The wait began at 3 p.m. Stationed on the hood of my clunky 1990 Dodge Omni with burrito in hand and my friend Tom next to me, I spent my afternoon on May 14, 2004, burning time before the barrier blocking the entrance to Columbus’ Germain Amphitheater was removed. Weeks away from my high school graduation, that Friday would mark my first real concert: Blink-182.
I had no plans of attending until Tom, someone I scarcely knew, invited me to split the cost of sixth-row tickets after other plans fell through. After hearing others’ stories of Blink shows being a real social event, I grew excited, daydreaming potential set lists. Blink-182 was a perfect first time.
Rushing from school to restaurant to venue, Tom and I arrived slavishly early. For more than an hour, ours was the only car there. We found ways to entertain ourselves: He requested a Blink song from a radio station to commemorate the day and “Dammit,” that definitive cut of Pop Punk heartbreak from 1997’s Dude Ranch, was soon dedicated to us. We met the bassist of opening band Taking Back Sunday after he returned from a trip to Quizno’s. In one particularly proud moment, we recognized the distant strains of some Blink song coming from a crude soundcheck. It felt surreal and fulfilling to be there to hear that: The band is definitely here — yes! — and we’re the only fans around to catch the “performance.”
How had Blink earned my adolescent infatuation? The trio didn’t have a groundbreaking creative vision (being more a product of its simple tunes), some songs were overbearing (“Stay Together for the Kids”), and the off-color comedy was often moronic (the profanity strung through “Shit Piss Fuck” was the nadir). Despite that, the band tore out dozens of incisive moments that resonated with my age appropriately: The intro to “Carousel” took off like a teenager leaving town, “Apple Shampoo” was cascading catharsis, “First Date” was sheepishly sweet and “The Rock Show” celebrated an impossibly fun summer.
The band took a basic thread — what’s it like to be young and chase what makes you happy? — and spun out five full-length CDs jammed with skillful hooks. Even when Blink went serious with 2003’s self-titled disc, they sounded like juveniles pretending to be adults instead of actually maturing. Blink is a perpetual coming-of-age band.
After three openers (including, bizarrely, Cypress Hill), Blink-182 took Germain’s stage at around 10 p.m. Hundreds of young attendees (including myself) popped out of the arena seats and screamed like a post-‘90s version of Detroit Rock City. During the next hour, the trio blew my unrefined mind. The force of the band’s enormously catchy work was amplified by seeing them in such a high-end setting. Bassist Mark Hoppus and guitarist Tom DeLonge traded vocal duties and tonguein-cheek barbs, and even when they played something I wasn’t crazy about, I loved all of it. Travis Barker’s drumming boomed and roared in the big-screen setting and he even played a solo upside down on a gigantic rig.
By the finish, my taste for juvenile Rock & Roll ecstasy had been satiated. I was smitten with the theatrics of live music.
While concerts gradually became a regular part of my life, I fell out of touch with Tom. Germain Amphitheater closed. Most significantly, things collapsed for Blink-182 when, after internal drama, the band dissolved in 2005. All members immediately snapped up other projects. DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves ditched swift riffs and dick jokes for widescreen AltRock while Barker and Hoppus teamed back up for the inoffensive and unimpressive 44.
A dark catalyst came in September of last year. After Barker was involved in a near-fatal plane crash, the band began communicating again. The trio announced its reformation, with the members intending to pick up from where they’d paused. A recent MTV.com report of the kick-off concert on Blink’s summer-long reunion tour indicated that nothing has changed: The group indulged in obscene silliness, the set was a blast if not slightly off (DeLonge’s cry has become more of a caterwaul) and, most importantly, the decade-old ennui still means rich hooks.
“I don’t think anybody was necessarily surprised,” Hoppus says of the band’s return. The bassist regards the break-up as a positive: “It was definitely a hard way to get to where we’re at, but where we’re at is so good I almost feel like it had to happen.”
Hoppus is reluctant to discuss the details of the return but emphasizes one key change: “There’s a lot of respect in the band for each other. People are really listening to what each other are saying and trying to understand each other as people.”
In short, he says, “We’re approaching everything with an open mind and having a great time.”
While it’s been more than half a decade since it happened, remembering that first Blink show strikes a sense of naive elation in me. If the band still truly bares that tender energy, the youth landing at Riverbend should be afforded a memory that lasts.
BLINK–182 plays Riverbend Thursday with Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco and Chester French. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.