Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fans check in with the Descendents

Milo Aukerman (All Chris Shary photos)

In part two of our Descendents October blog-age, here we've got a sampling of the Q and A the band did on Reddit this week (questions are from fans who wrote in):

Seems like your songs have always been the perfect soundtrack to my life. Any truth to the rumor of a new album in the works?

Bill Stevenson:
We're getting there -- getting our songs organized -- inching our way toward a finished record.

First of ALL, thank you for playing the way you play. This question is for Stephen: Everybody is always talking about your guitar sound on the "Everything Sucks" album, but I've always taken a shine to your "Pummel" sound. Could you gear geek a little about that?

Stephen Egerton:
Thanks! On "Pummel" I used my old Dan Armstrong guitar (RIP), with a JCM900 on one side and a Mesa Tri-Axis on the other. Both went through an old no-name cabinet with EV12L speakers. No effects in the guitar path, except a volume pedal, which I used for "This World," and a couple other parts.

Karl, Bassmaster General, when did you learn to play the bass? How do you come up with such imaginative runs/basslines?

Karl Alvarez:
I started playing bass at 18 in Stephen's band the Massacre Guys. I was fortunate enough to play with very talented players who were kind enough to permit me to learn the ropes. As far as influences go, both Dukowski and Kira from Black Flag are huge, as is Mike Watt -- this is direct stuff. The more indirect influences are Geezer Butler, Felix Pappalardi, Paul McCartney and, of course, Mr. James Jamerson. The bass lines I use are like little mental viral infections; I have no Idea how I come up with most of them.

From top: Stevenson, Egerton and Alvarez

Do you guys ever play "One More Day" live? And if so, is it tough for you Bill?

We haven't played "One More Day" -- but, yes, sometimes those sorts of lyrics can sort of stir things up a bit. "Scary Sad" does that to me still.

Hi Milo, which is cooler: being in a popular punk band or being a biochemist?

Milo Aukerman:
Hmmm, I used to think being a biochemist was cooler...but lately I've been enjoying the band stuff so much more. It's like "Coolidge" was written about my science career: "I'm not a cool guy anymore..."

For the full deal, visit:

'Sonic Highways' Washington, DC: There's Something Hard in There revisits its DC entries

Scream's Pete Stahl (Andy photo)

To accompany Dave Grohl's "Sonic Highways" Washington, DC, episode from Friday night on HBO, here's the There's Something Hard in There DC music entries from the last four years.


Ian MacKaye interview

Bad Brains live 1982 review

Scream interview

Henry Rollins interview

Minor Threat live 1982 story

Government Issue interview

The Evens live review

Youth Brigade interview

Sunday, October 19, 2014

DVD Review – 'Filmage: The Story of the Descendents/ALL'

By Elise Thompson
The Los Angeles Beat

I have seen my fair share of music documentaries, and possibly your share too. “Filmage: the Story of Descendents/All,” follows the usual pattern of live footage interspersed with interviews and stills. Graphics are used creatively to help the audience keep up with the bands’ rapidly-changing lineup. They manage to both solve the problem of missing footage and up the entertainment value by enlivening amusing anecdotes with custom animation. The story of how the concept of ALL came to be is one of the funniest cartoons you will ever see.

The storyline is primarily chronological with commentators well-chosen to illustrate each era. Keith Morris and Mike Watt were there at the beginning, and 90s pop punks later elaborate on the bands’ influence on them. There is much discussion about everything that set the Descendents apart from other punk bands, especially their choice to sing tortured love songs instead of anthems to anarchy, as well as proudly flying their nerd flag.

If this film were a book, one chapter would be titled, “Why isn’t ALL as popular as the Descendents?” Yes, Milo connects with the audience, yes, people are nostalgic for early 80s punk, but no one can quite put their finger on ALL’s struggle to escape from the Descendents’ shadow. The band knows. What seemed to be a dirty little secret turns out to be everyone’s not-so-secret mystery. What it finally comes down to is Bill Stevenson’s proclamation that ALL is the band that is guilty of not being the Descendents.

