LIVE REVIEW: Descendents @ The Commodore Ballroom (August 24/25)

One sold-out show at the Commodore speaks for itself, and after their Thursday night show sold out pop punk old-timers, Descendents, scheduled a second show for the night after; and I decided to go to both.

Having already secured myself a ticket for the Friday night only, I woke up on the Thursday of the first show with a fear-of-missing-out feeling about the day ahead. Fueled by that feeling and the nagging thought that everything would suck if I didn’t go to the show, I utilised the power of social media and ended up with a ticket and a gig buddy for the night — and all before lunchtime. Gotta love it when a plan comes together and you can go about the rest of your day, safe in the knowledge you’re not missing out! Phew!

This would be my first time intentionally seeing the Descendents. I’d caught the very end of a couple of their sets at festivals in previous years before I had any idea who they were — I was excited.

As a band that formed 10 years before I was born, and as a four piece with a collective age of 212, they played with the energy of a band half their age. Milo Aukerman took to the stage with a bizarre hunched posture and after an initial address of the crowd, he lead the band through hit songs selected from their catalogue of records. They kicked off both shows with what Milo announced was as “a song about a shitty day”, ‘Everything Sucks,’ which was enough to get the crowd moving.

Half way through their first show I realised that what I had initially put down as Milo’s bad posture was actually the result of a CamelBak he was wearing underneath his shirt. He sipped from the tube over his right shoulder at various points across both nights. If there’s anything that screams punk rock more than wearing a backpack full of water to stay hydrated I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s going to college… who knows…?

The Thursday was a great first show and as I walked out of the venue that night, I was already stoked about the second night, and it was clear I wasn’t alone.

The Friday crowd seemed a little looser and slightly more intoxicated than the crowd of the previous night. I guess the Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-fivers who want to knock back a few beers at a show can let their hair down (or spike it up) on a Friday night without having to drag themselves into work the next day — ears ringing, hangover in tow. At one point during the show, Milo broke his distance with the crowd at the barrier. I wish I could recall which song this took place during, but alas, my memory doesn’t serve me that well. I blame the beer that I had no option but to down as the crowd went crazy for ‘I Like Food,’ a frantic, 20-second-long track.

Milo appeared to contemplate crowd surfing for a while, but then decided against it and settled for across barrier hugs and handshakes with fans. Perhaps this was for the best, God forbid he crowd surf and puncture his CamelBak. How would he stay hydrated?!

Both nights featured lengthy set lists, around 30 songs long, and the songs played were nearly – if not completely – identical across both shows, but the crowd was not disappointed. After Thursday’s two encores those who were in attendance again on the Friday knew to hang around after the band had seemingly finished their set with ‘Smile,’ a track off their latest record, Hypercaffium Spazzinate.

The band reappeared and went straight into playing ‘Sour Grapes,’ a firm fan favourite. On the Thursday night, when they hit the stage again at this point, I witnessed an intoxicated man shout “Sour Grapes” as they walked out, and I then saw him and his buddies collectively lose their shit when they heard the opening chords of the song. Plenty of people shared his appreciation of the song on the second night, too. If you’re the Descendents and you’re going to do a second encore, then based on the crown reaction, this song was a perfect choice for it.

Personally, the Friday show came up trumps for me, mainly because of the livelier atmosphere at the venue. On both nights, I watched from a similar spot in the crowd and it was undeniable that the Friday was the rowdier of the two. It was also interesting to observe how people behave differently at exactly the same show when Friday night (a.k.a. more alcohol) is thrown into the mix. Nonetheless, the Thursday was a solid show and the performances put on by the band were on equal par across both nights.

At the second show, Milo asked the audience how many had been at the previous night too and it wasn’t just a small number of people who raised their hands. There are plenty of bands who could pull off a double night at the Commodore, but very few can claim to entertain a crowd that consisted of such a mixed group of ages, made up of fans they had collected along the way during their long career, and play the same set on both nights and get away with it. The Descendents did. It’s also worth noting that on the Friday they were competing for a crowd against the likes of Dead Cross, a notable supergroup on the punk/metal scene, who were playing at the Vogue Theatre, just one block away.

Friday’s show was all wrapped up by 11.15pm, leaving just enough time for those who wanted to catch the end of the Forgotten Rebels headlining set at SBC Restaurant to head over. For me it was a full-on two nights of punk rock, but it was a blast and I would thoroughly recommend catching the Descendents live if you get the chance.