When you think about punk rock music that came out of the burgeoning beach scene of Southern California in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there are probably three names that come to mind: Black Flag and the Circle Jerks out of Hermosa Beach, and Descendents out of Manhattan Beach.
After four decades this band remains one of the biggest active punk pioneers around today.
November 19th & 20th, 2022
They’ve maintained their punk rock cred without cries of “selling out” amongst a community that can often be critical and dismissive. Saturday, they played the first of two sold-out shows at the Glasshouse in Pomona.
Opening the show was Prince Daddy & the Hyena, which I would describe as a melodic punk rock ensemble from New York. I could see influences from Weezer and Green Day and even Pavement, particularly from lead singer and guitarist, Kory Gregory.
There’s definitely a quirkiness to their lyrics and song titles, reminiscent of Rivers Cuomo; for example they opened their set with “***Hidden Track***” (yes, that’s actually the name of the song). I had been listening to their three albums prior to the show and have found myself continuing to do so after their set. I really like their sound, as it’s reminiscent of both the punk bands, and alt-indie bands I grew up listening to. Lead guitarist Cameron Hanford showed off impressive playing on songs like “A Random Exercise in Impermanence (The Collector)” and “Jesus F*cking Christ.”
I feel like the crowd was a bit tentative, which I took to assume was because they were not familiar with Prince Daddy & the Hyena, and also because there is such a huge fanbase behind the Descendents. They seemed a bit indifferent at times, which Gregory jokingly commented, “You’re a quiet audience, aren’t you?” For their part, though, I believe the band started to win them over as a pit formed during “C’mon & Smoke Me Up.” The band closed with “El Dorado,” really showcasing their range and indie rock roots.
A loud cheer went up as the four members of Descendents took the stage at the Glasshouse. Guitarist Stephen Egerton began a grinding guitar riff as the band opened with “Everything Sux.” I think far too many bands from all genres and generations get too comfortable with a certain set of songs that become their routine setlists.
Despite a few minor tweaks here and there over the years, you’ll see a band play the same set of songs for decades. Descendents are not one of those bands, which along with their incredible live performances, is why you never want to miss one of their shows.
It’s almost as each one is unique, but especially if they are playing the same venue consecutively. They had already hinted that they would be playing a different set of songs Sunday night, albeit some of their routine staples were of course, played both nights.
Saturday night’s setlist saw them visit nearly their entire catalogue, playing at least one song from nine of their various releases. Last year Descendents released “9th & Walnut,” which was a compilation of songs dating back nearly two decades prior. Originally recorded in 2002 by drummer Bill Stevenson with former members – guitarist Frank Navetta and bassist Tony Lombardo – the project remained untouched until COVID shut down the world and lead singer Milo Aukerman laid down vocals, finalizing the record. The band played “Sailor’s Choice” and “Nightage” from this release.
Again, there was some overlap with the next evening’s setlist with fan favorites, such as “Hope,” “Silly Girl,” “Clean Sheets,” and “Coolidge,” but those are staples of live shows, which encompass the Descendents sound. What I was more interested in are those songs they chose separately from Saturday’s setlist, including “On Paper,” “Without Love,” “My Dad Sucks,” and “’Merican.”
It’s not unusual to have a really great, prodigy-like musician or two in a band, but the fact that the Descendents flaunt three just demonstrated why their popularity has only grown over the years. Stevenson has always been the heart and soul of the band, and a drummer whose playing style is still seen and heard on bands today. Egerton’s playing is usually at a breakneck speed, shredding through riffs and solos, and yet just as easily he breezes through the odd signature and bizarre song that is, “Van.”
I’ll probably mention it every time I write about Descendents but Karl Alvarez remains one of my favorite punk bassist to watch live. From the iconic bass intro to “Myage,” to his frenetic playing on “I Wanna Be a Bear,” it’s not just how fast he plays but how technical and difficult he plays that is so impressive, all while fingerpicking. Even “I’m the One,” arguably their biggest hit, comes alive with Alvarez playing – from the intro to watching his fingers slide down the neck into that booming chorus.
For the encore as the band returned to the stage, Aukerman said they were going to be playing some “deep cuts” and said they had not played this next one in a while. He went on to further say it was “one of those ‘I don’t know how to pick up girls’ songs; I think I wrote a bunch of those” for what would ultimately be “Sour Grapes.” They followed up with “Feel This” and then “Marriage,” a song I’ve never heard them play live. They ended a nearly 80-minute set with the melodic “Get the Time.”
On behalf of the raucous crowd that night – and fans all over the world – “Thank you for playing the way you play.”