When I was 5 years old, my parents walked in on me listening to “Achy Breaky Heart.” By the time I started singing along, they simply had had enough. A stern talk ensued, and I quickly learned that I was the son of punk rock parents.
They still ridicule me to this day about that incident, but luckily for them, I ended up loving rock music once I finally found my musical identity. Blink-182 became one of my favorites, and my family bonded over headbanging to “Dammit” on rides home from school.
What does this have to do with this weekend’s Voodoo Experience? The music gods have blessed New Orleans with a unique and well-programmed Southern California punk rock retrospective on Saturday, October 29. Blink-182 headlines the night, but they will be joined by X and Social Distortion, two punk bands pre-dating Blink from Los Angeles and Orange County respectively.
Whether you grew up listening to punk or have little concept of the genre, you will appreciate the raw energy of live punk shows. The uninitiated can watch and hear the evolution of punk rock from the late 1970s to the present over the course of one night.
Those who participated in the original movement can reminisce about the good ole days when they first saw these bands. I’m sure they’ll take comfort knowing that even though punk rockers age like everyone else, most never lose their edge or ability to work the crowd into a frenzy.
Speaking of frenzies, if you’re like me, you can’t wait for those spontaneous, slightly frightening mosh pits on Saturday. If you’ve never seen or partaken in one, consider joining the spinning circles filled with flying limbs, stomping soles, sweat, and adrenaline for a uniquely cathartic experience. If that sounds a bit harsh for your Voodoo buzz, stand back from a safe distance and smirk at the colliding bodies with the same pleasure you might get from a Jackass video.
Still too intense? Just jump around at your own speed (or be lame and stand still) and appreciate three of the most influential rock bands of all time. If you’re still not convinced, take a closer look at each band below:
X – 7 p.m. – Le Carnival Bingo! Parlour
X formed in 1977, offering a version of punk rock distinct from original American punk bands like The Ramones. They were funkier, more melodic, and uniquely Los Angeles. Contrary to their counterparts, X also exhibited a wider array of musical influences, including folk and country music among others. While they never reached the mainstream success of Social Distortion or Blink-182, they influenced countless megabands like The Offspring, Green Day, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. All the while, X has received major critical praise from outlets like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Rolling Stone magazine for their eclectic and unique brand of punk. Two X albums found their way onto Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time list — no small feat for a punk band that many younger fans may have never really gotten into. They are the granddaddies of SoCal punk and for this, we will salute you on Saturday night.
Social Distortion – 5:45 p.m. – Le Ritual Voodoo Stage
With a logo that could not be any more appropriate for a New Orleans Halloween show (a skeleton with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other), Social Distortion is in rarefied territory among bands that have only become increasingly popular with age. In fact, their latest LP Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes debuted at No.4 this year — their highest debut to date, not bad for a 30+ year old band.
Social Distortion formed in 1978, and slowly found their way into the national punk conversation while not releasing their first record until 1983. They had ups and downs, but maintained constant circulation on KROQ, an influential Los Angeles rock station. They have come to define the Orange County punk scene with their own unique blend of hardcore punk, rockabilly, and blues. Despite my country-bashing earlier, Social Distortion owes more than a little to artists like the late-great Johnny Cash, and they demonstrate what happens when country and punk peacefully coexist — a blend leading to the genre name “cowpunk.”
While their sway is strongest in Orange County, Social Distortion’s influence stretches well beyond California. One of the band’s tunes wound up on Guitar Hero III in recent years, and Social D has continued to tour worldwide, recently stopping at the Austin City Limits festival to rave reviews. You will understand their sustained success after seeing them out at Voodoo, and if you’re just joining the bandwagon, you’re not alone. They’re bigger than ever.
Blink-182 – 9:00 p.m. – Le Ritual Voodoo Stage
Unless you lived under a rock during the last 10 to 15 years, you have heard of Blink-182. However, you may have never revered them as members of the punk pantheon. Hardcore punk rockers would never include Blink-182 as one of their own. Their later music is too pop, and their lyrics have always been light – crude jokes and love songs instead of jail blues and anarchy. Still, their influence on the genre is undeniable. Blink-182 has had multiple platinum records and, for better or worse, helped define the mid-’90s moment when punk really turned mainstream more than any other band. They led the pop-punk wave from the late ’90s to the early 2000s and have themselves influenced many bands like Paramore and Fall Out Boy. A re-listen to Dude Ranch will remind you that they started out as a very much straight-laced, albeit endearingly off-kilter punk band. However, these guys never forgot how to rock even on their newer records. Travis Barker, who is mentioned among the best rock drummers alive, is reason enough to see Blink-182 at Voodoo. He always brings it with the intensity and fury of a man possessed (he rocked harder with one arm than most drummers with two after breaking his arm on tour), and he will amaze you as he shreds the drums even during Blink’s sappier songs.
Jarod DuVall currently lives the not-so “Big Easy” life as a Tulane medical student. In his ample spare time, he enjoys exploring New Orleans. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis as a Howard Nemerov Writing Scholar.