1999 was the year we all got enemas.
If 1998 was the year I first felt the pull to music and the idea that a band and a sound could be my very own, 1999 was the year I saw what happened when that feeling went mainstream. In 1999 Blink-182 released Enema of the State and blew the fuck up. Over the years, people have asked me why I think this album, and this band, had the impact they did on so many people and why they were the ones to help bring this sound into the mainstream. I don’t really have the answer to that question, but what I do know is my story and why the band resonated with me in the way it did. I can only extrapolate outward from the reasons I ended up with posters of the band all over my wall and more Hurley t-shirts than any one child should own.
It’s 1999. I’m on the precipice of turning 16. The previous year was one of the most formidable for my young music tastes. I discovered punk and pop-punk music for the first time and began diving into anything that sounded remotely in that genre. I have my first real girlfriend. I have my first real “heartbreak.” Both are textbook examples of young stupidity and arrogant jealousy. Neither are helped by listening to music that reinforces the idea that girls are there to break my heart, and I’m the one that’s been wronged in all situations if my emotions have been hurt.1 Blink-182 and specifically Enema of the State played into this disaffected suburban youth mentality perfectly. It was a band and album that rebelled just enough and showcased what I wanted to believe I could be: a cool guy that just likes to goof around and have fun with my friends. Some girls try too hard; I’m just out there acting immature and weird for the laughs; where’s my dog? It’s a combination of music (catchy, fast, pop but with just enough of an edge to be cool), aesthetic (clothes, attitude, southern California vibe), and mentality (fuck it let’s just dick around, adults be damned), that was utterly addicting to a sixteen-year-old in suburban Oregon. And I ate it all up. I still remember begging my mom to pick the album up for me on release day so it would be there when I got off the bus. She did. I don’t think that CD left my CD player for months after. It was everything I wanted. And it went beyond the music; I wanted to be Blink-182. When I turned on my TV, I saw Backstreet Boys, NSync, and 98 Degrees dominating TRL. And I looked at the Boy Bands and thought, “I don’t look like them, I don’t act like them, is this who I am supposed to be?” and then I saw these three dudes running around naked with spiked hair and baggy t-shirts and skater shoes and it was the first time I had a model for something different. This was all pre-internet, pre-being able to find others to look up to or model your style or life around. I had MTV, some magazines, and now this new window into a world I didn’t know existed. This southern California skate/surfer vibe was like unlocking a part of my brain that said, “there are others out there that are going through similar shit, they made it through, they’re having fun, you can too.” So right as I’m seeing this world start to open up in front of me in the form of these bands, I also go to my first concert.
For my 16th birthday, my parents bought me tickets for my first concert. They were MxPx tickets. A little known band called The Ataris were opening for them. I went to the show with my best friend Ryan, and my exposure to punk rock and live music would change overnight. I went to the show in a short-sleeve plaid button-down shirt and cargo shorts. Standing in line, I didn’t feel like I fit in. I loved this band, I had all their albums, but all around me were piercings, and dyed hair, and leather, and chains, and I’m this skinny ass crew cut looking mother fucker. And then we got inside. And the music started. And the crowd began to move. And no one gave a fuck what I looked like. Everyone was screaming the lyrics; the entire crowd was pushed to the walls, people were falling down and getting picked back up, people were crowd surfing, jumping, and all at the same time looking out for one another. Older kids were making sure I didn’t get trampled. People I’d never met were yelling lyrics along with me at the top of our lungs while soaked to the bone in other people’s sweat.2 I left with all the merch I could afford. I left with a new band who were releasing an album soon that I desperately needed.3 And I left knowing this was something I needed to be a part of. It was so unlike anything I’d ever experienced before—a pure shot of adrenaline to the heart. I needed more.
