This summer has been the summer of ALL and Descendents for me. I had always been a casual fan, but these bands’ brand of quirky sophistication really clicked with me the past few months and their collective discography has been on shuffle-repeat nonstop. Knowing these bands have not been very active lately, I was pretty surprised to see that ALL would be playing a show at local bar not known for booking these types of bands. As it turns out, an old friend of the band had come down with a life-threatening condition and the band flew in to Columbus just to play this one show as a benefit. While the show was a focused benefit, the entire evening was much more of a celebration capped off by a rare opportunity to catch a great and important band.
The first opener was Dirty Side Down, who are a dedicated throwback to '80s arena rock complete with long hair and ripping guitar solos. The band riffed and sang their way through a fun set that was as accurate to a bygone scene as anything I have ever seen. They were definitely weekend warriors for sure, but I would never knock people for doing something they so clearly love.
The next two bands, Children of Reagan and Legbone, were staples of the punk scene in central Ohio in the '90s. Children of Reagan brought back memories of high school for me with their mix of fast punk rock and occasional ska upstrokes. The lyrics were spit super fast and the band even looked the part with their Dickies shorts and T-shirts of '90s bands.
If Children of Reagan evoked '90s nostalgia, then Legbone was like actually going back in time. Fast NOFX drums, snarky vocals and a singer who wore a hat while aping Jim Lindberg’s stage moves, it was like seeing a Fat Wreck band that never was. Well, maybe Honest Don’s. Regardless, the band’s sound was pleasingly thick and they even threw in a couple of covers including Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” and a Tom Petty song that I’ve heard a million times but don’t know the title (no, it wasn't “Free Fallin”).
Finally, around 12:30 a.m., ALL began setting up while the winners of raffled items were announced. Following the awarding of items including some cool skateboards and T-shirts, ALL started their set with no fanfare, jumping straight into “Refrain” from 1998’s Mass Nerder. I had been hoping they would play one of my favorites, “Million Bucks” from Pummel, and I was rewarded with it as the second song.
Chad Price stood center stage sans the super long hair and beard he had been sporting last time I saw him in person with Drag the River and carried the attention of the crowd as a true professional. There was little in-between-song banter as the band expertly performed its songs on what was likely borrowed equipment. Drummer Bill Stevenson was in especially fine form, showcasing once again why he is one of the best and most important drummers in punk rock history.
Those hoping to hear Descendents songs were rewarded with staple tracks “Coolidge” and “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” It was great hearing those songs, but probably does little to keep people from believing that the Descendents are the far superior band of the two--a view I think that too readily dismisses the greatness that is ALL.
As much as I love ALL, each of the band’s albums contains highly skippable songs and unfortunately, this evening’s set list was much the same way, with a few songs I would have left off. It was awesome to hear “She’s My Ex,” but I definitely could have done without “Vida Blue.” All complaints aside though, it’s not every day you get to see ALL in a small bar, so a few less than favorite songs are not a big deal.
Ultimately, this show made for a supremely fun evening. The benefit portion of the event was a success and a positive vibe permeated the entire night. ALL proved that even beyond being a great and legendary band, they are awesome people for flying out to Ohio just for this benefit.
All pictures by Jimmy Turri