The Austin Chronicle

Sound on Sound Review: Descendents

By Kevin Curtin, November 5, 2016, 12:15pm, Earache!

“Are you like me and you just want this election to be over?” Milo Aukerman polled the audience at Sound on Sound’s tree-lined Forest stage just before midnight Friday. “I just want it to be over and to breathe a sigh of relief because the alternative is scary.”

“When I wake up on November 9th, I’ll open my newspaper and have my cup of coffee, and if I see some bullshit person’s won, it’ll be like, ‘Oh no, everything sucks!’”

With that, the Descendents catapulted into “Everything Sux,” their bespectacled scientist frontman appropriating the legacy punk band’s nerdy angst into modern political frustrations. Without pause, mandatory old-school sing-alongs “Hope” and “Rotting Out” followed.

The long-running Southern California quartet arrived as old friends to the first-year festival, having headlined Sound on Sound’s precursor, Fun Fun Fun Fest, as a mind-blowing last-minute fill-in for Devo in 2010 and then again in 2013. At those appearances, the Descendents stood as a reunited punk band playing old favorites. This year, they came promoting a new album.

Hundreds of fans who chose the Descendents over mainstage headliner Phantogram got a mostly classic set list peppered with material from 2016’s respectable release Hypercaffium Spazzinate. “On Paper,” penned by bassist Karl Alvarez, resounded as the superior new effort, while “Shameless Halo” proved passable and “Without Love” came off downright sappy – even for a band that does sappy quite well (see “Silly Girl,” which swelled the hearts of fans and got a huge response on Friday.)

Behind the big beats of Bill Stevenson, the band hit highlights “Clean Sheets” and “Suburban Home,” then flubbed the “No!” timing on 13-second fast food ode “Weinershnitzel.” On the very next song, “Talking,” the stage began to lose power – first Stephen Egerton’s guitar, followed by the bass and vocal monitors – causing the band to stop mid-track and Stevenson to step up to the mic and inquire, “Is anybody here an electrician? We can’t pay you.”

With voltage restored, the band recovered with a perfect version of “I’m the One,” Aukerman singing, “I’ve been here for you all along.” To many of Sound on Sound’s attendees who began following the band in the Eighties that undoubtedly rang true. With no noise curfew due to the fest being far outside any city limits, the band played long and encored with “Thank You” and “Descendents,” exiting the platform at 1am having played 29 songs and leaving nothing left unsaid.

Except “I’m Not a Loser,” which was inexplicably skipped over.

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