Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Descendents At Shepherds Bush

It's been a long time since a Punk Rock show caused this much controversy or split the opinion of quite so many people... It's been longer since I actually walked out of a gig before the end.

The Descendents are pioneers of Pop Punk - nobody is disputing that. Nobody is saying they aren't a great band with an incredible back catalog and nobody wanted to leave Shepherds Bush last night with anything but a smile on their faces. Unfortunately though, smiling was the very last thing most wanted to do as the first of 2 dates in the UK for around 15 years turned into what can only fairly be described as a farce.

The support bands first. Teenage Bottlerocket were enjoyable enough. I actually enjoyed their set - it was the first time I'd really taken the time to listen to them. The crowd were into them and they played well.

Afterwards came Dead To Me and with them a set of horribly bland Pop Punk tunes that seemed to melt into one long dirge. It was a shame, I'd heard good things.

So, the lights go out and out come The Descendents. The band start playing and already something is not right. It sounds terrible. The support acts had far better sound - this was unusual to say the least. Then Milo starts to sing...

Anyone who was there knows what happened next. The story of the smashed microphone almost blinding his bandmate will go down in history as one of the most surreal moments at any gig ever. For those of you that weren't there let me just fill you in.

The Descendents had just played 2 other dates - Groezrock in Belgium and Monster Bash in Berlin. Apparently these days lead singer Milo's voice can only take a couple of shows in a short space of time as he suffered a complete vocal blow-out leaving him hoarse and barely audible. Realising he wasn't going to be able to sing at the London gig he threw his mic down in a temper and it pretty much exploded on impact - shards of which hit guitarist Stephen Egerton in the face which started to bleed. The band rushed off-stage and stayed there for a while leaving the crowd bewildered.

When the band returned things went from bad to worse. Milo's attempts at singing sounded more like Death Metal than Pop Punk and they bumbled their way through a few more songs before he gave up entirely. This then led to a series of other people singing including the front man from the support band, a roadie and, in one of the strangest sights of the night, Eric Melivin from NOFX.

I'd love to be able to give a proper review of the rest of the night, I really would. But the truth is, I can't... I wasn't in the room. I was so disappointed by the state of this gig that I went outside to lament with others who felt the same way. And there were a lot of others that felt the same way... As I stood there swarms of people either came outside to smoke and complain (justifiably so) or to simply go home.

So, today is the day after and I've spent a considerable amount of time both expressing my own and reading other people's opinions on this gig and I have seen both positive and negative comments towards the band. My own feelings are that Milo couldn't possibly have been surprised to find he couldn't sing. He must know his own voice and if he didn't feel he could perform then he just shouldn't have. (To all of those people that argued about the cost of cancelling or rescheduling - all I have to say to them is they cancelled the second date so bear that in mind) Everyone I have spoken to has expressed that they would rather have had the gig rescheduled until such a time as Milo could handle it than to witness the shambles that was last night.

I've read people saying that it was unfair of the crowd to boo the band - to those people I just want to say that the 20 quid bit of paper everyone had to get into that show was what gave them the right to make any sound they wanted to. People paid to see The Descendents, not glorified Descendent karaoke.

The thing that really upset everyone though was that at no point during the show did anyone apologise. Everybody at that gig had paid to see a show and they deserved to see one. I spoke to people who had travelled from all over the country and beyond all to see a band that hardly ever comes over here - why not take the time to explain the situation and simply apologise? We get that these things happen, we get that occasionally things go wrong... But there has to come a time where bodging together a gig out of the bits and pieces of a band you have left is just not good enough for the first visit in 15 odd years.

Do I still love The Descendents? Of course I do. They wrote some of the finest Pop Punk tunes ever written! But the fact remains that for many this was a piss-poor excuse of a gig and I hope the band go some way to restore the faith of all of those people that made a huge effort and paid a lot of money to see them.

I'd just like to quickly add that I nicked this photo off a mate who was there. Cheers Paul! And thanks to everyone else I got chatting to outside - you made a shit gig a lot more fun to be at.