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Vans Warped Tour
Blink 182 returns to rock festival; band is loud scream of today's punk-rock youth

Headlining the Vans Warped Tour for the first time and landing in Salt Lake City tomorrow is alt-rock band Blink-182. The band members are really excited, too, though one wouldn't be able to tell by the seeming lack of enthusiasm in the drummer's voice.

When asked why Blink-182 was chosen as the headliner over the more than 20 bands playing on the tour this summer, drummer Travis Barker simply said, "Well, we haven't done the Warped Tour for two years now, so they asked us if we wanted to be the headliners and we said, 'Yeah.' "Joining Blink-182 at this year's Warped Tour, and performing on two separate stages are Pennywise, Sevendust, Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Less Than Jake, Grinspoon, Lit, The Living End, Suicidal Tendencies, Ice T, Molotov, The Vandals, Bouncing Souls, Amazing Crowns, Dropkick Murphys, Gob, Deviates, Buck-O-Nine, Zebrahead, Avail and FenixTX. Eminem replaced Cypress Hill, which left the tour to work on a new album.

The Vans Warped Tour will perform at the Utah State Fairpark Saturday. Gates open at noon and the festivities begin at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at all Smith'sTix outlets or by calling 467-TIXX or 1-800-888-TIXX.

Blink-182 is not exactly gushing about being Warped's headliners, but it seems appropriate, coming from the trio that wrote songs such as "Dammit (Growing Up)" and posed in their boxer shorts for the back cover of their "Enema of the State" album, the follow-up to 1997's 800,000-selling "Dude Ranch."

The group of twentysomethings -- composed of San Diego residents Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus as well as Barker -- has become the collected scream, er, voice of today's youth. Blink-182 sings with the fervency of a younger, more vivacious Violent Femmes, mocks just as well as the older-aged Offspring and offers peeks of vocal blending that recall the harmony-heavy Beach Boys.

Yes, those Beach Boys.

As the Blink-182 band members reach toward their 30s (Hoppus is now 27), their songs focus on remaining forever in their 20s. Barker figures they may as well, considering that much of their audience is composed of 20-year-olds. Blink-182's current single, "What's My Age Again?" with lyrics about a lack of respect for a 23-year-old in today's society, is earning itself heavy rotation at KXRK/FM 96.1. The band members seem like self-made Peter Pans of the '90s, forever young in a Never Never Land of their own creation, one filled with multi-colored tattoos and spiked hair.

The new album "Enema of the State," however, hints toward a maturity threatening to peek over the horizon. Cuts like the piano-laden "Adam's Song" deal with the suicidal state of the world. Barker assures the interviewer that while the band's music may be achieving new "mature" heights, they are not.

"We've written some better songs, not as repetitive," Barker said during a telephone interview from Riverside, Calif. "There's always an experimental song on any album, like 'Adam's Song.' Some of the other songs, like 'Going Away to College' and 'All the Small Things,' are more mature as well. I wouldn't even say mature, but better. We wrote the album in two-and-a-half weeks and we're happy with what we came up with."

Barker doesn't see the band changing all that much in the near future. The band members seem to treat their thriving musical career as a job, maintaining an attitude not unlike a handful of typical blue-collar factory workers -- punch in at 8, punch out at 5. After touring this summer, the band will work on putting out another album. In five years? More touring, still recording music. "(We'll be) doing everything we're doing now," Barker said.

Blink-182 is making its big-screen debut this month, when it appears in "American Pie," a movie that promises to make "There's Something About Mary" look as wholesome as "The Sound of Music." The band-mates appear as themselves in the movie (big stretch), also lending their musical stylings to the movie's soundtrack with the song "Mutt."

How does Blink-182 compare to the punk rock of yesteryear, when acts like Sid Vicious and the Circle Jerks ruled the stage? Is the band simply copying those that went before? Is it offering a more toned-down form of punk rock to better suit the mainstream, like Green Day?

As far as Barker's concerned, today's punk scene doesn't hold a match to what it once was. "None of the bands were on the radio. The music now is definitely edgy, but I think we're part of a different scene. I think pop punk is going to stay around as long as good bands are playing good music. I'd be happy to stick around for awhile, but you never know."

Though Blink-182 has been around for about seven years, Barker has been with the band for a year. He played with the Aquabats before replacing Scott Raynor as drummer.