When Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman takes the stage on the OC Fair's opening night Friday, he may play to some audience members for whom he played a vital role in childhood.
Not as lead guitarist of the Offspring. As Mr. Wasserman, the head custodian.
Before he became a member of one of Orange County's most successful punk rock bands, the future Noodles worked cleaning facilities at Warren Elementary School in Garden Grove. He also worked at nearby Pacifica High School in his pre-stardom days, and every so often, he gets reminded that Orange County hasn't forgotten his savvy with the mop.
"The funniest thing is when I run into students that I knew at different places," Wasserman said by phone. "I went into the Slidebar [in Fullerton] one time and there's a big mural of me and Dexter [Holland] — it's kind of like a cartoonish mural on the wall. I walk all the way in through the front door, walk in, go to the bar, go up to buy some drinks, and the bartender goes, 'You were my janitor.'"
Whether through high-octane guitar solos or bathroom maintenance, Wasserman has left a mark on Orange County. So it's only fitting that he and his band will kick off the OC Fair's Pacific Amphitheatre concert series this summer — the first time the Offspring has played the fair.
The show, with fellow Orange County punkers the Adolescents on the bill, will kick off a month of shows at the amphitheater. Subsequent acts range from 1960s-vintage acts (Gary Lewis, Mitch Ryder) to Reagan-era pop (the Go-Go's, Pat Benatar) to comedian Jeff Foxworthy, country singer LeAnn Rimes and more.
For Pacific Amphitheatre buyer Lisa Sexton, securing the Offspring for the summer lineup was a longtime hope. A fan of the band herself, she looks forward to hearing the members perform their 1994 album "Smash" in its entirety, as they're doing on their current summer tour.
"It is such a big deal, and not only because they're from our backyard," Sexton said. "We've tried to get them a couple of years. This year, the moons finally aligned."
The Offspring's name may bring to mind children (or, at least, rebellious punker teens), but the members have grown into elder statesmen by now. Twenty years ago, the band's career took off when its song "Come Out and Play" became an MTV and KROQ staple, and its subsequent hits — "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)," "Why Don't You Get a Job?" — are synonymous with many millennials' high school memories.
The band's status as opening-night act at the OC Fair indicates how much the region has grown to embrace it since its formative years in the 1980s. Lead singer Holland and bassist Greg Kriesel famously started the band after being turned away at the door at a Social Distortion concert in Irvine.
And according to Wasserman, the Offspring had a hard time landing Orange County gigs before its fortunes soared nationwide.
"Very few clubs let bands like us play back in the day," he said, noting that places like Riverside, Berkeley, San Bernardino and Las Vegas offered more hospitality.
In 2014, the Offspring won't have to worry about finding venues to play. Its Summer Nationals tour, which features appearances by Bad Religion, Pennywise and other punk veterans, spans the continental United States with a stop in Canada.
Before all that success hit, did Wasserman ever fear that he'd be a janitor forever?
"You know, I was afraid," he said. "Yeah."
If You Go
What: The Offspring, the Adolescents
Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:45 p.m. Friday
Cost: $44.28 (only single seats available as of Thursday)
Information: (714) 708-1500 or pacamp.com/pa