When Blink-182 were first announced as this year’s Reading & Leeds headliners, the glaringly obvious question that sprung out was whether, in 2014, more than 10 years after their heyday, they could still make sense to a festival largely populated by teenagers. What’s their age again? Roughly 40ish.
Of course, Blink 182 have been a Reading & Leeds regulars for more than a decade now. But, more than any returning nostalgia act, they’re a band that I struggle to make sense of in 2014. Rooted in a particularly Beavis and Butthead-style, knob gags and toilet humour mentality, they’re like a Year 9 locker room in musical form. Now that their original fans are all grown up, real adults with jobs and flats and maybe spouses and kids, can their niche brand of crudeness really translate? And do the next generation really care?
If Friday's headline, their first of the weekend, is anything to go by, then the answer is... well, kind of. The crowd at the Main Stage was, if not particularly massive, then at least respectable. There were sing-a-longs in the obvious places (‘I Miss You’, ‘The Rock Show’, ‘All The Small Things’ of course), flailing bodies down front and vague portions of twenty-somethings audibly reliving their youth.
The problem wasn’t the crowd reaction though, it was everything else. “The first time Mark penetrated me onstage was a few nights ago, he stuck his finger in my ear. It felt pretty good actually,” guffaws Tom Delonge midway through, burping audibly and practically sniggering at his own use of the word ‘penetrate’.
They come thick and fast, too. “Tell them what sex is,” starts bassist Mark Hoppus. “It’s when a man and a woman come together to make the man climax,” laughs Delonge. “What does Milkshake mean?” they later joke. “Do you think it means a girl singing about her semen bringing all the boys to the yard?” Even on ‘All The Small Things’, arguably their Big Hit, they change the “she left me roses by the stairs” line to “she gives me rim jobs on the stairs”. Obviously Blink-182 have never staked any claims to feminism, but there’s being militant and then there’s just calling out people who are acting like idiots. And of course there’s chest–flashing from the crowd. Of course there bloody is.
The genuine entertainment comes from drummer Travis Barker, who is still an absolute machine on the kit, but aside from that, Blink-182 just feel like an outdated, cringey and – let’s face it – sexist joke. Sure, tonight they just about win out through nostalgia, but without nostalgia what do they have? A bunch of tracks that are essentially a pubescent Robin Thicke at the rock show.
In 2014, that doesn’t sound so appealing to me.