Influential Californian punk quartet Descendents formed in 1978. Having sporadically recorded and toured for more than 30 years, they built a dedicated fanbase and achieved a solid cult status. After releasing the full-length Cool to Be You in 2004, the band stepped away to focus on other priorities, only surfacing for a few gigs in 2010. Descendents returned to the scene in 2016 with Hypercaffium Spazzinate, their first album in 12 years. Following the release, the band hit the road for a lengthy tour, pausing briefly last Spring to release a standalone single, Who We Are. Descendents have continued to tour relentlessly, and this year will see more of the same, with the announcement of another extended run of headlining dates in support of Hypercaffium Spazzinate. We recently caught the band when they stopped in for a Saturday night at the Ritz in Raleigh NC.
With fans continuing to fill the venue, local Raleigh-based band Pie Face Girls kicked off the evening. The trio of Dani Hoffpauir on guitar and vocals, Tiffany Huff on bass and vocals, and Klay Misenheimer on drums and vocals, played a concise set of catchy riot-grrrl influenced garage punk culled primarily from their debut album Formative Years. The band cut their teeth playing house parties and small rooms, and after a slightly tentative start they settled in and found their grove playing on the much larger Ritz stage. Songs like “Fuck You I’m Pretty,” “Dude Yr Girlfriend Sux,” and “Get On The Floor” crackled with a DIY punk energy that turned more than a few heads in the room.
Following Pie Face Girls and providing the direct lead-in to Descendents fell to the snarling punk of Radkey. The Missouri-based trio consisting of the brothers Radke – Dee on lead vocals and guitar, Isaiah on bass and vocals, and Solomon drums took the stage with little fanfare and no frills… And what followed was an all-out aural assault. Radkey look unassuming, but they play a heavy dose of punk and fuzzy garage rock layered on top of a foundation of classic rock, blues, and a slight dash of metal, all delivered with catchy melodies and hooks galore. Dee channels the voice and power of Glenn Danzig mixed with Dave Vanian of the Damned as he delivers his vocals. It’s a bit jarring to hear such a deep and powerful voice emanating from a relatively young singer (Dee and his brothers are all near their early 20’s), but that is the thing with Radkey, they prove the point that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, or in this case a band shouldn’t be judged by their looks. These three brothers from St. Joseph, Missouri delivered a 40 minute set of hard driving songs pulled from their latest release Delicious Rock Noise with a confidence and maturity that belied their relatively young ages. They certainly grabbed the attention of the crowd at the Ritz, and by the time they closed out their set, the room was roaring with appreciation. Radkey are a band worth seeking out. Grab their album, catch them live, and be blown away.
With the crowd primed and anticipation reaching a fever pitch, the members of Descendents shuffled out onto the stage, looking over the room with big smiles on their faces. Drummer Bill Stevenson, took his place behind the kit, and shared a bit of banter with the famously bespectacled lead singer, Milo Aukerman, before the band launched into “Suburban Home” from their seminal debut album Milo Goes To College, followed immediately by a fast and furious barrage of songs including “Everything Sux,” “Hope,” “On Paper,” and “Rotting Out.” The crowd, filled with fans spanning all ages and demographics, instantly responded in a mass of controlled hysteria. The entire room was bouncing up and down and singing along with gusto as periodic crowd surfers appeared, riding the wave of euphoria toward the stage.
Having played together for more than 30 years, the musicianship, precision, and interplay between band members was a joy to witness. Anyone concerned that Descendents might have lost a step over the years quickly had their fears put to rest. Milo stalked the stage as he belted out song after song in his deadpan delivery, often coming to the front to close the gap with the fans up front, while guitarist Stephen Egerton tossed out fierce power chords and crunching guitar licks over the top of the thundering foundation laid down by bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson. The 30 song set continued hard and fast as the band played a solid mix of songs from across their seven studio albums including, “I Wanna Be A Bear,” “Clean Sheets,” “I’m Not A Punk,” “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” “Weinerschnitzel,” “No Fat Burger,” and “Coffee Mug,” before closing out with “Thank You” and “Descendents.” The band returned to play 8 more songs spread over two encores, leaving the audience sweat-soaked, exhausted, and absolutely exhilarated.
Despite their advancing ages, Descendents have not lost their fire. They continue to play with passion, aggression, and a hint of humor while delivering a huge grin and middle finger to the mainstream music world.
Descendents + Radkey + Pie Face Girls @ The Ritz – May 26th 2018