Back in the Day... Bored in the USA - Frustrators 2000
I’m not going to try and fool you. I knew nothing about The Frustrators two years ago. Lately, I’ve been on a kick to find out more about their lore, but, I’ve been too lazy to really delve deeply into the disturbing and tragic backstory of the band. OK, it’s not really disturbing or tragic, but it’s fun to say that it is. They actually seem to be a strangely well-adjusted band. Weird.
I’ve spent many seconds over the last couple of years on their Facebook page talking with fan folks, and it’s been a blast chatting. Everyone is funny. Mostly. But while it’s been a lot of fun talking with other fans, there hasn’t been much talk about the band’s past… Probably because it’s locked somewhere deep inside the sordid bunker… but… more than likely it’s because they don’t have a webpage up at the moment and hadn’t put a record out for such a long time that not many were still around who remembered their ancient lore. I hear that in the dark, distant past there was a website, with a message board and all sorts of stuff like that, but at the moment, it’s disappeared down the rabbit hole of the Internet.
Luckily, before the band heads back into the bunker, a website is on its way and there’s a lot of talk lately, as the Frustrators completed their first tour in nine years last month. Everyone is really excited that lead singer/designer Jason Chandler and their friend, Greg Schneider, are editing a DVD of the band that Greg shot during the week-long tour! This is very exciting news! The band has requested that if you have any photos or video footage of the recent shows that you think the band might like to include in the DVD, please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I haven’t heard news of what Art and Terry are up to lately, but Mike seems to be recording these days in Oakland with his other side project band that goes by the name of Green Day (see Billie Joe Armstrong’s @bjaofficial twitter today for news on that).
Did someone say contest?
A few weeks ago I mentioned on my post about the Frustrators show at Gilman and on the @GreenDayMind Twitter that I’d be giving away a copy of the band’s new EP release, Griller. Well, I was supposed to do that last week, and oops, I had a birthday along the way, so I completely forgot… oops again. But now I’m ready to give it out! I have a Frustrators logo bag to give away, too! So, one person will get the CD and the other person will get the bag. Sorry that I don’t have more to give out, but if this works well, I might be tempted to try my hand at contests again in the future. So, be kind and gentle since this is my first time conducting a contest on my own. I apologize in advance for anything that will go awry. I did work as a researcher for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Regis Philbin edition, way back in the day, but that doesn’t mean that this will run smoothly the first time out!
Prize #1: Stanley... coming soon to your house if you are the first to answer these questions. See you there, baby!
So here are the rules: A) You have one week from today until Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at midnight to answer the questions below. B) Please copy and paste the questions below into an email and write your answers to the questions under each individual question. C) I have two items to give away: one Griller CD and one Frustrators felt backpack-type bag. So, two people will win one item each. D) You have to be the first (you get the CD) and second persons (you get the bag) to send in correct answers to all of the questions below. E) Send your answers with the Subject Line “Frustrators Contest #1” to: GreenDayMind@gmail.com. F) Include your name. G) Include your answers.
Prize #2: Frustrators Felt BackPack Bag
All of the questions below may be found on the Internet in various places. I will mail stuff outside of the Continental United States, but, I won’t like it. But, I will do it. So, have fun, and good luck!
The Frustrators have four songs/EPs/Albums on the Adeline Records label. What are the four Adeline numbers of these recordings?
The band had two potential names before settling on “The Frustrators.” Name one of the potential names.
Name the Frustrator who sculpted the zombie version of Stanley the Chicken which appears on: the cover of the Griller 7″ vinyl, inside the CD fold-out, and on the t-shirt worn by Mike during the tour? (See Mike in the shirt below.)
Which two Frustrators members played with Green Day on an episode of Mad TV?
The animated cartoon character in the tease leak to the song, “Prettiest Girl” has a name. What is it?
Did the Frustrators play their first ever live gig at 924 Gilman?
What year did their first live performance take place?
What two legendary and well-known venues besides 924 Gilman did the Frustrators play in 2001?
From which European country does a rock surf band named “The Frustrators” come from?
