Waves crash onto Hermosa Beach, California. A pier juts out into the ocean and acts as a platform on which fishermen cast their hooks. Photos of a young boy presenting multiple fish and of him boating across the sea flash across the screen. He’s happy in the sun, with floppy hair, plump features, and a strong grip on his fishing rod. In one photo, he stands upright with the confidence of a mentor, in a boat that reads Billy S on the side. “So there was fishing,” a grown up version of the young man chuckles, “of all things to have brought would-be future punkers together.” This fishing dock is the spot where Bill Stevonson met Keith Morris, former singer of the band Blag Flag, and felt inspired to kindle his love for music. Little did little Billy know that he would soon be trading in his fishing rod for a couple drumsticks and an impressive music discography.
Filmage: The Story of the Descendents/All is a documentary covering the band that captured thousands of punk-rock hearts from 1977 to the present. The film takes its audience through the frequent replacement of band members, the temporary switch to the name All, how Bill operated both as the band’s brains and drums, and the struggle to keep people’s attention through the decades. Their goal has always been to never have to stop making music. The film consists of testimonies of industry professionals, including members of Blink-182 and Foo Fighters, who all pay homage to the Descendents’ foundational pop-punk melodies. The Descendents and their admirers are here to say that their music and its repercussions transcend the simple playfulness represented in, for example, their album cover Enjoy! that boasts a vibrant toilet paper roll.
Throughout the film are colorful embellishments of animation that emit a potty mouth sense of humor. You could replay the shorts and enjoy the hilarity of a different drawing each time. One scene, where an animated version of the band members are jamming in a dive bar, a bald headed Descendents fan with a wrinkled forehead and an accusing finger pointing to the stage yells Hey, where’s Milo?! You’re not Milo! Scott, who was in fact not former singer Milo, shed a single bright blue tear as he stood next to a sign that read - if it had not been obvious enough - NOT MILO. However, if this is too sad for you, you can glance at the guy snoring on a table, or the square-headed businessman clutching a martini.
By watching Filmage, you get a complete understanding of what it felt like to be in the positions of Milo, Karl, Bill, Scott, and more, as they speak with a reverence to the blood, sweat, and tears they put into each performance. But these guys are punk rockers, so what you might say is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the band members summarize by simply saying it’s gnarly or it’s totally cool!
In this writer’s view, Filmage: The Story of the Descendents/All is a must-see for those who grew up with a love of rock music and enough angst to keep them grounded for weeks. For you punkers, chances are the Descendents made you feel seen when your parents didn’t understand you. If you’re new to this genre, you are still likely to find the story of the Descendents - specifically that of Bill Stevenson’s - entertaining and heartwarming. It’s also a good reminder to support starving artists and musicians who often live off of very little and give back a whole lot.
Directors: Matt Riggle, Deedle LaCour
Director of Photography: Justin Wilson
Animations: IMOV Studios
Cast: Bill Stevenson, Karl Alvarez, Stephan Egerton, Milo Aukerman, Doug Carrion, Tony Lombardo, Mike Watt, Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski
About the Author: Abby Utley
Abby Utley writes as a method of truth-seeking. Getting to the bottom of things is her prerogative, and so is keeping her music playlists fresh. Although she puts originality at the forefront of her written pieces, she finds the most inspiration after immersing herself in other art forms. When she's not writing, you may find her at the rock climbing gym, where she may take a break thirty minutes into her workout to write a satirical article. Finding humor where one may not expect is another one of Abby's prerogatives that allows her to think out of that stingy ole box that so many adults find themselves trapped in. She thinks tapping back into a childlike imagination is something all writers should work towards.