One conundrum with music documentaries is whether to play an entire song and risk boring the audience or cut songs off, risking pissing off the die-hard fans. Filmakers Deedle Lacour and Matt Riggle took a subtle approach, turning down the volume and allowing the song to finish playing in the background of the following interview. It was also evident that care was taken in the selection of songs, which were not only chronological but matched the storyline. As the ever-fickle Milo discusses the first time he left the band you can hear him crooning in the background, “Don’t want to sing yesterday’s love songs.”

They manage to match the humor of the band with clever edits that make the most of funny pictures and humorous commentary. They do manage to capture a lot of both accidental and intentional humor, as well as the charm and likeability of the power behind the throne, Bill Stevenson.

As one would expect with a documentary that spans an entire lifetime, there has to be both bathos and pathos. The story takes a sobering turn, and at some point you realize the movie you are watching is actually “Filmage: The Story of Bill Stevenson.” This film takes you on a journey with Stevenson; you share his struggles and his triumphs. “Filmage” achieves what few rock docs can – it makes you feel something. As Bill Stevenson puts it, “I want to write about what really matters.” And he holds his palm against his chest to emphasize that what really matters to him is heart.

Read John Collinson’s review of Filmage


FILMAGE: BONUS CUT includes 50 minutes of footage that didn’t make it into the film. The bonus material is just as tightly edited as the movie.  It was cut only because no one can sit through a 140 minute documentary. We get more live footage of band members Dave Smalley, Catholic boy Ray Cooper, and Doug “Incest Cattle” Carrion. Extras include outtakes, a longer interview with Karl Alvarez, and footage of the band contemplating the troubled life and sudden death of founding member Frank Navetta. The ending is kind of awkward, but how do you bookend a tragedy?

THE LOMBARDO SHORT spends 11 minutes focusing on the Descendent’s original bassist, Tony Lombardo. He discusses his reasons for and regrets about leaving the band. You also get a peek at his very own suburban home. 

THE STEVENSON MONOLOGUES is a 10 minute collection of topic-specific snippets. Besides erudite musings on subjects like punk rock and religion, Bill elucidates the intricacies of songwriting.

FILMAGE LIVEAGE For 8 minutes Descendents rock the Fillmore. Live footage of the band shot and edited especially for the film. The video and sound quality are perfect, as you would expect. Crowd pleasers include “Bikeage” and “Loser,” in which they have admirably changed the homophobic lyric to “You’re so disco.”

FILMAGE Official Trailer (see the top of this post)
HD Digital copies are available now with the option of additional bonus footage and merch. You can also view “Filmage” without the bonus footage on services like Amazon Prime, iTunes and Google Play. The DVD can be pre-ordered now and will ship December 2nd. Order now.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Helms Alee, The Posies, etc: A mighty Day 2 of The Macefield Music Festival in Ballard

Helms Alee, top, The Posies and Stag. (All Cat Rose photos)

As if Day 1 of The Macefield Music Festival in Ballard wasn't enough, we also made the scene for Day 2 on Oct. 4 and checked out Helms Alee, The Posies, Stag, Gibraltar, The Derelicts and Tacos! ... how fitting since it was National Taco Day. Ole'! 

Cat Rose photos galore:







Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Sonics lead the pack at The Macefield Music Festival in Ballard

Sing along with The Sonics. (All Cat Rose photos)

Edith Macefield would surely have been proud of the bands tearing through their tunes in Ballard on Oct. 3-4.

In 2006, she was offered $1 million to sell her 108-year-old farmhouse in the Seattle neighborhood. Nope, didn't happen. Since Macefield wouldn't budge, builders erected a five-story commercial development around her house, where she died at age 86 in 2008.

Macefield stood strong, as did the bands at The Macefield Music Festival.

Here's Cat Rose's photos of the bands we witnessed on Day 1 in Seattle: