Last weekend, 28,000 people gathered on the beach in Atlantic City over two days for one purpose: To jam.
And it was super-weird.
Last year, punks, emos, and rockers around the country laced up their Dr. Martens and headed to the Vans Warped Tour for what was advertised as the final cross-country trek of the long-running punk festival. But in March, Kevin Lyman and his team announced they’d be back for three special events rather than a full tour— and the weekend stop in A.C. was the only East Coast date, featuring headliners 311, the Offspring, a Day to Remember, and Blink-182.
People still wore all black and their brand-name footwear even though they were going to the beach. It’s not often you see a pair of Doc Martens splashing around along the shoreline.
Going to an all-day festival on the beach is ridiculously impractical (most A.C. beach concerts feature only a few bands or one big headliner). There’s no place to sit, and eating is hard when you have to fight off seagulls. Other iterations of the Warped Tour have been held in bigger spaces, allowing for more bands to play over the course of the day. At Camden’s BB&T Pavilion last year, for instance, there were six stages.
But it was the punk-sand combination that stood out: Have you ever seen anyone successfully two-step in sand? Me either.
Still, the performances were great. I saw the Starting Line -- a band that, until their recent reunion announcement, I never thought I would see live. Since the mid 2000s, this Pennsylvania band has jumped in and out of performing together while members pursued other projects and passions, but they played together without missing a beat.
When the hot, sweaty, sunburned crowd collectively sang along to “The Best of Me” from the band’s debut album, Say It Like You Mean It (2002), the lyrics hit extra-hard: “We got older but we’re still young / We never grew out of the feeling that we won’t give up.”
And we won’t. The Warped Tour can inconveniently be on a beach, and we still won’t call it quits while trying to have a good time.
Fast-forward past the cigarette butts in the sand and the overflowing trash cans scattered throughout the grounds to the performance of a band that means as much to punk as Warped does.
After the sun set, Blink-182 was met by a roaring crowd — it hadn’t played the tour since 2001.
A cartoon version of the cover of Enema of a State, an album that just marked its 20th anniversary, glowed behind the band as they played the album in full. That was followed by other hits, including “Feeling This,” “I Miss You,” “The Rock Show,” and even a song they released this year, "Generational Divide.”
Blink’s Mark Hoppus ran across the stage all smiles, engaging with the crowd as it sang along. Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba, who joined the band in 2015 in place of Tom DeLonge, filled in seamlessly.
The most punk thing I saw over the weekend was not inside the festival grounds. Along the Boardwalk, visitors were standing on benches, screaming, dancing, singing along, and having just as much fun as everyone at the Vans Off the Wall stage for Blink-182. Being on the outside but still jamming: That’s punk.