I've finally seen the Descendents. They were a bucket list band of mine since I've known what a bucket list was. And now I have finally seen them! I don't think I've been so excited for a gig in years, probably not even for Fest last year. If you were to do a ranking system for the most influential and important bands in punk rock the Descendents would have to be placed very close to the top. Ahead of bands such as Green Day, The Offspring, blink-182, NOFX, Rancid, Bad Religion and 99% of all the other bands you or I can probably list.
The evening before the gig Emma and I were at The Burnt Tapes album launch (go check them out here, they are incredible) and I was talking to a friend and asked if he was going to see the Descendents the following night. Knowing that he is a fan of the band, I was somewhat surprised to learn that he wasn't because the last time he had seen them he found them a little boring. I was left a bit speechless by this as I couldn't believe the Descendents could be anything less that amazing on stage. I guess I was going to find out the following night.
There were two support acts for the evening. First up were The Kenneths from London who Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson had worked with on their latest album. The three piece played a high energy style of punk rock 'n' roll and used the space on the stage really well. Second up were old school punk rockers Abrasive Wheels from Leeds. Combining '77 style punk and Oi! music, the four piece successfully got the crowd moving during their 45 minute set.
Where do I start when talking about the Descendents set. First of all it was bloody long - they managed to squeeze thirty-five songs into an hour and a half set that included not one, but two encores. Unsurprisingly the set was heavy with songs from last year's brilliant Hypercaffium Spazzinate album but almost all of the classics as well as some rare, old school favourites were also played. Starting out with Everything Sux, the crowd at The Forum was immediately strapped in and ready for what was going to be one hell of a ride. I was amazed at just what a well oiled machine the band were. I know all four members are absolute legends in the punk world and complete masters of their craft but the Descendents really don't play that many shows. If you didn't know this though you would have never noticed. Bill, Stephan and Karl never miss a single note or beat as Milo prowls around the stage singing songs of love, loneliness, growing up and, of course, coffee. There wasn't much time spent between songs for banter with the band preferring to power through song after song. The stamina of the band was incredible, remember these guys are all in their fifties but they played like they were half that age. For anyone in the crowd who is in a band, this was a lesson on how to play a set. There was a no thrills approach to the songs that I particularly enjoyed as well. There was no throwing in extra break downs or solos or getting the crowd to sing or clap along, instead sticking with playing a song and moving on to the next one. This shows just how good the songwriting of the Descendents is, each song felt like a big deal without any funny business being thrown in. Like I said earlier, they played all of the classics during their set. Highlights for me included Coolidge (which is my favourite Descendents song), Hope, On Paper, Clean Sheets, Coffee Mug, When I Get Old, Thank You, Descendents and I'm The One - that's a lot of highlights. In all honesty though, out of all thirty-five songs there wasn't a single dud. The crowd around me, and I assume throughout the venue, sang their hearts out to one of the most beloved bands ever. We knew that this was a very rare opportunity to see the Descendents and we had to make the most of it. On a personal note it was absolutely incredible to finally see them live for the first time. If I never see them again I can happily say that at least I saw them once when they were still at the top of their game. Top of their game despite being a less than part-time band and getting older in age but definitely not spirit.
This gig review was writen by Colin Clark.