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.
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”