FILMAGE [Review]: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL.
Your favorite Traveling Nerd had a chance to sit in on the screening of FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL. As a fellow youth who grew up in the formative years of 90’s punk, a ton of the great bands of my generation owed their dues to this Milo and Stevenson run band. After the film finished, proctoring this great new documentary with full band (minus Milo of course) was noneother than the frontman from Blink-182.
Before there was Black Flag, Misfits, The Offspring or even Blink-182, there was a little known garage band out of sunny southern California called Descendents, or ALL– depending on the singer. Thanks to filmmakers Matt Riggle and Deedle LaCour, the four decades of this Bill Stevenson, a drummer by the way, led pioneering band is chronicled. Over the past couple months, FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL has been making the journey through the festival circuits and has finally landed for its theatrical debut in beautiful Los Angeles at the Downtown Independent Theater and is available on VOD (iTunes, Amazon, etc) now, with Blu-ray/DVD following soon.
The rich history behind the creation of the Descendents started with a love of all things, fishing and coffee. First, they formed in 1977 after three Cali boys bonded over fishing on Hermosa Beach; then became the first incarnation of this mostly passed up band when a much older bassist Tony Lombardo joined.
Still sitting on the sidelines was a Milo Aukerman who went from the band’s first groupie — to dweeby lead singer and all around frontman. After Milo took over for vocals the band really found its punk nerd pacing with the release of, “Milo Goes to College” (1982). This fast paced and catchy blend of raw emotional music from a non rock-dressing band kind of threw the punk scene for a loop. With their own form of punk rock that transcended the usual conventions, Descendents unfortunately never found their mark with the commercial masses, though the line drawn nerd visage that soon became their logo did become a synonymous punk visual that transcended punk rock culture.
Like out of a comic book story of alter identities, in 1982 Milo decided to follow his true path which was always Science and left the band. Which among the group’s rich history would become a steady center stone with Milo returning and leaving like a mysterious King Arthur only returning when his punk nation was in need of its nerd warrior or the beaker club become to boring.
During the first interim period of Milo’s disappearances, Descendents started to show cracks of decay, the cornerstone of the band Stevenson would go onto play for the L.A. established Black Flag. Milo would return in 1985 for another record, lasting only a year before science was calling again. After Milo’s second bout with Descendents, fresh blood came in to expand the roster and reorganize the band. Similar to Avengers switching up the roster and expanding for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Karl Alvarez and Stephen Egerton become the bands new permanent bassist and guitarist. With this new expanded roster minus one mild mannered be-speckled Milo, Stevenson rechristened the new band “ALL”.
Unfortunately, the fans never really embraced ALL, preferring the Milo headed version of the band, even though ALL’s style was similar and the released records were just as strong. Through and in-between the post Milo years, numerous talented singers and song writers came and went, due to either lack of financial stability or Stevenson totalitarian work ethic. The band finally established a new base in the midwest allowing for better ease of touring. In-between Milo returning for a year or a reunion, the band started to become well known among fans of the genre as punk legends, due greatly to the bands that owed their roots to the trailblazing Descendents. Some even pay homage to the band in FILMAGE, such as Foo Fighters, and Blink-182.
The final act of the film steps away from the bands history, and focuses on drummer and front man, Stevenson’s battle and miraculous recovery from a mysterious brain growth (that was expanding rapidly causing his weight and mood to balloon up). Through the recovery and return to stage, the band as a whole became more of a resurrected demi punk god.
Still playing and jamming out, this is one nerd punk follower that enjoyed and took something away from FILMAGE. If anything a greater appreciation of the journey and passion Descendents saw through all of the under appreciated hardships. Though about 15-minutes too long, watch it, buy it and enjoy the load of original music from one of our punk forefathers.
4.00 (out of 5) Nerd Milo Bibles.
‘FILMAGE: The Story of the DESCENDENTS/ALL’
A FilmBuff release of a Rough Elephant presentation in association with Charlie Uniform Tango and Leaders & Flares.
Directed by Matt Riggle, Deedle LaCour.
Written by Matt Riggle
Bill Stevenson, Milo Aukerman, Karl Alvarez, Stephen Egerston, Tony Lombardo, Doug Carrion, Dave Smalley, Scott Reynolds, Chad Price, Mike Watt, Brett Gurewitz, Mark Hoppus, and Dave Grohl.