Where to start?
Oooh, I know.
I should’ve known this show might not go to plan when the ticket turned up with the band name printed as ‘The Descendants’..
In April 2011, my friends went to Groezrock in Belgium. I obviously wasn’t big enough to go a punk rock festival on the continent yet (I went the following year), but that was ok, because despite not getting to see DESCENDENTS play there, I got a ticket to see them the following day in London.
I actually got a lift with Ed C, fresh back from Belgium, who was going to the Royal Albert Hall to see Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green do his City and Colour acoustic thing. We parted somewhere on the Underground with him heading to his gig and me heading to mine in Shepherd’s Bush.
I didn’t really know much, if any of Dead To Me or Teenage Bottlerocket’s stuff, so the early part of the evening was a bit boring on my own. I killed a bit of time, feigned some interest in the support sets, bought a t-shirt, then watched an empty stage as the remaining minutes counted down until I got to witness the band I’d been waiting since 2004 to see (I didn’t actually think I ever would).
Milo, Bill, Stephen and Karl appeared and launched into their self titled track.
“Just because you’ve gone away, here’s a message from me and Ray…”
Uhhhhh. Something didn’t sound quite right.
Two songs in and it became clear that Milo’s voice was totally shot from the weekend’s show. By the end of track three, Silly Girl, one of my favourites, he threw the microphone down, smashing it in frustration, pieces of it clocking poor Stephen in the face. Milo couldn’t say, let alone sing another word.
The atmosphere in the crowd turned WEIRD.
Thinking back now, it doesn’t seem that big a deal and it’s hard to remember why I, and so many others there that night were absolutely gutted by what happened. I think it’s worth remembering that Descendents had reached a cult like status in their absence, it was a huge deal that they were finally back for these shows and nobody knew whether it would ever happen again. In that moment when Milo walked off stage, it certainly felt like it wouldn’t.
Feeling compelled to give an audience that had travelled miles, and likely across the planet, something for their time and money, Bill, Stephen and Karl played on, with members of the support bands doing their best to sing some of the band’s biggest songs. In one sudden WTF moment, Eric Melvin from NoFX appeared on stage and acknowledged his own surprise “what am I doing here?!”. He sang Bikeage, Bill stepped up to the mic and sang Clean Sheets, then Milo returned on bass with Karl on vocals for three Black Flag songs.
They gave it their best shot, but I’m not sure if anything could’ve made up for coming so close to finally seeing Descendents and then missing out. In that moment I wished I’d gone to Groezrock. Everything sucked on this night.
I threw on my Underground parody t-shirt and went to get the tube. I must have looked like a sad clown in it sat at the connecting station when Ed’s tube pulled in. Where on earth to start with telling him what I’d just seen..
To be continued