Green Day is different from other bands and let me tell you why.
There are only a few bands or musicians that I have been ga-ga over, and the list is pretty generic, so I won’t go much into who they are. Green Day is the first band that I’ve made an attempt to see more than once or twice in a lifetime (and certainly not more than the five times I’ve seen them since May), except for The Presidents of the United States of America, and that’s mostly because the tickets were cheap and they have the same sort of “let’s-have-a-damned-good-dancing-time”-type of vibe that Green Day does. PUSA’s lyrics never were as deep as Green Day’s can be, as you can only mine so much depth by singing about peaches and bullfrogs. Green Day manages to kick lyrical and musical ass, sing about deep and stupid things, make you laugh hysterically, and generally seep into the very fabric of your soul and pull out those dark secrets and fears that you attempted to pretend that you never had.
I missed out on seeing The Talking Heads and Nirvana when they were together (and in Cobain’s case, alive, R.I.P.), which is two of the items on my list of Top 50 Regrets in Life. Jane’s Addiction and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were fantastic shows, but I’ve never desired to see them more than the once each that I have seen them. I’ve seen the requisite U2 and Police shows (remember, I came of age during the 80s, so those were the major bands that I grew up on). I’ve seen The Who and Pink Floyd once each (I saw God at Pink Floyd, no really, I did) and The Grateful Dead twice, though I have never been a fan of the latter. One time was free because the bar I worked at was the largest buyer of Budweiser in New York City and the company gave the bar owners a free skybooth at Madison Square Garden as a gift and the other time… well, I was dating someone who was into them. I finally saw David Bowie during his New York City Five-Borough Tour from 2002, and I can now die fulfilled. The tickets were only $17 if you were a member of Bowie’s fan club, and truthfully, I joined the Fan Club just to get tickets. If you have never seen Bowie in a college auditorium (the 1,814 seat Colden Auditorium at Queens College, straight out of the 1950s), then I think I’ve got at least one up on you!
I’ve seen bands in small and large venues, and since my dad owned a bar in Detroit while I was growing up (The Moonglow Lounge, read about it here, last two paragraphs), I saw more live R&B music before the age of 10 than anyone can shake a stick at. In fact, the scene in Eminen’s 8 Mile where Cheddar shoots himself in the groin was filmed a 1/2 block from my Dad’s bar. I grew up on that corner. I may not have first-rate punk creds according to die-hard punk schmucks who scream about “selling out and sucky music,” but I spent many a night at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit seeing punk and new wave bands including The Cure and others whose names I can’t remember now. Hell, just growing up in Motown gives me music cred that many people can’t touch. In other words, I know what I’m talking about.
So then, what makes Green Day different? Four words sum it up: “Billie Joe, Mike, Tré.”
From the moment that I first saw them pop onstage at the bleary hour of 8:30 AM on a Friday morning in the freak show that was Good Morning, American Idiot back in May, I was blown away by the extreme attention they paid to and the very deep connection that these three guys have with their audience. Billie Joe actually talked to people in the crowd and not at them. Mike actually looked people directly into their eyes and not over their heads or as if they didn’t exist. Tré actually expressed his contempt for the setting in a way that was fun and fuck you at the same time. In other words, they were humans beings who just actually happened to be rock stars. I was floored and fell hardcore in love with them as a entity. Oh yea, the music was damned good, too.
In other words, the difference that I, personally, believe that Green Day has that other bands or musicians don’t quite possess at their level of stardom is the respect that they have for their fans as well as the 1000% level of enthusiasm that they produce whenever they are on stage. I’ve heard stories about how they sometimes don’t stop to sign autographs or tell fans that they’ll be out of the bus in a few minutes and never come out (I’m specifically talking to you about that last one, Tré), but I’ve also heard stories about fans breaking their knee by falling down a flight of stairs at a venue right before the show and them coming out to say how sorry they were that the fan was missing the show that night (I’m specifically talking to you about that one, too, Tré).
I’ve seen them nurture young and old performers night after night by bringing them onstage, unknowns when they got up there and unknowns after they left, but superstars for their time in the limelight. I’ve seen their kids dancing in the pit and their wives hanging around like real people. They’ve even gotten to the point in life where Billie has such an enthusiastic happiness, and is obviously a gigantic family-oriented man, where he can pull his sister onstage (as happened in either Seattle or Vancouver, at the beginning of the tour) and make his mom walk down from her seat in order to excitedly (the first time ever, I think) introduce her to a crowd of thousands (see below). These are rare moments for any fan to experience, and Green Day wants to share a good portion of their lives with you.
Green Day with Mrs. Ollie Armstrong, Salt Lake City, Utah
In the middle of the show that I went to in San Antonio, Billie was standing at the end of the catwalk when he looked down and saw a fan who had been in the same area for the previous four shows, including San Antonio. He looked her in the eyes and said, “I remember you, you were at the show last night.” She replied that she had been at three other shows and this was her last one. He looked at her tattoo and said, “Oh wow, you have my name tattooed on you,” and when he said it, you could hear a humbleness and an awe in his voice that is rare among non-famous people and seldom heard in action from famous ones. And in Kansas, when he usually breaks out into Storytimes about fighting an asshole or pissing in the closet at the start of “Before the Lobotomy,” he took a moment to tell a fan how beautiful she was:
Billie Joe Takes the Time to Tell a Fan How Beautiful She Is, Kansas City, Missouri
Green Day fans get a lot of crap for being Green Day fans. We tend to talk about them too much because we are excited to see them touring again or we want to share a song or a lyric and nobody but another diehard fan gets it. In a UK Absolute Radio interview with the band from earlier in the year, questions (and quite a few good ones) were provided by members of the Green Day Community, including one questioner who asked if Green Day understood the influence that they had over their fans, going on to state that they were “the most influential strangers in her life,” which Mike, rightfully and funnily, said was “totally awesome and super creepy at the same time.” We struggle, like Kelsey, a guest essayist at nothingwrongwithme.com, to put into words how much they mean to us, and tend to isolate within Green Day-only fan club sites because there are few places in the “outside world” to share about them. We have to put up with stupid remarks about selling out or how they were never punk or how they used punk to get where they are today. Few of these purist jerks acknowledge that Green Day is one of the hardest working bands out there and that they have consistently kept their ticket prices low ($49.50 for the highest ticket without fees as compared for $140 for a Madonna show). As a case in point, throughout the predominately glowing reviews that the band has gotten during their U.S. tour (I’ve only seen one negative one and the author was a bit too hipsterish for my taste), there is usually one or more commentators who would like to tell everyone how much Green Day blows. (For example, see the first comment from the Salt Lake City review here.)
To paraphrase from “Jesus of Suburbia,” we don’t care what anyone says bad about Green Day. Fans know that Green Day, after 22 years on the music scene and 16 years of fame, is different from other bands. Yes, we might have our gripes about setlists or dropping songs from shows unexpectedly or wishing that they sounded like Dookie again or being horrified that American Idiot is going to be a musical (not me, but some are horrified), but all in all, you know, we know them and they know us. Ya know? And that’s what makes them different from other bands and musicians out there right now. They want to share life with us to a point and understand that they wouldn’t be where they are without us and we wouldn’t know ourselves better without them. It’s a win-win synergy for fan and band alike.
Photos by Ross Halfin