Photos by Christina Nguyen and Terrance Doyle
I spent most of my late teen years going to Vans Warped Tour. For me, summers often revolved around looking forward to whatever pop-punk bands would be headlining the day-long festival. That’s why, with its alternative-heavy lineup, I kind of expected Kerfuffle to be a similar, D.C.-centric version of Warped Tour. I halfway thought I’d see a Mad Dog-drunken 19-year-old version of myself running around Merriweather when I arrived, but Kerfuffle pleasantly surprised me with its maturity.
To be fair, groups like Pvris and Bear Hands probably brought in a slightly younger crowd. But the fans they did bring were also emphatically there for the music. Pvris started the festival off on a high note, and the boys of Bear Hands followed suit, playing hits like “Giants” and “2am,” with lead singer Dylan Rau rolling around onstage during the set with all the energy of a headliner.
The crowd got even fuller for the next group, indie bluegrass band The Strumbellas, who brought with them a stage full of instruments and possessed a full, melodic sound. Songs like “Spirits” livened the growing audience, and the group fit right in at Merriweather, with bassist Darryl James repping our town with a DC101 shirt.
Admittedly, I mainly wanted to go to Kerfuffle to see Blink-182. I grew up listening to their albums, and Mark, Travis and Tom (miss you!) provided the soundtrack for the angsty teen moments in my life. That being said, I was glad that I caught Joywave’s set. If you get a chance to see these guys live, you need to do it.
When the group came on stage, frontman Daniel Armbruster immediately launched into some of the best stage banter I’ve ever heard. The group performed in front of a Pablo-orange background that inexplicably said “KANYE WEST” (I’m betting they got a whole lot of social media coverage from that), putting out an intense wall of sound interspersed with Armbruster’s sarcastic comments. “Keep your hands down if you just came to see Joywave today–that’s everybody! I feel bad for all the other bands.” The group played a set that felt too short.
The Merriweather lawn began to fill up with fans who wanted to catch a glimpse of their favorite bands, including folk-punk rockers Violent Femmes, joined by Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn on accordion. Surprisingly, the Femmes played “Blister in the Sun” (arguably their biggest hit) first, and unfortunately, many in the audience took the rest of the set to catch a quick nap under the trees or grab dinner. The group still put on a great show to plenty of attentive fans though, and provided a great soundtrack for the hazy sun of the early evening.
The marathon day continued with Cold War Kids, who performed to a tired and hot–yet enthusiastic–crowd. Cold War Kids ran through their expansive catalog, playing newer songs like “First” along with older tracks like “Hang Me Up To Dry” and the solid closer “Something Is Not Right With Me.” Silversun Pickups continued the party with “Nightlight,” “The Pit,” and their most well-known hit, “Lazy Eye.” After they were finished, it was time for the main event–Blink-182.
I was a little curious to see how Blink would sound without founding member Tom DeLonge. His voice was so unique, and Blink’s sound is so iconic, that I was worried Matt Skiba wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
While he’s definitely no DeLonge, Skiba did hold his own. He seemed at his most comfortable when the group played their new single “Bored To Death,” which is more his song than DeLonge’s–hopefully Skiba can only grow as he creates more new music with the group.
Mark Hoppus put on his usual, playful show, engaging with the crowd and making the most of his time on stage. Travis Barker put on an absolute clinic–I don’t know how he does it, but he makes his ridiculously hard drum licks look easy, like he’s just hanging out on stage playing around. All in all, Blink put on a really enjoyable set–I think it’s safe to say that most fans miss DeLonge, but Skiba seems like a worthy replacement, and the band stayed true to their roots by playing plenty of hits from the past, like “Man Overboard,” “Wendy Clear” and “Dumpweed.”
By the end of the encore, the audience’s singing almost overpowered the band, closing out the day with the anthem-like lyrics of “Dammit”: “Well I guess this is growing up,” a fitting tribute to the entire atmosphere of Kerfuffle. If growing up means leaving behind my high school roots of Warped Tour for the more mature feel of Kerfuffle, I am completely okay with it.