Where do I even begin? Not even a month ago, blink-182 released their latest album California with the band’s latest member addition, Matt Skiba. In celebration of the album, the band – Skiba, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker – began their tour in San Diego on July 21 at the Viejas Arena. They played two nights in San Diego followed by two nights in Las Vegas at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel. I was beyond fortunate enough to witness those first two San Diego shows as well as the first Las Vegas show. DJ Spider, The All-American Rejects and A Day to Remember joined them on this adventure.
Side note: This blog is going to be a little less formal (are my other blogs considered formal?). This might also end up being long because I’m half rambling to make sure I don’t forget anything and I’m also covering three nights.
San Diego / July 21
It’s Thursday morning and my dad and I are trekking our way across the desert land that separates California and Arizona. We have VIP tickets for the first show of the tour which includes merch and access to soundcheck. The merch included a California-styled pencil pouch, a VIP lanyard, a keychain, a sticker and a copy of the latest album.
Unfortunately, Travis was about two hours late to soundcheck because of the crazy California traffic. Instead of having us suffer in the heat (it was actually a lot hotter than any of us expected), the 300ish VIP-ers were brought inside the arena and we stood along the upper section. For two hours, everyone watched Mark and Matt casually practice songs like “Kings of the Weekend” and “Los Angeles.” It was like a soundcheck to the soundcheck. Note: They played a couple of chords of “Carousel” and Matt referred to the song as “that ‘ol chestnut.” After the warmup, Mark came up to the upper section and said hi to everyone waiting. I actually got a selfie with the man himself. It happened to fast, it took awhile for me to comprehend what had just happened.
Fast forward two hours and Travis showed up. Everyone is brought down to the floor and I get a spot against the barricade directly across from Matt. They played four songs – “Kings of the Weekend,” “Cynical,” “Los Angeles” and “No Future.” I was a part of the small crowd to hear those songs live for the very first time – and they killed it. There was something about the lack of lights and pyro that made the performance even better because it was more raw. KOTW was a song that I often overlooked on the album but after hearing it live, I can’t help but to turn up the volume every time it comes on.
Before soundcheck began, I shouted Matt’s name and asked for a guitar pick. He said yeah, but shortly before I asked him, Mark stole all his picks and threw them into the audience. After those four songs pass and Matt has a few picks lined up on his mic stand, I called his name again and asked the same thing. He remembered the first time I asked, hopped off the stage and literally placed the pick he was using to play “No Future” into my hand. I told him that I liked his newly bleached blonde hair and he sounded surprised as he thanked me and mock-fluffed his hair. Easily one of my favorite moments on this three day trip.
Okay, now on to the actual show. DJ Spider spun some tunes focusing on the 90s era and some current hits. It was everything from 5 Seconds of Summer to hip hop. 7:20 sharp The All-American Rejects took the stage and gave everyone deja vu while playing old hits like “Dirty Little Secret” and “Swing, Swing.” Their performance that first night was lacking professionalism. It’s not like they need to act professional, but the frontman appeared a bit tipsy on stage and the set felt rushed. Granted, this was their comeback show. The nerves they must have felt are completely understandable. They played a new song – one Tyson Ritter described as a song they wrote because they were asked to be on tour – called “DGAF.” When I first heard it, it sounded much like 3OH!3 and Metro Station’s “comeback songs.” It’s overproduced, but it’s so catchy that you’ll find yourself singing along the second time the chorus comes around.
The only time I really ever listened to A Day to Remember was when I saw them open for blink last year at The Roxy. I know that they’re the kind of band to scream lyrics and encourage mosh pits. However, that did not prepare me for the crazy circle pit that opened in the crowd. My jaw dropped because I instantly thought That’s where I’m going to be 24 hours from now. If you don’t know the songs, then ADTR can be a hard band to sit through. Let me tell you though, learning the songs is worth it. By the third night, I was looking forward to seeing them. Although, I still stand by my idea that Good Charlotte should have opened for blink because they are both on the high of releasing a new album after so many years.
