You know how you can tell when big-name musicians are having all the fun in the world with a new project? That’s very much the case with Simple Creatures, the two-man indie/synth-pop band started by Blink-182 bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth, front man/songwriter for All Time Low.
The duo played a show at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on Tuesday night, and it clear within seconds of them hitting the stage that Hoppus, 47, and Gaskarth, 31, are fully committed. Truly keeping this a two-man project, there was no drum kit on stage. Playing to a drum machine, Hoppus seized the chance to joke that his usual drummer, the impossibly talented Travis Barker, makes even a drum machine look inadequate.
Two EPs in, Simple Creatures have a fresh, unique sound that stands far apart from either Hoppus or Gaskarth’s day jobs. It’s especially interesting to see Hoppus do so much singing with this project, as the new era of Blink-182 finds him mostly sharing duties with Matt Skiba. Simple Creatures’ music, on the other hand, features a bit more of Hoppus’ voice leading the way, and demands a bit more of him in that department than his usual work with Blink.
Hoppus and Gaskarth played 13 songs on the night, covering all 12 songs from their two EPs to date (including the most recent, Everything Opposite, which came out Oct. 11 and is a great listen) and a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” for good measure.
Both musicians bounded about the stage with an undeniable energy and with the demeanor of two dudes from big bands with global success having the time of their lives, which they obviously were. They love playing this music, and the crowd loved everything about what was happening on the stage.
That’s the magnetism of a successful “side project,” beyond the initial thrill of seeing big stars of that stature in a setting as intimate as the Fonda.
And, given both Hoppus and Gaskarth’s success, they brought an arena-ready light show to the tiny stage, too, which meant blinding strobes and all the colors of the rainbow blanketing the entire venue in visuals for the hour-long set. It was all great fun, and was a great opportunity to see their eclectic project in a live setting.
Judging by the electricity of Simple Creatures’ performance, there’s no reason to assume they won’t find time to do this for as long as they can in between other responsibilities in the future.
The night’s opening act, Bones UK, showed why they’re earning so much attention lately — and caught the eye of Jeff Beck, who asked them to help him with his 2016 album Loud Hailer — smashing through a set of aggressive, somewhat grunge-y indie/punk, vocalist/guitarist Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg and drummer Heavy covering David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” and playing songs from their 2019 self-titled debut album.
Throughout their 45-minute set, the band tackled women’s empowerment (taking deserved shots at a man from their hometown whose criticism inspired the song “Girls Can’t Play Guitar’) and generally exhibiting the kind of punk/rock spirit that is sorely missing in music these days.
In all, it was a pretty excellent way to spend a Tuesday night in Hollywood.