Words & Photos by Greg Jacobs
Musink Day 2 – March 17, 2018 – Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, CA
Day 2 was noticeably more crowded than Day 1. Both days I arrived in the parking lot at the same time, early. Before 4:00. I like to arrive early when I’m covering a show, so I can figure out what’s going on. I like to make sure my pass(es) are sorted out, I like to know where to enter and exit the photo pit. I like to see the layout of the stage, the venue and at Musink, where the tattoo artists are located and, most importantly, where to get a beer and a, uh, restroom break.
Anyway, arriving in the parking lot on Day 2 revealed twice as many cars as Day 1 … this can be attributed to a few things; first, Day 1 was on a Friday and started before the 9 to 5 working stiffs, myself included, got off work (I took the day off so I could make it). The next reason for the earlier and larger crowd is the fact that 2 pretty BIG, commercially successful bands are playing on the same bill. Day 1 had the Descendents and Fear (2 of my favorites) but not really KROQ darlings (KROQ is LA’s commercial alternative radio station). Day 2 had Blink-182 and Good Charlotte – 2 hugely successful, commercial alternative rock radio bands. Do people still listen to the radio? I don’t. I listen to Howard Stern on satellite radio, but I find my music elsewhere…
Lil Aaron opened the show on Day 2. I’m not sure what to say about Lil Aaron and until he mentioned that Travis Barker had played drums on one of his tracks, I wondered what he was doing on this bill. In researching him I saw people referring to him as one of the best new song writers around and attributed his popularity to Kylie Jenner playing his song on her SnapChat. But I don’t follow Kylie Jenner and I don’t use SnapChat. Anyway, Lil Aaron was on stage with a microphone, auto-tuner and some other foot pedals that I assume were controlling some of the pre-recorded vocals or bass samples. He was joined by a guitar player, who, honestly, I couldn’t hear very well (seemed like the mixing was a bit off). Musically, Lil Aaron rapped through a heavy auto-tune, with a strong and loud-ass bass beat.
Second up today were The Interrupters. I’ve seen them several times over the last year and they are great, sure, they’re great … But I feel like I see the same show every time. I’m sure they don’t play the same set every time, but it feels like it. They are a good, tight, well-rehearsed, high energy, big smiling, ska-punk rock band, but I need some variation, a tempo change, something different.
OK, confession time. When “punk rock” started gaining popularity, when commercial radio started playing it and when Misfits shirts started becoming available at Hot-Topic, I kinda checked out. I’ve never listened to Good Charlotte or Blink-182. Anyway, my point is I am not familiar with their catalogs. I mean, I’m sure I’ve tangentially heard some of their stuff simply by being alive and being exposed to music. Like hearing Nirvana in the 1990’s whether you were playing it or not, you heard it.
Here is the extent of what I know about these 2 bands: Good Charlotte has a pair of brothers in the band and one of them dated Cameron Diaz (my mom subscribes to People Magazine, don’t judge). The sole Blink-182 song I had heard had the lyric was “all the small things.” But I also know that singer isn’t in the band anymore and the dude from Alkaline Trio is the singer now. Alkaline Trio being another band that I am not super familiar with. Anyway, enough of my background…
The sun was setting, the crowd was buzzing with excitement and jostling to get closer to the front as Good Charlotte took the stage. For those who don’t know, like me, GC is a 5-piece band, vocals, 2 guitars, bass and drums. I felt like the only person in the venue not singing along with every word. The band tore through an hour long set and still left the crowd wanting more. Musically, I would call them more of a pop band than a punk band, but who needs labels? They may not be my cup of tea, but I was definitely in the minority tonight.
The first thing I noticed as the Blink-182 crew were setting up the stage was how stripped down it was. Sure, Travis’ drum riser was pretty tall, but he doesn’t have a giant kit. Mark’s bass rig appeared to simply be a tall bass cabinet, the actual amp head wasn’t even visible and the same with Matt Skiba’s guitar rig. He had a simple 4 x 12 cabinet with no visible amp head. The cabinets almost looked lonely up there on that giant stage all by themselves. Sure, there were a few smoke canons on the drum riser and a bunch of, what we assumed to be confetti canons, in the photo pit (they turned out to be bigger smoke canons) but pretty stripped down over all. Mark Hoppus mentioned on stage that Skiba recently “had his throat cut open” although Google searches are not revealing the reason for the surgery, but they are confirming it.
Skiba seemed to be singing a little tentatively or quietly to me, but I’m not sure if this is his norm or if it was due to his surgery. Overall, Blink-182 is a fun band to watch. I put a lot of stock into the idea of whether a band is having fun on stage or if they are just playing like robots. I can tell you from my vantage point, Mark Hoppus is having fun and Travis Barker is beating the crap out of his drum kit. I even saw the recently-surgically-repaired Skiba crack a smile … these guys are having fun and the crowd ate it up.