It's hard to argue against the importance of the Offspring in shaping the punk scene of the 1990s, but it's been over two decades since Smash came out, and the band's lost a lot of what made that record so iconic.
More than almost any of their contemporaries, the Offspring of the '90s (and 2000, because Conspiracy of One was acceptable) were all about fun, immature, irresponsible punk rock. They weren't afraid to write self-deprecating songs or four-word breakdowns containing three expletives.
The 2015 incarnation of the Offspring contains three of the same four parts, but at very different points in their lives. They're a group of dads who happen to play punk rock for a living, which actually fits well with their dad-centric audience.
As the band opened their set at the OC Fair with "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid," "All I Want" and "Come Out and Play," the band's age became visually apparent.
Frontman Dexter Holland sounds more or less the same as he did 20 years ago, but could be mistaken for a fat old lesbian (not that there's anything wrong with that) if you're more than 50 feet away. Noodles is still the energetic, if not masterful, bespectacled guitarist he's always been, but now looks more like a punk rock parent than a rock star. On the other hand, Greg K. has pretty much been keeping a low-profile holding the rhythm section together on bass since the beginning.
When the band continued on with their most recent single, "Coming for You," it seemed as if the sound had dropped out of Holland's microphone a bit, or perhaps he just wasn't singing as loudly. Either way, it was sometimes difficult to differentiate one song from another, as a lot of the 21st century Offspring tunes sound fairly similar when you can't hear the vocals over the guitars.
That brings up another point. There were times when the Offspring had three guitars on the stage, while the band was using a backing track to fill in some of the other instruments (and the chorus of "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)." Aside from Noodles, Holland also strummed along to a few tracks (to be perfectly honest, it seemed like he played on the songs with simpler riffs and chord progressions), and then there was another guitarist who played next to the drummer on the "significantly younger than the original members" elevated platform. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with having multiple guitars, but there are literally no Offspring songs involving three guitar parts that come to mind. Much of the time, all three were playing the same riffs, which just seemed like overkill seeing as it limited Holland's movement and drowned out the vocals even further.
Expectedly so, when the group played through classics like "Bad Habit" (with an extended pause to bask in the glory of the crowd right before the aforementioned breakdown), "Gone Away," "Why Don't You Get a Job?," "Americana" and "The Kids Aren't Alright," the primarily white male crowd (mostly drunk middle-aged men, some high schoolers, and a few dozen guys in their 20s and 30s) helped make up for some of the quieter vocals. The highlight of the set might've been watching a beer-bellied man (approximate age: 50) sing the choruses of "I Want You Bad" as his college-aged daughter cringed at her pops expressing his desire for an "X-rated" woman "in a vinyl suit," but the 35ish-year-old woman wearing the Offspring's famous "Bad Habit" t-shirt while dragging her young child down the aisle was pretty solid too.
The night ended with an encore of "(Can't Get My) Head Around You" and (of course) "Self-Esteem," leaving the bulk of the crowd happy and forgetful of the grinding effect of time on one of their favorite bands.
Also, the Interrupters opened, and they're one of the best young punk/ska bands you'll see these days. They're based in LA, so don't be stupid and wait for them to start selling out shows on their own before you get the chance to check them out.