[Photo credit: Willie Toledo]

Jack Barakat, guitarist for All Time Low, is a longtime fan of pop-punk legends Blink-182ATL have even commented that they were originally a Blink-182 cover band. The first time he saw Blink was at Hershey Park venue in 2002. Tonight, he’ll play that venue—opening for the very band that inspired him to be a musician. In this exclusive with AP, he shares the experience from that first show and what it means to tour with his idols.

May 23, 2002.

The first actual tour I ever attended, I was 13 years old, about to graduate 8th grade and my mom had to give me her credit card. Blink-182 and Green Day were going on the Pop Disaster Tour, and I wasn't going to miss it. To be honest, at the time I was purely going to see Blink, even though Dookie was the first album I ever got, thanks to my brother. I was a big Green Day fan, but I was a Blink-182 fanatic. I pierced my ear because Mark did it. I analyzed the Enema Of The State and Take Off Your Pants And Jacket cd booklets through and through. I was as diehard as you could possibly be.

[Writing "Tidal Waves” in the studio; photo credit: Megan Thompson]

I went to the show with my buddy John, who I started playing music with. He is also the man I attribute to helping me start a band—without him, there would be no All Time Low. Ironically, we ended up kicking John out because he couldn't play the solo from “Rollercoaster” by Blink and Rian could (teenagers can be vicious).

We went as bandmates but mostly we went as best friends. My mom took us because we were young as shit. As soon as we got to Hershey Park Stadium, we noticed they weren't checking wristbands to get down into the GA section. We asked my mom if we could go down there and join the pit. My mom obliged “as long as we checked in every so often.”

We watched Green Day's set with our eyes wide open. It was a crazy experience watching one of our favorite bands, and one of the world's biggest rock bands, perform. (Turns out that years later I would tour Europe with this band, as incredible as that experience was, it wouldn't come close to feeling as good as what was to come.) Green Day's energy was unparalleled to anything we had seen. Also, the smell of weed was rolling through the air, and we were stoked.

After a short changeover, the lights dimmed. I remember the butterflies in my stomach before Blink came out. This was a band I had studied: videos, CDs, pictures, websites. To me, they didn't exist outside music videos and DVD footage. I had done all my research. I didn't just love the music; I loved the lifestyle. I was balls deep at this point.

Anyways, I can't remember whether it was a kabuki drop or curtain opening. But I remember the snare roll and the guitar beginning “Anthem Part 2.” I don't remember a lot of the details, but I remember feeling numb, kinda floating. It was an out-of-body experience. It was that moment I remember looking at my drummer/best friend John and saying, “This is what we need to do.”

I think about that night every time I walk on stage. It's the reason why I play music. It's the reason why I continued pushing my friends to join and start bands. I never was big into writing songs—I always help a little when I can. We have three other guys who are exceptional at it and always have been. My thing has always been performing and that has never changed.

[T[Tour announcement party, featuring Travis Barker, John Feldmann and All Time Low on karaoke; photo credit: Daniel Rojas]em>

Today we will take the stage at the same venue, opening up for the same band that brought me here all those years ago. I realize that we won't have the curtains, light show, pyro and crowd that Blink had that night. But even being mentioned in the same sentence as them has made this all worth it.

We have been on tour with Blink for a few weeks now, and all I can say is that we have never been treated better on a tour. The guys have been so great to us. They have set an example for how all headliners should treat the openers, and it makes me want to follow it.

Needless to say, hanging out with your idols is nuts. Fuck man. Dreams don't always come true, I won't lie and say they do. But when they do, nothing can prepare you for how great it is.