By Brandon HENSLEY
Come for the T-shirt launchers and flying toilet paper, stay for the rock show. That might be a worthy tag line for the ongoing North American tour headlined by arguably the biggest band in pop-punk history.
Blink-182 will wind down its tour with A Day to Remember in Southern California in late September and early October and, if you’re a fan of this genre, there are certainly worse ways to end your summer than buying a ticket to one of the shows.
Go on any of Blink’s social media sites and see for yourself. The boys, and their fans, are having a blast. After years of strained relations with guitarist and founding member Tom DeLonge, bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker have decidedly moved on. DeLonge is off pursuing passion projects relating to his band Angels and Airwaves, and the existence of UFOs (something he’s been passionate about since the ’90s.)
Hoppus and Barker recruited Alkaline Trio guitarist/vocalist Matt Skiba in early 2015 and the results have been positive. Blink’s new album California dropped in July. It was met with mixed reactions among fans and critics alike: overproduced, auto-tuned vocals and, of course, no DeLonge; the astral, synth/delay-pedal weirdness that has become his trademark since 2006’s AVA debut We Don’t Need to Whisper is noticeably absent.
Delonge doesn’t understand that AVA and Blink need to remain separate entities and therefore stylistically independent from each other, but the other criticisms of the new album are valid. Still, California boasts plenty of hooks and strong vocals from Skiba. The record plays like a love letter to fans – its tone and sound harken back to the turn of the century when the band was at the height of its popularity.
Onstage this summer, fans miss the back and forth insults from Hoppus and DeLonge. Admittedly, one of the greatest appeals to liking Blink from the beginning was the chemistry between the two former best friends. Back then Blink shows were almost half-comedy, half-music. Skiba doesn’t have the temperament to match wits with Hoppus, but his live guitar playing is more competent than his predecessor, who jumped and spun around while messing up memorable riffs from the albums. Skiba stays mostly stationary, so when he plays all the fun parts to “Dysentery Gary” or “Dumpweed,” it comes through clean and accurate.
Barker is raised on high on a platform, almost like a king. He is one of the most revered drummers in alternative music, and the sound mixers want you to know it. His drums are booming, dominating the show from the opener “Feeling This” to the ender “Dammit.” That’s not a bad thing; since he replaced Scott Raynor in 1998, Barker’s take on what Blink’s percussion should sound like has made almost every song infinitely more fun to listen to. Forget the royalty comparison earlier this paragraph – fans treat him like a fully-tattooed drum god.
Hoppus is still there cracking jokes about whatever city he’s playing to, and he might roll around in confetti after the 24-song set list before playing a final ringing bass note to end the night.
But what about the flying T-shirts and toilet paper? That’s the work of A Day to Remember, a band that comes alive from its opening chords and instantly gives you the business. Mixing metal core, pop-punk and a whole lot of fun, ADTR’s heavier music is in contrast to the playfulness its helpers have in shooting fans with gifts as far as their arms and launch guns will allow them.
Blink-182 originated in San Diego. Appropriately, the guys will return to SoCal in just over a month. In addition to the Oct. 1 show at The Forum (extra tickets were released last week) the boys have added several others: Sept. 29 at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater, Sept. 30 at The Forum, Oct. 5 at the Santa Barbara Bowl and Oct. 7 back in Irvine. Visit blink182.com for more information.
After a decade of break-ups and inconsistency, Blink-182 looks to have found something worth holding onto. If you’re a fan, young or old(er), you’re going to want to be a part of this new era.