Blink opened the night with a nod to previous tours as a flaming sign spelling F*CK appeared behind them. Mark and Matt sang the first few lines of “Feeling This” and the crowd erupted in screams. They played the classics that everyone adores like “What’s My Age Again?” and “The Rock Show.” Matt looked and sounded at ease on stage with blink, like he’s always been up there. Mark’s mic was acting weird so his voice would either sound high or I couldn’t hear him at all.
There wasn’t too much dialogue, and it was kind of obvious that it was the first show of the tour. It didn’t make it bad, it felt like a private soundcheck to the entire tour. I got to watch what they thought worked and what didn’t. To date, this was the only show they played “Always” at which they have replaced with “Reckless Abandon” (THANK YOU). The new songs sounded flawless and they were beyond what I could have even imagined live. The new songs they played were the songs in soundcheck plus “Bored to Death,” “Built this Pool” and “Brohemian Rhapsody.” It had that newness about it that made it even more exciting to both watch and sing along to.
Quick snippet about the stage production: Wow. The work that went into all of that artwork and images that are shown on the giant screens behind and alongside Travis must have been exhausting, but it was worth it. Every song had different artwork that went with it, unless it just showed live video of the guys playing. The show also features some pyro, which is always jolting to hear the pop of an explosion followed by the brightness of the fire. So, a round of applause to the behind-the-scenes guys and gals who make this concert look as awesome as it sounds. A side note to this side note, Mark and Matt are the kind of dudes to fist bump all the stagehands before the show starts.
The only part of the show that had me cringe a little bit was when I heard Matt sing the first few words to “Violence.” There was nothing wrong with what Matt was doing, but to me that song is so Tom (DeLonge, previous guitarist and vocalist before Matt) that no one else can nail it the way he does. I also wished that they played more songs from California, but I feel like they will be adding more to the set as the tour goes on so I’ll just have to be patient.
San Diego / July 22
After witnessing the pit the night before, I told myself all day that I was going to hang back by the soundboard where it was safer. Of course, that didn’t happen. The second we (my dad, sister and I) got inside and on the floor, there was no way we couldn’t try to get as close as we could – which was really close. There weren’t too many people in the arena when doors opened and we were able to get a spot on stage right (Matt’s side) in the second “row” of the floor. So close that I was able to grab on to the barricade when I needed to.
DJ Spider played a similar set as the first night so I have nothing really to add about his performance. Alabama (Travis’s daughter) and a couple of her friends could be seen dancing on the side of the stage, completely aware that everyone was staring at them. Landon Barker (Travis’s son) stayed low and chose to quietly rap along to some of the songs.
AAR put on a much better show at Night 2 compared to Night 1. Ritter seemed more aware of everything that was happening and he was more involved with the crowd. There’s always something about being that close to the stage that makes any show better.
Surprisingly, the crowd during ADTR was not as bad as it looked. It’s definitely easier going with the flow than trying to resist it, but we were close enough to the barricade that the most pit didn’t really affect us. By that second night, it was my third time seeing this band live and it wasn’t hard to sing along. “The Downfall Of Us All” – their intro song – is probably my favorite because of the catchy beat that it starts with. Like the first night, different members of the crew came out on stage to TP the crowd during “It’s Complicated.” Kevin McKinnon (lead singer) likes to get personal with the crowd and he’ll often step off the stage onto the amps to touch hands. At the end of their set, both my sister and I got Kevin Skaff’s guitar picks.
San Diego #2 was my favorite concert experience out of all three nights. We were closer to the stage than I thought we would ever be and the guys sounded amazing. The flaming F*CK sign appeared once again and the first lines to “Feeling This” were sung. What I love about being stage right is that Matt is pretty much in the same spot throughout the set, but Mark is always jumping around from one side of the stage to the other. Everyone loves to crowd center stage when they get there, but you’ll get just as good of a view of all three of them if you head to stage right.
The sound was just perfect from down on the floor. The guys sound just like they do on the new album, if not better. Little ‘Bama and one of her friends sat on the side of the stage, occasionally air drumming. I was making faces at Bama because I didn’t think she could see me, but she did and made the faces back at me. Later, Bama grabbed some of her dad’s drumsticks and I was able to grab one at the end of their set.
