Fifteen minutes after their scheduled Wasted Space start time, members of Descendents cover band the Vegascendents are anxious to start playing. Still, nobody’s acting nervous, even though it’s just the band’s second show ever.
Each Vegascendent plays original music in other local bands (Guilty by Association, American Buckshot, Aluminum Falcon) and is already quite comfortable performing. According to frontman Mike Janoff (aka this version’s Fat Milo), everyone considers the cover band a fun side project. “We only plan on playing three or four times a year,” he explains. “It’s all covers—we don’t want to wear it out.”
Having fun is the reason Janoff started the Vegascendents in the first place—plus he already had the name in his head. “You see a lot of Sex Pistols cover bands,” he says. “Nobody ever covers the Descendents.”
The 30-year on-and-off history of the So-Cal punk outfit, however, yields plenty of material to pull from. Sublime covered “Hope,” Janoff points out to the Wasted Space audience. “The Descendents played it way before those Sublime fucks covered it,” he says. “It’s their song.”
The Vegascendents’ setlist spans from “I’m Not a Loser” off classic 1982 album Milo Goes to College to 2004’s “’Merican” and captures the high-energy spirit of the originals well, even if Janoff’s vocals are missing a bit of the geeky edge that accents those of skinnier Fat Milo Aukerman.
The crowd receives the band warmly, but not everyone’s impressed. A half-dozen women sporting mini-dresses, stripper heels and spray tans survive only 30 seconds of “I’m Not a Loser” before hightailing it out of Wasted Space (probably to Body English). Afterward, the Vegascendents admit Wasted Space was a bit awkward for them. Drummer Gilbert Estrada says they almost turned down the show, telling the promoter they’re not “the Wasted Space type.” (They changed tunes once they saw The Mapes had been booked for the same gig.)
If the Vegascendents and Wasted Space seem a strange marriage, just wait for the band’s next gig. “We’re playing at Texas Station [July 18 at Armadillo Lounge],” bassist Jeremy Schoonover says. “It’ll be the first and maybe only punk show ever played there.”