In September 1996, I was a college dropout working at Music Den in Rockvale Outlets. My first attempt at higher education was a disaster. I was overweight. I let my hair grow long into some weird metalhead style. I was lost.
My friend and co-worker, Tina, found a promotional copy of Everything Sucks, the newly released Descendents album, in the store’s back room. I never heard them before and she told me I had to listen to it. I was instantly hooked. In an effort to save what little money I had, I purchased Somery to bring me up to speed on the early Descendents’ releases. “Silly Girl”, “Clean Sheets”, “Good Good Things” – oh, I was loving it! I saw them play Chameleon Club the following March and again that year at Warped Tour in Philadelphia. It was a great time for punk music at a time in my life when I had little direction.
Eventually I got my shit together, got a degree and a career, married a great girl, and we now have two sons. After vetoing a hundred names for our youngest boy, my wife suggested Milo unaware of the punk rock icon. I immediately agreed to it and explained its significance.
Lancaster, where you will always find a thriving and diverse music scene, recently hosted a screening of Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL. In addition to three screenings of the documentary, director Matt Riggle and Descendents frontman Milo Aukerman were present for a Q&A with the audience. Milo also performed two classic Descendents songs backed by local punk band The Akrons. Regrettably, I could not be at this event but what a great moment for the Lancaster music scene and especially for The Akrons. I thought it would be good to talk with the band members and a few others to get their thoughts about the legendary band and the film screening.
Thanks to Steve Stuff (guitar, vocals), Chris Moss (guitar, vocals), Matt Campell (bass, vocals), Nate Austin (drums), Mike Hoober (event organizer), Jason Berlet (poster artist), and Milo Aukerman (vocals) for sharing their memories.
In their own words, this is the story of The Akrons meet Milo!
STEVE: I was introduced to Descendents from a friend of mine when I was like 14. I had a copied cassette tape of ALL. I distinctly remember thinking Clean Sheets was the coolest song I ever heard at the time.
MATT: It was sometime between 8th and 9th grade. It was in an older friend’s car with a shitty tape deck. I’m not sure what song or what record, but it hit me hard.
NATE: My brother had some Descendents stuff and I heard it in junior high.
JASON: In high school my friend Paul Cammaro introduced me to the Descendents. The cassette was Enjoy!
MIKE: Probably the first time I learned there was a band called the Descendents was in the mid-80s at the old Web of Sound on Columbia Ave. Their first 7”s were on the back wall, which meant they were very cool, rare and expensive. However, the first time I learned their songs, word for word, would have been around freshman year in college when my friend Paul was consoling me using “Clean Sheets”, “Pep Talk”, and “Coolidge”.
CHRIS: To be honest, I was a late bloomer with the Descendents. I didn’t get into them until about 3 or 4 years ago when I read about them in the book American Hardcore by Steven Blush. I went out and bought Milo Goes to College shortly afterwards and have been listening to them ever since.
STEVE: Descendents always played a big part for Matt and I writing songs when we were in high school.
MATT: It meant everything to me as a blossoming punk. I identified with all the dorks and geekoids, and all the disenfranchised kids.
MIKE: They were on the periphery. I was entirely focused on the super political and British punk at the beginning. Stiff Little Fingers, the Clash, Generation X, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedy’s, The Buzzcocks. There’s a clip in FILMAGE where Fat Mike (from NOFX) exclaims something like “you aren’t going to find a person in the world who would say they like ALL more than the Descendents.” Well, here I am. ALL spoke my heart in the late 80s and early 90s via Dave Smalley and Scott Reynolds.
JASON: They were the band that let me realize that singing about feelings was more important than singing about things you were not invested in. I saw them for the first time two years ago in Philly at Riot Fest.
STEVE: I got to see them in 95/96?? for the first time on their Everything Sucks tour, a pinnacle show for me, to finally get to see them live. I’ve only seen them live three times now; it’s rare to actually get to!
MATT: First time live was at Chameleon Club in ’95 or ’96.
NATE: 2011 Riot Fest in Philly with Matt and Steve.
MATT: The Akrons got involved because I was one of the dudes who helped organize the event, along with Michael Hoober, who fucking triumphs over all men.
MIKE: In December, Matt Campbell came to me and said, “Hoobs, we gotta bring this to Lancaster” and I agreed, so we did.
STEVE: I did the graphic work for the posters. We really wanted to keep it the simple Descendents style but cater it to the “idea” of Lancaster County.
MILO: I thought the artist really nailed it, down to the slightly askew mouth (thus depicting the grimness of Amish life…)
MATT: Mike and I discussed the possibility of Scott Reynolds or Dave Smalley attending, but they wanted paid. When we invited Milo, he accepted, and Ok’d the Q&A. On a whim, we asked him to perform with The Akrons, and he emailed me back and said “Sure, what songs?”
MILO: I usually say yes to that sort of thing, because it’s fun to hear another band’s interpretation of the Descendents, and it keeps me on my toes…you have to really pay attention to what they’re doing! Sometimes it feels like the first time I’ve ever sang the song, which is a real trip.
CHRIS: I know how much influence the Descendents have had on the Akrons music and how great of an opportunity it would be for everyone involved. It’s not every day that you get handed an opportunity to perform with a major icon of punk rock.
STEVE: I think my exact words were “Holy Shit!”
MATT: Milo sang “Hope” and “Silly Girl” with us. We also performed ALL’s “Breakin’ Up” without Milo. We already knew how to play “Hope”, and I love the lyrics. It has the word “cock” in it, too.
