Pencil skirts may be the indicator of a burgeoning female adulthood, but wearing one to Blink-182 last night didn’t show my age. Surrounded by a crowd who was more or less dressed down in black T-shirts and sensible shoes, carrying expensive cameraphones and buying several pricier Magic Hats to my single Budweiser, I didn’t feel nearly as over-the-hill as the bill at Music Hall of Williamsburg might have initially suggested. DIIV, a Brooklyn staple and a likely expresser of malcontent at the invitation to play, were followed by a 311-style rap-rock group called NeW bEAt FUNd (a name as regrettable as its casing), but hardly anyone—in business casual or not—was there to see either of the show’s openers. The blue-topped rap-punk lead singer of NBF shouted out that their free EP was available on the “merch table,” while they closed out their set with a song referencing Twitter in its first verse, and an audience of legally imbibing adults with day jobs and savings accounts began to chant “Blink! Blink! Blink!”, followed by a more confusing (albeit more resonant) “USA! USA! USA!” After a timed delay, San Diego poppunk trio Blink-182 practically somersaulted on stage, and though in 2013 they are all long past their prime pencil skirt years, none of them seemed a day over twenty-five.
The night kicked off with a long-forgotten Blink-182 sleeper, a song that I couldn’t care less about when it premiered, and found balloon-poppingly dull at the outset of the show. “Feeling This”, an easy-to-mock and hollow attempt on Blink’s part in 2003 to reinvent through the introduction of dual-coil pickups and a vague moral agenda, didn’t have the necessary fluffy energy to inspire the eager crowd into what was surely to be the night of their lives, or at the very least, the night of their former selves’ lives, and launching into the even later-dated “Up All Night” felt only further away from performative awareness. It was only when bassist and overall stage impresario Mark Hoppus remarked that he'd just seen “our friend” Kim Schifino of Matt & Kim crowdsurfing and Tom Delonge, lissome lead guitar player, added to “not touch her butt, please” that the show began to take on the quality that has come to define Blink-182’s live performances. This was all about having some fun for the kids. But looking around me, and even into the crushed bodies on MHoW’s floor, I didn’t see Blink-182’s target audience. I saw their working older siblings, worn out on a school night, and I began to fret that the show would fizzle and burn. Perhaps thankless concern is a symptom of old age.
Two cornerstone principles marked last night’s show, however, and both of them proved my geriatric anxiety to be ultimately and disproportionately wrong. The first, and the one I remembered palm-slap-style hours after the USA chant, is that the show was purposefully staged in a small venue to bring in funds for two charities. Held on September 11th, the show's entire proceeds were being donated to the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center in New York and to City of Hope in Los Angeles. The timing of the intimate show and its charitable recipients didn’t ring of anything but earnest goodwill on the part of a band with the fanbase to pull it off. The latter principle, and the one that followed from the third song in the set until the show’s pre-midnight close, is that Blink-182, at their core, are remarkably fun and savvy showmen. It’s no surprise that The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show, a live album released in 2000 with a full 29 bonus tracks of the trio bantering in between songs, is a fan favorite. Their lively stage antics have always been a part of their punk-kid-cum-frat-boy appeal: they are like the one friend we all have who can pound beer after beer while maintaining an effusive and friendly buzz. Their immature brand of tomfoolery never tips too far over the sloppy edge.
The show grew unequivocally more energetic when some of the wider-known hits were ignited: “Rock Show” and its show-stopping followup “What’s My Age Again?” were among the biggest crowd-pleasers, and when the band began to transition once more into their later singles, the energy of the audience was at such a high that snoozers like the unfamiliar and clairvoyantly titled “Disaster” flew by with nervous anticipation for the next singalong. During “Dumpweed”, a song whose lyrical content I’d spent years not fully digesting until last night, a woman to my left faced herself away fom the stage to snap a selfie with Tom Delonge at her rear. It was a bizarre pastoral still-life that worked in contrast to a band that has always largely eschewed contemplation in favor of acceleration. Behind her, “I need a girl that I can train” was being spat out by a drenched, lithe Delonge, whose signature eye squint and Macbeth guitar strap demarcated a person who hadn’t changed much since Dude Ranch, and the scene in the camera frame sped by like the 13 years it’d had been since I’d last seen Blink-182 perform. I suddenly felt a warmth for the number of camera-happy fans taking in the show through their screens—I wish I had visual accompaniments to the fading memories of a live show that had ignited an adolescent obsession with music.
The fondness one feels for a band that you’ve grown up loving can either be deflated or enhanced when watching them perform in later life. Though more adult than a young me in cherry red Chuck Taylors and a double-studded belt, I could hardly smack the youthful grin from my face when Tom Delonge began the first few notes of the debilitating “All The Small Things”, and I barely noticed when I was singing along to “Carousel”. Beyond the years of misguided later albums and the occasional matrimonial Twitter spat, Blink-182 really hasn’t changed much since I saw them years ago. In their playful stage banter—the kind that makes the adult me blush, and also has a tendency to feel a little stale—they took the same “this is all in good fun” attitude that they espoused on large stadium tours in the 90s and 00s, and even in ennui-ridden Brooklyn, it continued to work to their advantage. When Delonge joked that their plastic cups were filled with vodka, not water, the crowd reacted with pleasant and encouraging cheers that just barely broke into whoops and hollers. The mood remained light, while the energy stayed high, and at the show’s 11:30pm close, the crowd politely shuffled toward the venue’s exit, but not before one last hoorah: two toddler-age children in leather jackets and mohawks materialized onstage to pass out drumsticks to a group of perplexed—but pleased—fans.