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martin wong
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Descendents return to Long Beach with Bad Religion and Rise Against

Descendents return to Long Beach with Bad Religion and Rise Against
Sometimes, you get to eat dessert first. Last night at the Long Beach Arena, my crew and I walked in just after Five Year Strong finished, cruised right up to the stage, and staked out a choice spot right behind the barricade to the see the Descendents' first gig in L.A. since 1997.

The first time I saw the band was in 1987. It was also in Long Beach, but at Fender's Ballroom with Social Unrest and M.I.A. and the tiny, unhygienic, and famously violent venue was packed with big skinheads and ugly mohawks. Punk rock shows were still scary back then, even for bands that sang about silly girls, food, and coffee. The flyer called it the group's "FinALL show" before Milo went back to college, M.D., although I caught three of their Whisky shows when they reunited for Everything Sucks. Their shows are rare now, and there was no way I could miss this one. The group not only played supremely catchy yet totally punk and powerful music, but also had ties to other bands that I loved (Black Flag, Dag Nasty...) and spawned ALL, a band that I saw practically every other weekend at the Anti-Club for a couple of years.

Yes, the band that didn't want to grow up, has grown older. But they still have the most incredible chops and Milo actually looks like a singer from the '80s (it just happens to be one of the brothers from Nomeansno). After he declared the evening the "revenge of the nerds," the band blasted off with "Descendents," "Hope," and "I Want To Be A Bear." It's the first time in ages that I stayed in the first three or four rows for the entire set and sang along to every single song. So many other great tunes: "I Don't Want To Grow Up," "Silly Girl," "When I Get The Time," Coolidge," "Suburban Home," "Myage," Everything Sucks"... It ended triumphantly about 45 minutes later with "I'm Not A Loser," the ultimate shout-a-long.

After Five Year Strong, who must have played at 6:30 or so, Bad Religion seemed to take the shaft for the Descendents' guest appearance on the tour stop. They played for less than half an hour. I saw the band a lot during the early '90s when their concerts were an amazing stew of anarchists and idiots that seemed to border on riots every time, but this set pretty much ignored that era. The great albums No Control, Against The Grain, and Generator were practically nonexistent, as songs were mostly newer works (still solid), radio hits ("Infected," "Sorrow"), and one reach way back for "We're Only Gonna Die" (which sounded amazing with the expanded, super talented six-member lineup). I'm guessing the other tour stops feature a longer, more comprehensive, pit-ready set list. What was up with the guest rapper, though?

As for Rise Against, even I took pause when I saw two legendary bands opening for relative youngsters. Yes, Rise Against once even opened for Bad Religion on tour. But give the current headliners credit: They evolved from honest beginnings as Fat Wreck Chords minor leaguers, have utilized the legit punk production skills of Bill Stevenson and company throughout their advancement into the world of major labels, and have gone out on a limb to support lefty efforts like anti-Bush causes and PETA. They're young and they play younger-style, screamo-tinged music, but they are not poseurs. And in the end, their KROQ-listening fans made more noise than us old-timers who came out of the woodwork--even if they couldn't hang in the pit.
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