The United States of America just experienced the most divisive election in recent memory and half of the voting population was left feeling disenchanted. Disgruntled protesters took to the streets to voice their dissent, with marches clogging the streets of major cities across the country. The anger was palpable as a gathering of University of Washington students made their way past the Neptune in Seattle and for once, cops gathered outside a punk show weren’t there because of the show. While those marching in the streets were expressing their anger in one way, those of us in the show were utilizing the ferocity and genius of the Descendents to express ours.
Oregon natives Broadway Calls got the night off to a solid start, playing a short,effective set of melodic pop punk. While they are less bombastic than the Descendents, they, like most of their contemporaries, have been influenced by the godfathers of pop punk. But instead of just being another carbon copy band who relies on lifted hooks and melodies, Broadway Calls injects a healthy dose of true sincerity into their music and stage presence.
The band was blazing through a great seat, ready to jump into another song when singer/guitarist Ty Vaughn took a moment to observe the obvious, “It’s been a tragic twenty-four hours”. Typically, political statements at punk shows are met with a variety of responses, but this being Seattle the reactions ranged from cheers to raised drinks in agreement. The remainder of the set was filled with passion and sweat, getting the crowd primed for what was to come.
Preceding the Descendents isn’t an easy task, not only are they one of the best live punk bands, but punk fans aren’t very patient with opening acts. Bully defied the odds and delivered a kick ass set while winning over the crowd.
Guitarist and lead singer Alicia Bognanno extended an olive branch to the city in the form of a thrift store Seahawks shirt in addition to a killer set of rock. After a couple of songs, she brushed her disheveled blond hair out of her face to address the orange elephant in the room, “I’m going to say it because we’re all thinking it, fuck Donald Trump”. The crowd responded with cheers of agreement mixed with a few repeating the sentiment. The frustration with the election results slowly faded as the crowd became fully engaged. Alicia writhed around the stage lost in the music. She finishing the band’s last song collapsed, singing up into the microphone. Bully delivered a captivating performance, solidifying themselves as a band with a cross-genre appeal who’s worth taking note of.
Milo Aukerman took the stage, newspaper in one hand and a bag of Cheetos in the other. He promptly held the newspaper high in the air so the crowd could see the cover story, “Trump Elected”. His middle finger followed, aimed at the paper, which was then thrown to the ground. The pissed off singer dumped the Cheetos onto the paper and proceeded to stomp and jump onto the mixture. The snacks were crushed into an orange dust atop the paper as Milo screamed “Everything Sucks!”. Stephen, Bill and Karl launched into ‘Everything Sux’, dropping a two-ton catharsis bomb on the crowd.
From there it was a steady stream of music with Milo taking only a few moments to comment on the state of the world or introduce the next song. One such moment consisted of dedicating ‘Pervert’ to “our pussy grabbing president-elect”. The band blasted through iconic punk anthem after iconic punk anthem, accompanied by a generous helping of stage divers due to the lack of a barricade. The fans made sure that even if the show was going to take place at a nice theater, chaos would ensue as it does as at punk shows. At one point a stage diver tripped on Steve Edgerton’s guitar cable, unplugging it from the amp. Always the consummate showman, Milo continued to sing as he knelt down to fix the problem. Upon finishing the song, he instructed the audience to jump from the center of the stage and not the sides.
To say that people were feeling down the day after the election is an understatement. Thus, the protesters outside the venue and perhaps this is why the crowd was so energetic, blowing steam off and letting it all go. Milo took a moment to address the protestors with a sense of admiration and instructed the crowd to not “stick your head in the ground. Feel shitty if you feel shitty”. This sentiment is a powerful and compassionate one, we are too often told to escape the negative side of the emotional spectrum. The band then launched into ‘Feel This’ from their amazing new album Hypercaffium Spazzinate.
The Descendents proved why they have been around for so long and have the staying power that they possess. And while seeing them on any other night would have been amazing, there was something unique about seeing them on this night. It allowed a small portion of Seattle an outlet for whatever they were feeling. And while there’s been a sentiment that the next four years will result in many great punk records being written, I think that’s short-sighted. Punk’s always functioned as a release valve for angst and frustration, and that role, while massively important right now, has always been relevant. The Descendents have always fought for the outsider, the disenfranchised and have been doing so for their entire history.
Regardless of the circumstance, it was amazing to see these four punk legends back in Seattle after way too long. Hopefully, they’ll come back sooner than later.