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blink-182 Headlines Riot Fest

Chris Reiche | Monday, September 16, 2013

As the skyscrapers towered over us from the Chicago skyline, there we were: five Notre Dame students singing the iconic lyrics to the chorus of “I Miss You” by blink-182. We all made a point of pronouncing the word “head” as “yead” from the line “you’re already the voice inside my head” (a reference that will immediately be recognized by even the most casual blink fans). However, this moment of friendship and entertainment was not at the Riot Fest festival we attended at Humboldt Park just miles from the Chicago loop; it occurred during our drive to the concert before we had even entered the venue. 

The experience I had while watching blink perform “I Miss You” during their headlining performance at Riot Fest on Saturday was much different. A quick Google search of “Riot Fest, blink-182” will generate articles that all discuss a dangerous mosh pit that left several injured or hospitalized. From personal experience, I observed several people lying on the ground with a variety of injuries. Some had twisted ankles; others were suffering from panic attacks. Crowd surfers who wished to be carried to the front of the crowd and removed from the mayhem proved to be the cause of greater chaos. People would fall over trying to support them which would knock over a wave of bodies on the ground. 

Now, I do not wish this to scare anyone away from blink or label them as a band that automatically initiates this type of crowd. For juniors and seniors who attended the Third Eye Blind spring concert two years ago, imagine that atmosphere with about 10,000 more people and a culture that did not let their decisions be influenced by a fear of being ResLife’d (Comm Stand?).

Also, the security at Riot Fest was, to be nice, slightly above incompetent. They were so intent on catching people from trying to run on the stage that they left no help in the back of the crowd. Therefore, anarchy ensued and everyone in the back attempted to run forward into the wall of bodies like a tidal wave crashing against a coastal city. Halfway through the show, I decided to remove myself from the growing commotion and moved back away from the stage to safety. Although I was separated from my friends and the experience did not play out as we had expected, the kings of pop-punk still put on a great show.

Blink-182, comprised of guitarist and high-pitched vocalist Tom DeLonge, bassist and lower-pitch vocalist Mark Hoppus and legendary drummer Travis Barker, is typically described as a pop-punk band. Hardcore punk fans dispute this and may call blink bubblegum pop. For those whose musical tastes correlates to what comprises the Top 40, they may consider blink a hardcore rock band. Nevertheless, The New York Times stated that “no punk band [to come out of] the 1990s has been more influential than blink-182.” If you do not believe that, just ask Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy, the headliners from the Friday set of Riot Fest, how influential blink is to them. 

Blink is also widely known for their wide-ranging lyrics. From those that are largely vulgar and immature to those that touch on more serious topics, it is hard to argue that any other band writes lyrics that are more relatable to the millions of teenagers stuck in suburbia. Outside of their music, the humorous and unrefined stage banter that exists between the two vocalists, Mark and Tom, has preserved blink as one of the better live bands that plays today. This reputation did not falter on Saturday.

After opening with an electric rendition of the 2003 hit “Feeling This” and “Up All Night” from 2011, DeLonge and Hoppus shared their first on-stage conversation. This ended up becoming one of their more PG-13 statements. Hoppus said, “our Solo cups do not have water in them.” DeLonge added: “I want all of you to know that I choose to drink because it makes me feel good.” The band immediately then broke into the 2001 single, “The Rock Show.”

There were many highlights to the show that made up for the terror that was the mosh pit. Musically, songs like “I Miss You,” “Always” and “Josie” were their best. Barker never ceases to amaze a crowd with his ridiculous drumming; “Always” showcased his talent more than any other song.  Even some of blink’s deeper album cuts, like the song “Violence,” and their newer songs, like “After Midnight,” kept the fans interested and singing along. However, the Riot Fest crowd reacted the most recklessly to blink’s more iconic fast, punk songs. For instance, even all the females in the audience were shouting the lyrics, “I need a girl that I can train,” at the end of the chorus of “Dumpweed,” from the multi-platinum album “Enema of the State.” 

The only regrettable aspect of blink’s set were the obvious time constraints of playing at a festival. Being forced to strictly maintain a 75-minute performance, much of the set appeared rushed. The encore was void of Barker’s typical drum solo and much of Hoppus’ and DeLonge’s stage banter was lost. Still, there were some highlights of their conversations that had the crowd laughing out loud.

In reference to the rambunctious atmosphere, Hoppus asked the crowd to take two steps back. After that failed miserably, he said, “if someone’s on the ground, please don’t step on them. I shouldn’t have to tell you that.” In true blink fashion, they announced the encore before finishing their set. DeLonge proclaimed that, “we’re going to pretend that this is our last song, but we’ll be back for more.” After closing with the band’s pinnacle of artistic achievement, the short but elegant “Family Reunion” (for those of you who are unaware, I recommend searching for this song), Hoppus uttered the best joke of the night: “Are you guys ready for the grand finale!?”

At this point, blink exited the stage never to return. Eager fans stood there for 20 minutes until security forced them to leave. The audience patiently waited for the second encore that was never going to happen. On the other side of the curtain, blink was probably giggling to themselves about the prank they just pulled off. As the band has always said, they are just trying to make themselves laugh and if the audience happens to laugh with them, then that works too. 

The members of blink-182 are elder statesmen of the headlining business. They are used to entertaining tens of thousands of people at festivals, arenas and stadiums. The comfort that comes with this was in full bloom on Saturday. However, I would most definitely recommend seeing them at their own show at a venue that has actual seats you have paid for. 

Even though the conditions were less than ideal, the show they performed was still amazing. Each song was a hit. Hoppus’ and DeLonge’s on-stage exchanges, while infrequent, were hilarious. Barker lived up to his high reputation. Overall, blink did not disappoint, and they showed why they have become one of the most, if not the most, iconic rock band of our young generation.


Contact Chris Reiche at creiche@nd.edu