By Alyssa Holcomb
Similar to other festivals of rock n’ roll proportion, the 1-800-Ask Gary Amphitheatre was writhing with adrenaline, from anxious thirteen-year-olds smeared with thick black eyeliner to the thirty-something punks with faded cargo shirts and an ear for the skateboard anthems of their 90s youth. These two groups may seem to be bound to opposite spectrums of musical preference, yet, with the crunch of a cord, all ages of rock fans were united in the sheer epic cacophony that was the Honda Civic Tour.
Bringing together two bands like Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance unites two masses of unique fans, each different in personality, dress, and outlook on life. While many hardcore Blink fans remember the band’s pop-punk sound of as the soundtrack of the 90’s, MCR’s die-hards are generally younger and recognize the music as sound waves of escape. The mesh of these fan bases results in not only a mass amount of people, but an incredible energy that remained ignited even as the stage lights dimmed.
As an avid My Chem fan myself, I couldn’t help but get sucked into the vortex of excitement that the crowd constantly exuded. Suspended in anticipation, we all became transfixed on the big screen posted behind the stage, occasionally laughing at the texted in messages scrolling along the bottom while the music videos of the two bands played above them. We were ready for rock and roll, the thrashing guitars and slamming cymbals.
Indie duo Matt & Kim took the stage first, their only musical weapons a keyboard, a drum set, and two mics. Main vocalist Matt Johnson generally remained seated at his keyboard, swinging his head and accenting his nods appropriately to the rhythm of the music. Drummer Kim Schifino, however, was as lively as all can get, taking periodic breaks from pounding on the kit to stand on her stool and get the crowd more into the music. The two frequently smiled, clearly genuinely excited to be on stage. The crowd was into the two’s vigor and humor, especially when Kim paused between songs to tell the audience about the large zit she had growing on her face.
Alternative rockers My Chemical Romance took the stage next, ironically illuminating the stage with darker song elements mixed with neon lights. Rhythm guitarist Frank Iero has an infectious enthusiasm on stage; he is constantly moving and screaming harmonies. Bassist Mikey Way is stabilized, legs askew and fingers continually pounding along. Guitarist Ray Toro propels the songs forward with focused riffs, his long, curly hair flopping in his face as he lends his voice to blend with Iero’s. But it is the group’s lead singer, Gerard Way (Mikey’s older brother) who is the focal point of the crowd’s excitement. His candy apple red hair shining, he serves as a beacon in the space-age foreground of the band’s set.
With his back to the crowd, fist in the air, the elder Way and company set off their show with the thrashing “Na Na Na,” their lead single off of their latest effort “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.” With a segway into fan-favorite “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and rave-inducing “Planetary (GO!)” the crowd followed the band with every movement. As a notion towards the band’s upcoming ten year anniversary, songs like “Give ‘Em Hell, Kid” and “Welcome to the Black Parade” were highlighted by silhouettes of their respective albums. The group even performed “Our Lady of Sorrows,” a rare track from their first record, “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.” It served as a special moment, almost a gift of sorts, for the hardcore fans, including yours truly.
Ending the set with “Cancer,” Way’s voice gliding, notes jolting with emotion as the energetic set came to an end. The clean-up lights that illuminated the stage following his exit seemed almost harsh after the bright darkness that MCR exuded.
Pop-punk pioneers Blink 182, as the headliner, seemed to truly bring the entire crowd to its feet. Starting off a raucous set with hits like “The Rock Show” and “What’s My Age Again?” saw thousands jumping and singing along. The set was driven by hits like these; they literally caused an uproar with every opening chord. They also played the title single off of their latest release, “Up All Night.” The song, upbeat and fast as ever, sounded like a nod to their signature sound, a return to the sound of their career peak.
The set was a fun one, with bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus constantly skipping around the stage, almost euphoric. Guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge cracked jokes, even waving at photographers while he drove songs like “Stay Home for the Kids” with his signature voices, vowels prolonged on a borderline whine. Drummer Travis Barker, covered in tattoos, was relentless on his sizeable kit, illuminated by a flashing silver and black background in the shapes of houses.
The band seemed to recognize the energy and almost adoration of the crowd and they played to it, taking time in between songs to add their well-known humor to the mix and speaking directly to their audience. Playing hit after hit, the band proved that they were still capable of being a rambunctious headliner ten years after they were the frontrunners of the very first Honda Civic Tour.
Even though each band appealed to a certain crowd, it was the combination of the three that allowed every fan in the amphitheater, from the youngest with a skateboard to the oldest with black-rimmed eyes, to experience a true rock show. Driven by frenzied music and the Florida heat, this stop of the Honda Civic Tour proved that age is not a number in rock n’ roll, it’s a stepping stone, for both the bands and their fans alike.
Photos by Alyssa Holcomb