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“I didn’t know if I’d be on this stage again,” Mark Hoppus said, in a rare moment of sincerity Sunday night, before his sprawling beachfront audience. Hoppus, the famed bassist for pop-punk titans Blink-182, was diagnosed in 2021 with stage 4 lymphoma, and after chemotherapy was declared cancer-free.
And so his band was able to continue, reforming its classic lineup last year with guitarist Tom DeLonge (who’d left the group in 2015) and drummer Travis Barker and booking two years worth of comeback shows around the globe.
Blink’s first U.S. leg finished on the Atlantic City sand Sunday night, as the trio headlined the new Adjacent Festival, a two-day, three-stage event operated by Live Nation celebrating all things rock and punk-adjacent: 49 bands that tend to transcend their genres, even if most of the artists booked fell into the “punk-ish” or “emo-ish” baskets. Saturday’s lineup included pop-rock chameleons Paramore, Bleachers, Jimmy Eat World and many more.
Though Blink-182 is, of course, squarely pop-punk, the seminal Southern California group against which all succeeding pop-punkers have been measured. They also happen to be one of the most successful rock bands of the last 30 years with 50 million albums sold — most English-speaking humans can at least hum “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?”
The expansive Sunday audience did much more than hum, however, flailing and crowd-surfing as the band hurtled through 90 minutes of hits and fan favorites. But Blink’s defining concert characteristic has always been its stage banter: toilet humor only fit for junior high locker rooms. Much of this was lost when DeLonge was temporarily replaced by Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba — an excellent musician, but not very funny.
With the almost manically irreverent DeLonge, 47, back at the microphone, the filthy jokes were flying. Almost none of them can be repeated on this family-friendly website, but here were a few of the cleaner running bits:
DeLonge reminding the crowd of 20,000 fans over and over “you can’t do what we do,” (many of the band’s songs are used for beginner guitar lessons).
DeLonge asking the audience, deadpan: “Why are you staring at us?”
During “Violence,” Hoppus, 51, tossed a towel over Barker’s head, forcing him to drum blindly. Barker, 47 and still an utter beast on the kit, never missed a beat.
DeLonge’s guitar tech, who sported back-length wavy hair, was called “Jesus, The Christ” and each time he came out to switch DeLonge’s guitars, DeLonge would exasperatedly ask “what do you want now, The Christ?!”
DeLonge telling a ridiculous, minutes-long story about how Blink-182 formed, which involved DeLonge hunting big cats in a swamp and Hoppus and Barker saving his life. All fake, sadly.
Perhaps I’m also a man-child, but I don’t believe I’ve ever laughed harder during a concert. This was pure, deeply stupid comedy and the crowd ate it up. In between the cracks, there was occasional music: Explosive sing-alongs to “Miss You,” “First Date” and “Adam’s Song,” and kudos to the group for running back some of the Skiba-era stuff: “Bored to Death” and “Not Sorry” were shrewd adds. Barker’s drum solo following “Reckless Abandon” was an unreal display — sadly the festival stage couldn’t support the rig that usually lifts Barker’s kit above the crowd for added spectacle.
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The set may have been deja vu for some fans, as Blink played in the exact same spot in 2019, headlining the Warped Tour 20th anniversary event in Atlantic City.
Just before Blink, Baltimore punk shapeshifters Turnstile frenzied the crowd for a while, unloading a blend of East Coast hardcore and experimental, melodic swirls — keyboards, saxophone sounds, touches of indie and R&B. Frontman Brendan Yates spent most of the set leaping off the drum riser, performing spin-kicks, somehow not dizzying himself beyond repair. I genuinely would like to know if he spots like a twirling ballerina. Anyway, the brutal grooves of “Mystery” and “Holiday” incited big moshes and loads of crowd-surfers.
Earlier, New York prog-rock kings Coheed and Cambria unloaded what felt like their own headlining set, led by the furious playing of frontman Claudio Sanchez, who continues to tout the best head of hair in alt-rock. It was a minor travesty that the enduring four-piece was only given 45 minutes, considering the length of some of their world-building tunes. “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3″ took up 10 minutes alone. Though fans exploded for the better-known tunes “A Favor House Atlantic” and the titanic finisher “Welcome Home,” which Sanchez performed on a double-neck guitar, soloing behind his head.
In the evening, Philadelphia indie favorites Japanese Breakfast brought breezier vibes to the main stage, and certainly the day’s best saxophone, violin and flower-encrusted gong. Singer Michelle Zauner exudes a delicate magnetism and though this set wasn’t as focused as the night she played Asbury Lanes during an almost-tornado, it was still plenty cool with a psychedelic finish.
And in late afternoon, Philly pop-punk veterans The Starting Line wooed the crowd with time-tested hits “The Best of Me” and “Island” as singer Kenny Vasoli thanked New Jersey VFW and Moose Lodge halls for helping to spring-board his band’s career 25 years ago.
Speaking of Jersey, Adjacent made a point to book a list of statewide bands for the festival’s inaugural run: Saturday’s lineup included Bleachers (New Milford), post-hardcore forefathers Thursday (New Brunswick), pop-rock trio The Happy Fits (Clinton) and indie act Well Wisher (Asbury Park).
Sunday rolled on with The Front Bottoms, New Jersey’s biggest indie-rock band of the last decade-plus, performing their fan-loved 2013 album “Talon of the Hawk” in its entirety for its 10th anniversary. Midtown, Royal and the Serpent and Reece rounded out the Garden State bill.
While the Adjacent Festival didn’t seem to offer the same commitment to identity or theme that Sea Hear Now in Asbury Park or Barefoot Country Music Fest in Wildwood does, there was plenty to love about this tri-state area answer to Las Vegas’s When We Were Young festival (booking similar acts). It was an exciting Memorial Day Weekend showcase for recovering emo kids — most of the crowd was age 25 and up — and with two top-level headliners in Blink-182 and Paramore, the firepower was there; fans got what they paid for. Assuming Adjacent returns next year, many will surely be back.