Until recently, blink-182 hadn’t been in Sweden for 16 years. Let that sink in for a while. If you live in Los Angeles, Berlin or Paris you might be one of those who take concerts for granted. Whenever your favorite band is on tour it’s generally not a question of if they’ll play near you but when. Living in Sweden, I’ve never been able to think like that. Most bands never play here. Many years ago I’d given up on blink-182 performing in Sweden again, because they had only been here once (2000) and – let’s face it – they’re not the hottest band around anymore so why should they visit Sweden (which is basically as off as Svalbard or Greenland to most people) now? That’s why I decided to go to a blink-182 show in London when they announced their European tour back in 2014. Thank god I did, or else I probably would have died without ever seeing blink during the Tom, Mark and Travis era. Imagine the anguish.
My blink-182 life started much earlier than 2014, though. In the late 90’s and early 00’s, Voxpop was a huge thing in Sweden. Well, on Swedish television anyway. To kids and teenagers. Who enjoyed music videos. Voxpop was a show where the viewers voted for music videos that should be played. All the top hits once a week. I must’ve been nine or ten years old when this show introduced me to blink-182. What’s My Age Again? made it to the list in 1999 and I found myself enjoying this song quite a bit. Once All the Small Things had also made the list and I stole the single – which I couldn’t stop listening to – from my older sister, it was very clear: I was becoming a fan of blink-182.
So when I went to London to see blink live I’d been listening to them for 14 years or so. After the show at Brixton Academy I was standing in the pouring rain for more than an hour waiting for the guys to show up. I really just wanted to say hi to them. I was about to give up when Travis Barker showed up and gave some of us knuckles before rushing into his bus. I said hi to him and I was incredibly happy. Going to a blink show was definitely a missing piece falling into place. Standing inches away from Travis was a miracle.
Have you already heard of too many first world problems in your life? Skip this part and scroll down. For the rest of you: last spring, after my girlfriend and I had booked a trip for the summer to Croatia, I had this convincing gut feeling that it would be announced blink-182 were coming to Sweden sometime during those weeks we would be in Croatia. This feeling troubled me for weeks and I was constantly concerned that the announcement would come. I’m very sure I spent so much time worrying about this because just a couple of years before, I had missed out on one of my favorite artist’s very last show because we had already booked a trip to Greece when it was announced. Told you it was a first world problem. However, blink didn’t play in Sweden that time. Needless worrying.
Fast forward to November 2016. I am nearly 27 years old and blink have been my favorite band for about 16 years. Tom DeLonge has been replaced with Matt Skiba and this new version of blink-182 has ended a U.S. tour. The band is announcing shows in Europe for 2017. My friend Lauren – who is also a blink fan – and I have been talking about flying somewhere (England? France? Italy?) next year to see blink play, because we wouldn’t dare hoping they’d come to Sweden. As more shows are added to the tour, though, my gut feeling about blink coming to Sweden is back. All of a sudden, I’m becoming more and more certain that blink-182 is playing either a festival or perhaps this venue called Gröna Lund. Many times the last few years I’ve felt like blink is a typical band that the people of Gröna Lund would want to play there. Little did I know it was actually happening. (I mean, there’s always hope, but…)
Wednesday evening, November 9. I am done cleaning the bathroom when I press the button on my phone. A new message from a friend telling me to check Messenger because there’s something urgent about blink. What could possibly be urgent about them, I think to myself (or maybe I’m saying it out loud to my cats (who aren’t even in the same room)) while opening the Messenger app. My friend has written a long message and I catch the words “blink-182”, “Oslo” and “Friday” at first sight. Reading those words a part of my brilliant mind puts two and two together and creates a thought that goes: “Do I have to go to Oslo on Friday?” and immediately starts calculating how long it would take to go to Oslo by train (the idea of airplanes hasn’t yet occurred to this part of my brain). Another part of my mind reads the whole message (thank goodness). Apparently, Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba are coming to Sweden on Friday and there will be a fan event in Stockholm. My friend has posted a link where one can RSVP. I click the link and put my name on the list. The information is very scarce:
Underneath there is a short text with facts about blink and a note that places are limited during the fan event, a countdown timer and the video for She’s Out of Her Mind. I spend the next few hours searching for more information about blink’s visit. What will happen? When are they coming? Why? Finding any information at all is extremely difficult. A few tweets. A Swedish radio station has posted something on Facebook about the event and apparently one can compete for tickets by calling them and answering a question about blink-182. From the radio station’s Facebook page I also find out that besides playing songs Mark and Matt will be having a Q&A session. On top of that, there are rumors that blink-182 are playing in Stockholm next summer. My head is starting to ache real bad from all the tension and impressions after the googling and wondering. I’ve hardly found anything but I am excited as hell. I go to sleep.
November 9 turned out to be a day of many surprises: I found out that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, for the first time in my life I experienced Swedish schools closing due to extreme snowfall and I got the news that blink were finally returning to Sweden.
