once again as the twosome sounded as if they were the group on a nationwide tour--not the one that flew in from Colorado, Oklahoma and Delaware just to play one freakin' show in Long Beach.
Basically, if you weren't there, you missed it.
Bad Religion was next, and I gotta be honest: I recognized four songs from the LA punk band's 40-minute set. Other than "Sorrow," "Infected," "We're Only Gonna Die" and "American Jesus," I couldn't tell you what songs were played. I can tell you that had Bad Religion played more songs from the "80-85" compilation, trusty OC Weekly readers would be getting a much more in-depth review. Unfortunately, I'm familiar with only Bad Religion's earliest material and its radio hits. Sorry.
This much I can say: While I've never been a major Bad Religion fan, I've always held a healthy respect for the group. They do what they do, and they do it well. Last night was no different. Singer Greg Graffin pointed his fingers like he always does, and had I not been sitting off to the side of the PA, I probably would have made out some lyrics that had to do with Darwin, science or some other stuff I pretend to understand. Plus, that drummer of theirs doesn't miss a beat.
Rise Against was next. If you thought I knew hardly anything about Bad Religion, then surely you'll be disappointed with this review because I hadn't heard one note from Rise Against before seeing them. Because a decent chunk of the band's crowd was dropped off by their parents, I assumed Rise Against would make me want to stab my eardrums with my car keys. Luckily, I was wrong.
Clad in all-black attire, the radio-friendly punks from Chicago performed a set that was catchy when it needed to be and loud and boisterous when called upon. Singer Tim McIlrath did a pretty darn good job of holding the crowd's attention when he switched between just singing and playing guitar in the middle of the stage while guitarist Zach Blair did these weird jump-kicks that made me think he might have been having a little too much fun up there.
Alas, there's always something to critique, so here goes. Rise Against had a red banner with the word "Rise" on it. About 20 minutes into the set, the banner fell to reveal ... nothing. Seriously. Have these guys never been to an arena rock show before? Rule number 1: If you have a banner, and it's gonna drop, something even more awesome than your banner has to be revealed post-drop.
Instead, the crowd was treated to a white sheet, which was infinitely more lame than the time I saw Slayer at the Long Beach Arena. At that show, the thrash gods had Marshall amps hanging from each side of the stage in the form of upside-down crosses. Rise Against: Call Slayer and ask them how it's done.
The audience: Teenage boys wearing band T-shirts, jailbait girls showing way too much cleavage, drunken old guys and three kids with Mohawks.
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Overheard: "I've never sat down at a punk show before." --my friend, the one and only Taylor Marshall
Personal bias: The Descendents are my favorite band of all time.
Random notebook dump: Some girl asked me if I'd buy her a beer. I told her where she could more or less steal a wristband because I assumed she wasn't 21. Then she showed me her wristband, said she was of age, but had no money. I told her she wasn't getting any $10 beers outta me, which led her to call me a "cocksucker."
"I Wanna Be a Bear"
"I Don't Want to Grow Up"
"I Like Food"
"Nothing With You"
"Get the Time"
"My Dad Sucks"
"I'm Not a Loser"