Last night Pete and I saw Descendents, a band very close to our shared heart. He gave me a copy of Somery on our first date, I guess "Silly Girl" would qualify as one of Our Songs, and we've kind of listened to them together as long as we've been a couple. Also--like, they're fundamentally *nice* people. Their lyrics written in the 80s are problematic at times but they always meant well and it was the 80s after all. The first time I saw them was two summers ago at Punk Rock Bowling on the Jersey Shore and after 20+ years of loving them, I cried several times, finally seeing them in person. I do that sometimes. Then last year they played in town and it really wasn't the same. Milo's voice went out and they didn't seem super happy to be there. It was a weeknight and we left before the encore to get ahead of the ride share rush.
I bought the tickets for last night's show in February and was on the fence then. I believe my exact thoughts were "OK, I like fun." when I pulled the trigger and unnecessarily bought the tickets seven months or whatever in advance. On Tuesday, we even discussed trying to unload the tickets and not going. We played on Monday night and were feeling tired and probably beaten down by the world as I think a lot of us are. The tickets on StubHub, etc, were going for way less than face value. We decided to go, thinking we'd probably not do this again and just leave well enough alone.
When we walked up to the venue last night, there was barely anyone outside, which seemed weird. I overheard the door guys wondering aloud where everyone was. One speculated that people knew the set times and decided not to rush. The Fillmore in Silver Spring, I found out last night, will give you the set times of the bands on their recorded phone message (press one). The message indicated Descendents would be playing from 10-11:30, which I mentally called bullshit on. That seemed like a really long set, especially compared to last year.
We made a beeline to the 2nd floor and paid the extra fee for a spot on the balcony. As an especially short person, I make no apologies for this practice. It's a reason I am one of the small handful of people who likes the Fillmore. There was plenty of space on the balcony, even after 9, well into the second opener's set. It was, by the way Teenage Bottlerocket, a band I'm not specifically a huge fan of but like them ok. As we settled in, I noticed how uninterested the crowd seemed in TBR. They're fairly well-known and it was a bit bleak how bored the audience on the first floor seemed.
When Descendents went on, Milo trotted out wearing a Descendents shirt, which he addressed immediately by saying he never wears Desecendents shirts because it's awkward and meta but this was actually a Votage shirt and was wearing it because voting is so important. They were the best I'd seen them play. They were happy to be there. They played two encores of four songs each. Milo's voice held up excellently. The crowd immediately came alive.
In the dead middle of the set, they played "Who We Are," a single I barely noticed they released in 2017 (according to the internet). It's pretty clearly about life since 11/9 and possibly directly about Charlottesville? I dunno. It could have been because it's their newest song by far (and not on an album), but the crowd died at that point. A girl in the first row who I noticed and kind of watched the whole time because she looks like my friend Meg from Pittsburgh had been singing all the songs, even the ones on albums I've only listened to twice. When they started playing "Who We Are," the Meg-girl burst into tears. Others just stood there looking sad.
It occurred to me that we have been conscious of how hard it's been to exist with the news constantly blaring worse shit than many of us could have ever imagined for the last 2 years but it really struck me last night. Everyone is bummed out. Like, that's baseline. The past week has been a really good example of how frustrating and gut-punching staying informed as been. I sometimes forget that strangers are feeling this too. Like, you walk around and other people are sharing your misery. And it sucks. But occasionally we get to see Descendents and they're singing songs about girls and being a nerd but also singing songs about hope and they still believe that people in general and americans in particular have fundamental good in them.
It was SO NICE to share this with my sweetheart of the last 22 and a half years as well as a room full of like-minded strangers. I guess my only point in all of this is to remind you to let the Descendents in because they'll suspend your cynicism for 90 minutes sometimes.