The next day it is announced that blink-182 are playing Gröna Lund on June 21 2017. It is finally happening. Everything is real.
Friday, November 11. Back to past tense (who doesn’t love a tense shift?). I met my friend Lauren, who I was going to the event with, an hour before the show (or whatever we were about to witness, because honestly, who knew what was going to happen?) and we walked in direction of the venue. There was a short line of people outside. We started talking to some of them, doing our best to survive the freezing cold. I had never been to this venue before so I wanted to check it out by walking around the building in search of back doors and such. Just around the corner from the queue, there was a huge window. The curtains were drawn but I could catch glimpses through some small gaps. Standing with his back facing the window was a blond man with tattoos on his neck. Matt Skiba. He was holding a guitar and the next thing I knew I heard Mark singing. They were rehearsing Bored to Death and there was literally just a piece of glass between us. And some curtains.
May I never forget that very moment. Amen, etc. I went back to Lauren who was holding our place in line. Waiting for the doors to open seemed to take forever considering ice was covering the street (wearing Vans standing on ice for more than an hour – I wouldn’t recommend it) and when they finally let us in we praised all the lords. We were in the same building as Mark and Matt but we still weren’t sure what was actually going to happen. The venue was quite small. Lauren and I waited right in front of the stage on Mark’s side. During a Q&A session at Spotify’s office the day before, Mark had said that he and Matt had been asked to play three or four songs, but that they were going to play “a lot more than that”. Based on that I thought they were going to play maybe six songs or so, and that would have been completely fine with me. I was just thrilled to be at an acoustic blink-182 show in Stockholm. Surreal. Well, imagine my excitement when I spotted this setlist:
Hey, that’s basically a concert, not a session?! The world truly is wonderful. Soon enough, Mark and Matt came walking from the back of the room, through the audience, waiting right in front of me and Lauren before going up on stage. Mark was looking in my direction, so I said “Hello!” and he said “Hello!” and I was positive I’d died and come to heaven. After the Q&A Mark and Matt started playing songs:
They ended up changing the setlist a bit, due to requests from the audience. Here’s what they ended up playing:
What did it feel like standing right in front of Mark Hoppus in a small room together with just a few hundred people while he was playing some of the most important songs of my life? I never though you’d ask. Thank you. Well, it felt like I was in a meadow full of tulips and lilies; the blue sky above me decorated with some perfectly shaped, snow-white clouds; a unicorn – pink, all covered in glitter; its horn rainbow colored – was walking by my side, leaning its head on my shoulder while I was picking flowers to make a bouquet for all my loved ones. Basically.
The show went on for 45 minutes. Quite amazing. I would like to thank Jens Karlsson for recording and posting the whole thing on YouTube:
Need I say this will be my favorite thing on YouTube for the rest of my life? Thanks, Jens. I’m glad we were both there.
Once the show was over, Mark stayed by the stage for a while to sign records and stuff people had brought. I took these photos:
Some fans took photos with him and he didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all. On his way back across the room, I managed to get his attention and asked him if he would take a picture with me. I told him that I had brought my fisheye lens which he though was fun and he wanted to see the photo once it was taken:
How cute is that security guard?!
Before walking up the stairs which led to a balcony where a meet and greet session was about to take place, Mark hung around a while longer to sign items and take photos with people.
Lauren and I didn’t have a ticket for the meet and greet so we were told to leave just like everybody else. We waited outside until Mark and Matt were done with everything at the venue. After half an hour or so the door opened and they left the building. I took this picture of Mark and Lauren:
Mark with a new friend Lauren and I made while waiting outside:
There weren’t a lot of people waiting outside the venue. Maybe 20 fans. Mark and Matt were very nice and took their time talking to everybody, signed all the items, stayed for pictures with everybody. Lauren and I took a photo together with Matt, but it turned out so shitty I’m not going to post it here. I’ll share this one instead:
Matt with another new friend Lauren and I made at the event:
Mark talking to fans:
It’s just so strange to think about how I woke up one day without a clue that within a couple of days I would’ve met Mark Hoppus and been at an acoustic blink show. Life is weird. Sometimes really bad things happen and sometimes the most amazing things happen without much notice. While I had hardly any time to mentally prepare myself for Mark and Matt’s visit in Stockholm, I’ll have six months to get ready for the blink-182 show at Gröna Lund. But hey, by then I’ll have waited 15 years or so (I was becoming a blink fan around 2000, but I guess as a ten year old I didn’t spend much time thinking about pop punk concerts) to see them in Sweden so I guess I’ve prepared enough already. Gosh. It is happening. blink are playing here – without Tom DeLonge, but still – and I will hopefully still be alive to witness it.
I guess that pretty much sums up my evening at Bryggarsalen and the (kind of secret) blink-182 fan event. It all happened so fast I’ve had a hard time processing the experience, but I’m working on it. Writing this has been part of that process. Thank you for reading if you’ve made it all the way through this long post. As Mark once wrote: blink-182 life. For life.