And this is roughly when I pair two obsessions together—my love for music and my love for technology. The internet is in the very early stages of being a thing. My nerdy friends and I love it. The idea you can get online and talk to people, or put up websites, is like nerd catnip. I join with a few friends in high-school to help build the school’s website. From there, I’m spending all my spare time, music blaring, learning about these website things, and how to make them. I start with some free web hosting thing called Angelfire. I know I want to put together a website for my two favorite bands, Blink-182 and MxPx, and that I totally think I’m punk. Take that, and combine it with wanting to rank highly on Yahoo! ‘s alphabetized directory and seeing an Absolut Vodka ad, and I call my website AbsolutePunk. And the early years are hilarious.
I’m updating news by typing up “updates” in an HTML file and then uploading it to the server directly. There was no database. There was nothing dynamic on the entire page. Everything is individual files. If I wanted to add a new section to the navigation bar, like say “wallpapers,” I would have to update every single page on the website individually to add this new section into the navigation. It was painstakingly tedious work, and I loved every minute of it. I’d redesign the website on a whim every few months, trying new things, learning new things, and being shocked that anyone was reading my website at all. I was getting emails from other fans. I was making AIM friends where we could talk about other bands we were getting into. These new AIM buddies are where I learned about Riverfenix, soon to be FenixTX. Where I first heard the name Saves the Day and this new album I had to check out called Through Being Cool. I’d get an email, or a message from someone, telling me a new album was in stores that I should go buy. Or, just as likely, that I should fire up this new program called Napster and download something from one of these newly discovered bands. That’s how I learned No Use for a Name released More Betterness. I searched Napster and saw this song called “Chasing Rainbows” that I’d never heard of before. Twenty minutes later, I had the mp3. I bought the CD the next chance I could. Napster became a gateway to music discovery. I’d search for a band I knew I liked, then browse the “collection” of users that had that artist for sharing. I’d look for band names that looked pop-punk and download songs. It often took all night on a dialup connection in a house with only one phone line. I remember countless nights where my dad would pick up the phone by their bed and then yell down the hall, “Jason get off the internet it’s 3 in the morning!” And countless others where I’d wake up in the morning and check my downloads to see new music I got to check out from bands named things like New Found Glory, or Jimmy Eat World, or The Get Up Kids, or No Motiv.
It wouldn’t be until 2000 that I registered the domain name absolutepunk.net, but 1999’s version that existed on various free hosting platforms had more than enough typos and STAY PUNK! declarations to count as my first website and attempt at “blogging.” And while it would be a couple of years still until I transitioned the website into something talking about more than just a couple of bands, it was a great year for musical discovery for me.
The albums I remember listening to most in 1999 include:
- AFI – Black Sails In The Sunset
- American Football – American Football
- Blink-182 – Enema of the State
- FenixTX – FenixTX
- Jimmy Eat World – Clarity
- MxPx – At the Show
- New Found Glory – Nothing Gold Can Stay
- No Motiv – And the Sadness Prevails
- No Use for a Name – More Betterness
- NOFX – The Decline
- Pennywise – Straight Ahead
- Pulley – @#!*
- RX Bandits – Halfway Between Here and There
- Saves the Day – Through Being Cool
- Ten Foot Pole – Insider
- The Ataris – Blue Skies
- The Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
- The Stereo – Three Hundred
This list is alphabetical and not in any order. But if I had to rank things, I can’t talk about 1999 without Enema of the State being at the top. I also remember picking up Through Being Cool at a Hot Topic in a mall while we tagged along to a business trip my dad had in Seattle. I saw these kids on the cover that looked like they were my age. My first copy of The Ataris’ Blue Skies Broken Hearts, Next 12 Exits was my first ever downloaded CD. I couldn’t find the album anywhere in my town. I looked all over for it. No luck. But I found it on Napster and because I was building the high school’s website I was working with other super-nerds in a computer department called Networking. They showed me my first ever burned CD. It only played on one CD player in my entire house. And it would be while until I had my own CD-burner in my computer, but the world was changing. Rapidly. The music industry and the internet were being upended in ways I couldn’t see. I was 16. I just liked music and wanted to talk with people who liked the same kind of music I did.4 But the seeds that these years were planting would change the world as we know it.
Uh, I guess I have to end this with … oh god why was I so weird … STAY PUNK!