Due to some rather unfortunate constraints directly related to the year I was born, it wasn’t until 2011 that I saw my first Descendents show. It was a pretty big deal for me. I was super into a handful of their records and the idea of watching a legendary band I grew up accepting that I would never get to see had me excited. It turned out to be well worth the hype as they played for about two hours which was basically until they ran out of songs they remembered. Since then, they’ve made numerous appearances at Riot Fests over the years. Between the festivals and academics and Black Flag related bands and running a studio, Milo and the gang managed to record another full length, Hypercaffium Spazinate. Much of 2017 has seen the band on the road in support of said album. Their stop in Chicago was accompanied by the always fabulous Get Up Kids and my new favorite local band I can’t believe I’m only now hearing about, Airstream Futures. Despite having to spend the night at the Riviera, it was a hell of a show and one of the better shows I’ve seen this year.
I knew I recognized the name “Airstream Futures” from somewhere when I remembered I heard that they opened for Hot Water Music after the last night of Riot Fest. Pretty early into their set, I became retroactively jealous that I had missed the other show because Airstream Futures is a force to be reckoned with. I instantly recognized guitarist Jeff Dean, best known for being in practically every band in Chicago. But playing in Airstream, he seemed to having the most fun I’ve seen him have on stage. And it wasn’t just him. The whole band was clearly relishing in the fact they were sharing the stage with the Descendents. Airstream’s particular brand of no nonsense, hard driven pop-punk went over well with the crowd and I ate it right up. Front-woman Devon Carson’s energy was the best part of their set as she bounced all over the stage and gave her all as she belted out every heartfelt word. They have a full-length coming soon on Paper & Plastick. Based on what I saw tonight, soon isn’t nearly soon enough.
Up next was an old favorite of mine, The Get Up Kids. Recently, they hit the 20th anniversary of the release of their first album, Four Minute Mile, and their set drew pretty heavy from it. The album was a pretty important point in the 21st century emo movement, cementing the band as an early proponent of the forthcoming genre emergence. I was curious to see what kind of crossover appeal one would have with the Get Up Kids opening, but I shouldn’t have been surprised when most of the crowd was singing along to the sad sack songs. It was clear that Matt and James were enjoying the fact that there were audience members who were not only younger than their oldest record, but that they were also singing along. It was nice to see a Get Up Kids show where the band was having fun. I’ve seen shows where they clearly don’t like being together, which made the whole experience very awkward. Those days seem to be behind them as the shows I’ve seen them play since James has been back have been a good time. I don’t know if it’s all directly related to his presence, but I will take any excuse to see James Dewees play.
Descendents shows seem to be the one place where it is not only acceptable but actually encouraged to wear the band’s shirt to said performance. To be fair, I was super excited to wear my Anti-Flag shirt to my first show which they just happened to be playing. Given the multi-generational span of the audience, it’s understandable that there would have been something similar going on that night. This was my second time seeing the band in a venue setting. But this time had a slight leg up due to the Riviera having a balcony level with open seating and a great view of the stage. I had gotten a peek at their upcoming 30 song setlist while I was shooting, so I knew I was in for the long haul. My 31 year-old bones were all in favor of taking a seat. It was an ace move as I had a perfect view to watch everyone on the floor, including the band, just let it all out. Milo continues to reinvent the front-man role by sporting a concealed camel-back. It’s nice to see that PhD brain in action.
I don’t know what their shows were like back in the day, but every time I’ve seen the Descendents since their return, it’s been a raucous good time. Watching Bill Stevenson play drums alone is worth the price of admission. As a matter of fact, the whole band seamlessly manages to pull off these 30+ year old songs alongside new tunes. After two encores, they managed to play a grand total of 38 songs over the span of nearly two hours. Their set covered just about their entire discography, but was heaviest on the new record.
I don’t know how they do it. They’re old enough to be my dads and I couldn’t even be bothered to stand for their whole set. Thankfully there are dedicated musicians like the Descendents around after so many years to pick up the slack and then some. Folks are clearly grateful to have such a band still around and giving as good of a show as ever. It’s pretty cool to see so many parents bringing their excited children to see a band that was special to them growing up. With the Descendents, there’s no holding back and no signs of slowing down any time soon. That being said, everyone should still take the opportunity and catch a Descendents show now, just in case. You can make a game out of: figure out how many time you can see the Descendents in a year, and then try to break that record. Everybody wins.