Benji Madden has never been to the Preakness, and if the Waldorf native is being honest, it took him awhile to figure out why thousands annually descended upon Pimlico Race Course.
"As a kid, you're like, 'Do they have Preakness everywhere or just in Maryland?'" Madden said with a laugh on the phone recently. "You hear people talking about it and it was like, 'Oh, everyone goes there to hang out and party.' I didn't even know it was a race until I got older."
On Saturday, Madden finally gets to knock the annual event off his Baltimore bucket list when his veteran pop-punk band, Good Charlotte, performs as a part of the InfieldFest (which also features Sam Hunt, Zedd and more). It's a day the 38-year-old Los Angeles resident is excited to experience in person, and an excuse to see friends, family and the hometown crowd.
"We say all the time we were lucky to grow up there," said Madden, who started Good Charlotte with his twin brother, Joel Madden, in the mid-'90s. "Maryland is such a special place, man. … You miss that warm, friendly love. It ain't like that everywhere else in the world."
Having toured all over for years, Madden speaks with firsthand experience. After Good Charlotte's 2000 self-titled debut album introduced listeners to the band's radio-friendly pop-punk, the quintet found crossover, multiplatinum success on 2002's "The Young and the Hopeless." That album was highlighted by arguably their defining song, "The Anthem."
The lyrics sum up the group's bratty, defiant approach to social norms: "Get a real job, that's what they said to me / But I could never live the way they want," Joel Madden sings.
Good Charlotte continued to release albums while stretching the parameters of its sound, including 2007's "Good Morning Revival," a dance-minded effort that fared better overseas than in the U.S. Some said their days were numbered, and not long after 2010's "Cardiology," Benji Madden said his brother felt he no longer had "anything else to say."
"Joel had said we were done," Madden said. "I was OK with it, too. … We did pretty good for kids with no education — nothing past high school, and no life experience."
A hiatus from 2011 to 2015 allowed the brothers to pursue other endeavors together — like launching their artist management company, MDDN, and releasing 2014's "Greetings from California," a "really fun, really experimental art project," described Madden. (They also became tabloid fodder, given their spouses — Benji married Cameron Diaz, while Joel wed Nicole Richie.)
Yet there was a nagging sense of unfinished business with Good Charlotte, and after the four-year break, the Madden brothers realized their story wasn't over yet.
"Whatever our final chapter is I want it to be on my terms. This is my baby. This is the thing that got me everything I have in life," Benji Madden said of he and his brother's mindsets. "We can take it back to Good Charlotte and where we came from."
In July, the band — which also includes original members Paul Thomas (bass) and Billy Martin (guitar), along with Dean Butterworth (drums) — released their sixth album, "Youth Authority." It's a deliberate return to their roots.
"I really was thinking a lot about the energy on the first couple records that we ever put out, and how young and excited we were," said Madden, the album's primary songwriter. "I just really wanted to make it more fun than anything."
While he's unsure of how many more records Good Charlotte will make, Madden is confident "Youth Authority" is not their last.
But as a pop-punk elder statesman, he can't help but consider a larger picture, too. His band was never a critical darling, but Madden is heartened by the idea Good Charlotte has inspired other kids from small towns to start their own groups.
"There's this wave of new pop-punk bands that has come out that's bigger than ever," Madden said. "I'm really glad that we got to be a part of helping push that forward, if we did at all. I wouldn't have had it any other way."
If you go
Good Charlotte performs Saturday as a part of the Preakness InfieldFest at Pimlico Race Course, 5201 Park Heights Ave. LoCash, Zedd, Sam Hunt and more will also perform. Music begins at 10 a.m. Good Charlotte performs at 2:30 p.m. $100-$110. Call 877-206-8042 or go to preakness.com.