Well, it’s all over. For SoCal residents, hardcore and pop punk forebears The Descendents and their juggernaut of a reunion tour is done with California. The tour, supporting the west coast punk legends’ first album in 12 years, Hypercaffinum Spazzinate, has moved on to the east coast. They’ll be back to the northwest for three sold out dates before finishing out the touring season in South America. Those fans not lucky enough to have caught SST’s weirdest and most diverse seminal band should weep tears of bitter FOMO. Here’s why:
Anyone in the punk music scene who loves hardcore or pop punk had pretty much better know
about The Descendents. Formed in 1977, the band took their final form in 1980 when frontman Milo Aukerman joined the band at just 17. The band’s first commercially successful album was, predictably, called Milo Goes to College, because Milo was indeed going to college. The punk rock know-it-all who lauded van living and an IV coffee drip went to UC San Diego in La Jolla and achieved the rank of PhD in biology. He then did post-doc work at The University of Wisconsin at Madison in biochemistry before working for many years at DuPont as a plant researcher.
Milo’s infectious weirdness and vocal diversity was a huge draw for punk rock and alternative fans in the 80s. His stretched out face became a cartoon icon, gracing all The Descendents’ albums and countless band merch items. His lyrics could be fun and poppy or gross teenaged anthems or even a little emo, and fans looking for diversity in the punk scene ate it up. While Milo was considered the icon of the band, however, drummer Bill Stevenson, by Milo’s own admission, was the real driver of The Desdendents’ sound. Stevenson came up with the pop/hardcore style for which The Descendents are famous today, and almost always composes the basic structure for Descendents songs. “Without Bill, Descendents cease to exist”, Aukerman told Noisey in a recent interview.
The band continued to produce music throughout Milo’s college and working years with the legend of Milo, coffee and nerd punk growing with each passing decade. It would appear that something switched in Milo recently, however, when in 2015 he permanently quit working as a researcher and decided to go back to punk once and for all. For the rest of the band’s part, they seem ecstatic. The Descendents wasted no time in putting out a new album, Hypercaffinum Spazzinate, which saw critical acclaim from punk zines to NPR, and the band launched on a massive comeback tour. The album was inspired, quite literally, Aukerman’s science career. In the same interview with Noisey, Aukerman said that Hypercaffinum Spazzinate is a real substance which he invented, and that the band plans to sell coffee containing this new extra-zippy additive at their concerts and on their huge web store.
The tour began in April of this year and saw the band pingponging back and forth between coasts. Since September and their date in San Diego, however, they have been almost exclusively on the west coast. Aukerman explained why the band chose to play SOMA, one of San Diego’s few all ages venues, saying they had played one of their first gigs ever at the same venue in 1982. He went on to thank SOMA’s booking manager for continuing to bring live punk rock to San Diego. Coming from such a legendary band, that’s quite an endorsement.
Because The Descendents’ songs are notoriously short, it’s not surprising that they played a record 36 tracks in their 90-minute set, and this included a number of silly spoken interludes by Aukerman. The band’s entire discography couldthus be easily covered, including many from Hypercaffinum Spazzinate. Aukerman made no apologies for including so many new songs, saying “because we like them, ok?” Fair enough, Milo. Fair enough.
For GenXers who were too young in the 80s and 90s to go to Descendents shows, the performance at SOMA was everything said fans could have hoped for: a massive mosh pit, plenty of hardcore cache and the band in pristine form. Playing live, fans could really see the level of skill with which each member worked, and the songs became more real. For his part, Aukerman also delivered the goods, straddling his monitor and elongating his face and neck in an imitation of his own caricature. Milo holds no delusions about the fact that he is a caricature, so despite being a little grey up top and wearing marginally more adult clothes, he wore his thick wraparound glasses with pride and rocked his own punk cache as hard as ever.
There was also a proliferation of new punks at the show, some even as young as five years old, hence the advantages of an all ages venue. These fans may not have known all the lyrics to the old songs, but they were just as boisterous as the older fans and sang what they could when they could. A cross-section of the whole American punk culture was in attendance: beefed up mohawk punks, emo punks, surfer kid punks and nerd punks. In their uncanny ability to bring the punk scene together, The Descendents showed that punk is still alive and well, and it can only get better now that they’re back in the picture.
The show ended with two new songs, “Feel This” and “Spineless and Scarlet Red”, again showing that the band are looking to the future musically, while not losing a beat on their legendary past. It’s awesome to have The Descendents back in the punk arena, and their shows are still truly awesome to behold.
The Descendents Hypercaffinum Spazzinate tour has three dates in the Pacific Northwest in November: the ninth and 10th in Seattle and the 12th in Portland before they leave the continent. Fans on the east coast or in South America can see a list of the remaining tour dates on The Descendents Tumblr page, along with links to purchase and stream the epic new album, Hypercaffinum Spazzinate.
The Descendents performing “My Dad Sucks” and “Clean Sheets” at SOMA San Diego September 22, 2016
Written by Layla Marino
Blog: (Dropping) Weird Science