NATE: We’ve been messing with “Hope” for a while and Matt and Steve sometimes act like “Silly Girls”.
MILO: Silly Girl seemed a lot faster than we do it, but hey, faster is better in my book.
CHRIS: “Hope” is a personal favorite of mine due to it being on Milo Goes to College, my gateway album to the Descendents! That album and those songs really drew me into the band.
MILO: For me, it’s very humbling that someone would make the effort to learn my songs well enough to play them. I’m always amazed that our music has been able to affect people to that degree. So being able to share in that mutual love of the music is really special, and in some sense it’s even more profound than when the Descendents perform the same song. Kind of an homage to the song itself.
CHRIS: Playing with Milo was pretty intense but fun. It was still kind of light hearted. I just kept wanting to pinch myself and say “this is really happening, holy shit!” While we were playing “Silly Girl”, I think I hit a sour note or two ‘cause I was a little nervous and Milo looked over at me and I was like “Oh god, he noticed. Sorry, Milo!” and I wanted to gesture the ol’ Japanese hara-kiri suicide maneuver. I’m sure that I’m over thinking that one…. LOL.
STEVE: It was such a cool experience and I feel fortunate to have shared the stage with a punk icon such as Milo. And once I met him, I found out right away he’s just an overall really cool guy and very approachable.
MATT: Surreal, just knee-knocking fuckin’ surreal. He’s iconic. My damn cat is named Milo. He’s so accessible though. Real cool dude.
MIKE: It was nice to meet someone else who tries to live more than one life. Meaning, Milo and I have both artistic/creative dreams and histories alongside of academic/professional careers. It’s really tough to live more than one life due to the amount of available time and energy within one human. While infinitely more successful than mine, he is a role model for me in this way.
JASON: The movie was PERFECT and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good movie. I could relate to the film on so many levels, it kind of felt like I was watching an over the top version of a Brom Bones documentary but on a much grander scale.
MATT: I loved the film. So well done. Made by true fans. It is real. Having other icons like Fat Mike, Watt, Shary, Grohl, all those guys speak so highly and respectfully on their behalf—just so fuckin’ killer. I’m so stoked and inspired by Bill’s story. I was very emotional the first time I saw the film in a pre-screening. I didn’t want to watch the part about Bill’s dad then Bill getting sick again…
MIKE: It was a totally awesome movie from beginning to end. As you might have guessed, it is more about Bill Stevenson’s vision and quest for ALL.
CHRIS: The directors really conveyed the realness of the band, how genuine and unique each member is and how they have struggled to attain ALL that they have set out to accomplish. I think that the film is very accessible, even to people who have no knowledge of Descendents/ALL.
STEVE: The film was awesome. I think fans of both ALL and Descendents will really love it!
NATE: Very well put together documentary. I actually learned a lot. Felt a little like Punk Rock School!
CHRIS: It’s got it all, lots of humor, struggle, and success … and the best part is those guys are still killing it!
MIKE: Overall, the best feedback was that the event was not a fiasco, meaning, we kept it very orderly and manageable (not oversold and crazy) where everyone felt a very personal connection to the event and could connect with Milo.
MILO: The location (inside office buildings) was pretty weird; not what you expect for a theater. But the inside part was very cool; I especially liked the couches. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, and asked good questions afterwards…especially the 5 year old kid! Although I had already seen the film, this time I was able to bring my kids, so that made it pretty special. I was surprised so many people showed up, and everyone was very friendly. Overall, a very fun time!
MIKE: Lancaster has a very special and broad punk scene. Also, it confirmed my ago-old mantra that if you ask questions, it could happen. We didn’t start off thinking Milo would come; we just wanted to see the movie. As we promoted it, he found out and asked to come.
MILO: It seems like Lancaster is a happening place for music in general…I went to a classical concert with my daughter earlier that day on Saturday, plus the blues festival was going on at the same time. I’ve been to the Chameleon club several times, so I know punk can happen on a regular basis in Lancaster. As long as there are clubs willing to book the smaller bands, punk will be around. And it seems like a younger population there, so I predict a rosy future for punk in Lancaster!
NATE: It’s cool I can say I had one small part in all this. Thanks Bill Stevenson for your awesome drumage….hope I did you proud.
MATT: I’m taking my memories. The pure love. The undying support of our friends, fans, the whole punk/skate scene here. I’m going through a divorce right now, and this film and the surrounding experience motivated me to keep positive and work hard and love and respect your friends and family. We are forever indebted to this band of brothers. Our quest for ALL continues, but we just got way, way closer to achieving ALL!
Thanks again to the guys in The Akrons! You can order their latest album, Est. 17501, through Universal Warning Records, download the album on iTunes, or pick up a copy at Angry Young and Poor or at one of their shows. They are currently writing an EP, as a four-piece, and will record Summer 2014 for their follow-up release on Universal Warning Records. Stay up-to-date by following them on Facebook.
Thanks to Megan Helsel for the pictures of Milo with The Akrons. Also, thanks to Jason Berlet for the artwork and Mike Hoober for making this all happen. Check out Rumschpringe’s website for all upcoming events.
A special thank you to Milo Aukerman for visiting Lancaster, playing with The Akrons, and sharing your thoughts with us here. We look forward to hearing more from you and the Descendents! Stay up-to-date with the band’s goings-on here and the documentary here.
Thank you for reading and listening! More on the way. Support your local music scene.
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