One of my favorite songs on this tour, aside from the new songs, is “Man Overboard.” It’s a song that probably most blink fans know, but it’s one that I feel is often overlooked. The meaning is a bit foreshadowing as well, since it was originally written as a goodbye to the original drummer but now it could apply to Tom.
“Reckless Abandon” is also a favorite of mine, especially with Matt. This is one of the songs that stands out because Matt makes it his own. There’s something about how he emphasizes the last syllable of most of the words in the verses that makes me love the song even more. It’s something unexpected, but definitely welcomed.
Las Vegas / July 23
Las Vegas is strange. I could almost feel the bad decisions being made all around me, but I know that seeing blink for the third time in a row was anything but a bad decision. My voice had been cracking all day, my legs were sore and the sunburn on my shoulders were as red as can be, but I couldn’t have been more ready for what was to come. My dad and I waited about an hour and a half in line, and ended up standing right behind the sound/light booth. From my experience, that’s one of the best spots in any venue. You get a whole view of the stage, no one can stand in front of you and you’re still close enough to feel all the energy coming from the stage.
Side note: While we were waiting in line, none other than Matt Skiba himself walks past the entire line. I saw his blonde head bob past me and I couldn’t help but shout his name. He gave me a “Hey, there!” and continued walking toward the venue. Literally a third of blink walked by the entire line and no one noticed. How??
DJ Spider switched up his playlist from the previous nights. Adding more current hits like 5 Seconds of Summer and Fall Out Boy.
The third night of the tour was definitely AAR’s best night. Ritter was cracking jokes and interacting with the audience (shoutout to mohawk guy in the front row!). The performance sounded more effortless and everyone looked like they were having a good time. Ritter took the time to talk every now and then which made it a longer set, but it also felt less forced.
Behind the soundboard is the perfect spot to watch ADTR if you want to be close but not close enough to get caught in a pit. By that night, both my dad and I were singing along to almost every song. ADTR’s set is probably the most predictable out of the three. There’s not a whole lot of dialogue, McKinnon always yells “I want to feel the earth shake!!!” and TP is always thrown out during “It’s Complicated.” Predictable doesn’t mean bad. I enjoyed that third night the most because I was able to sing along to more songs.
I was finally able to fully appreciate the stage production that third night. “The Rock Show” had images of ticket stubs and waiting to get in a venue. “First Date” had an image of radio. “Cynical” had the album cover on the background. It’s kind of hard to explain how cool this actually was in words rather than images.
About a third of the way into the show, Travis broke a snare and the guys had to find a way to improvise. Mark being Mark, he began to sing “That Thing You Do” while Matt clapped along. You can watch it here.
“Dysentery Gary” is another song that the guys totally nail. It’s a heavy Matt-vocal song, and he crushes it. When was the last time you heard of a circle pit opening during a blink concert? It’s been awhile, but it’s back. There’s so much energy spewing off stage that it’s impossible not to jump around and go crazy.
Landon once again hopped on stage after his dad hopped off. Once Matt and Mark saw what was happening, they each grabbed their instruments and jammed for a minute with him. It was amazing to hear the crowd go nuts hearing this 13-year-old kill it on the drums. You can watch it here.
That third night probably went by the quickest. I was exhausted, but the second those guys got on stage every nerve in my body was lit up. Just like the two nights before, I didn’t leave disappointed. Mark and Matt are constantly smiling on stage. They jump over each other’s sides and occasionally mess with each other. It’s hard not to have a good time when you see how much fun they’re having.
And that was my weekend of blink! I tried to keep it short and sweet, but not miss any of the big details. I get to see blink two more times this tour – Phoenix and LA. All Time Low will be taking AAR’s place for the second half of tour. I uploaded quite a few concert videos on YouTube, and you can watch them here. Sorry if this post was kind of all over the place, I did have to cover three days. If you are going to a blink show (and happen to stumble across my little blog) then let me know what you think of it.
Thanks for reading (especially if you read all of it),