Last Night: The Descendents at Free Press Summer Fest

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More FPSF 2012 Coverage:Summer Fest line-up reviews on the Rocks Off blog.
Free Press Summer Fest 2012: The Sexy, Sweaty Crowds
Popsicles and Pizza: The Food of Summer Fest
FPSF: The Bands from Saturday
FPSF: The Bands from Sunday

The Descendents Free Press Summer Fest, Eleanor Tinsley Park June 3, 2012

The Descendents stood out like a sore thumb in comparison to a lot of the other main-stage acts at this year's Summer Fest -- and that's a good thing. On a day that was long with bands playing the big stages that never quite rocked out full-tilt, it was great to see a band hit the stage and go full throttle.

There's nothing wrong with spectacle in rock, but sometimes you need a band with no aesthetics to show up and rock out.

It's even more impressive when it comes in the form of a band that was founded 34 years ago and has an average member age of 48. But don't be mistaken -- the guys in the band may be old, but the music they played is timeless.

"Hope" was the second song of their set, and after 30 years of other bands chasing them, it still remains the best pop punk song of all time. Live, without the production work that dates the song, it feels like something that could have been written any time in the last three decades and still been current.

There lies the difference between the Descendents and your average nostalgia acts.

Other bands can go out and play their songs and do it well, but you'll be aware that they're songs of a different era. At their poppiest, the Descendents don't have that problem. Sure, no one is going to mistake the hardcore hot dog order of "Wienerschnitzel" for something in the '10s era, but tracks like "Clean Sheets" and "Silly Girl" sound like they could have come from the pop punk MTV era of the mid-'00s.

For those fans who only know singer Milo Aukerman from the doodles that adorn the band's album covers, seeing him in the flesh a bit older and gray around the edges might have been a bit of a shock. While most of the set was a straight-ahead, no bullshit, "jam as many songs into our set as possible" affair, Milo addressed their age in his one big talking moment.

"We do this for one reason, and one reason only: We do this to stay young."

What really separates the Descendents from the other bands of their era is this: Milo always made the adult decision. He went to college. He got a degree. He got a job. He decided not to spend his life on the road playing in bars and halls across the country. He grew up.

Or did he?

Milo Goes to College came out the same year I was born. "When I Get Old" came out when I was 13. And 19 months ago at Fun Fun Fun Fest, I found myself wondering what singing that song must be like for Milo, who was 47 at the time.

Today I realized that was the joke.

Here's a band that's been around longer than I've been alive, playing songs that were written while I was still learning to talk, the music was harder and faster than anything I had seen on the main stages all weekend -- and they played it well.

If the Descendents proved anything at this year's show, it's this: Age may be a number, but being old is a state of mind.

Personal Bias: I've spent far too much of my life identifying with songs like "Hope" and "Coolidge."

The Crowd: A bunch of dedicated fans front and center having a good time and a bunch of people sitting quietly in the area around Stage 2.

Random Notebook Dump: It's hard to make a band like the Descendents look super-exciting when capturing them on video on a big stage like that. They don't really move around a lot, they don't have a big stage production and they don't really slow down. The video crew did their best, but if all you had to go by was their visuals, you'd think the show was only pretty all right.

Random Notebook Dump Two: Someone was throwing water balloons into the crowd at random. I watched one ping a girl on the side of the head, and for a moment I thought she was going to beat the holy hell out of the guy behind her. Luckily for him, cooler, wetter heads prevailed.

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