Within the last week, The Frustrators posted Youtube videos on their Facebook page of several young bands covering Frustrators songs. Name one of the bands, the country that they come from, and the song that they covered.
What is the name of the upcoming album by Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits that Jason Chandler designed the album cover for?
Name one other band that Mike Dirnt has recorded with that is not Green Day, the Network, the Foxboro Hot Tubs or the Frustrators.
Who sculpted Zombie Stanley that appears on Mike's chest? Photo: Kerry Harris
Frustrators at Gilman - Pillow Stuffing? Where did that come from? - Photo by Kerry Harris
I’m sure you’ve been holding your breath wondering if I made it to the East Bay to see the Frustrators. As I wrote earlier, the trip wasn’t working out financially. However, luck and confluence happened and I was able to scrape together the funds from donations to go. If you were following my Green Day Mind Twitter feed, I shared some snaps and whatnot of the four Frustrators gigs from 2/18-2/24 at 924 Gilman in Berkeley, the Phoenix in Petaluma, the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, and the Phenomenaut’s Command Center in Oakland. The Frustrators were joined by some amazing East Bay and Los Angeles-based bands as well as the legendary New York City-based crusty punks, Star Fucking Hipsters. I also got to see Prince in Oakland, too.
Extra Special Thanks to Christian!
Thank you, Shannon, Mel, Mary, David, Eileen, and most especially, Christian, for your help. I’ve got a couple of Frustrators buttons and one Jason Chandler-created show flyer for each of you who helped as a small token of my appreciation. Needless to say, it was one of those weeks filled with music and great people, as well as some hardcore injuries that I suffered, including a thrice-stomped on pinkie toe at Gilman (most likely targeted by vicious Gilman waifs, lol), a bum back, and a black eye. Yep… I got punched in the face at the Frustrators’ last East Bay show at the Command Center. All I can say is… what a wonderful time it was… oh and as usual, this post is long. Deal with it!
Get Me to the Gilman on Time
Frustrators at Gilman - 2/18/11 - Flyer by Jason Chandler
Getting to the East Bay could have been more stressful than it was. In fact, it was beginning to look that way as the Frustrators gigs were planned around the President’s Day holiday on 2/21, and that means a three-day weekend which means the ridership of airplanes goes up triple-fold and the stand-by seats that I fly on go down by as much. As the time to fly got nearer (2/18), the standby seats diminished, as would my hopes of going to the shows if something quite strange hadn’t happened. The Sunday before I was to leave, a friend sent me a message saying she dreamt about me hugging someone in greeting with sheer joy in seeing that person or persons again. She apparently often has such dreams, but usually they come with a more ominous nature to them, and she relayed that the dream was one of the happiest that she had ever had about people. I took it as a sign that I would get out to California, but exactly when was another story.
I was fifth of five on the standby list for the 6:50 AM flight out of Newark airport. The direct flight ended up being late, full, and re-directed from a direct flight to a refueling stop in Denver due to strong headwinds in the Southwest. I moved up to fourth on the standby list after the original fourth dude stormed off when told that the flight was full instead of waiting until the airplane doors closed, the real final say to not getting on the plane. This turned out to be the luckiest move of the day. Though there were chances of flights connecting through Houston to San Francisco, or waiting for the next direct flight, I didn’t want to think about that possibility, so I hoped for this flight. The gruff desk folks grumbled their way through the passenger list (they were having a rough morning due to the delays and such). They finally got to the standby list… and called the very last name… mine. I hopped up, got my boarding pass, talked with the other stand-byers on how lucky we were, stored my bag, sat in my pretty good seat, and promptly fell asleep.
The flight was non-eventful and smooth despite the weather and the stop in Denver. We got to San Francisco Airport a little than it was originally due, and being San Francisco, it was rainy and cold when we landed. I took the BART from the airport to the Alamo Car Rental place on Mission, where I rented a deposit-less car for 1/2 the price than at the airport. It was a cute little economy powerless steering Ford that got me around the Bay perfectly for $221 for six days with insurance. My R/T airfare was $210. I stayed with friends. I ate at Burger King. At lot.
I plugged my iPhone into the car’s audio system, blasted the Frustrators’ Griller, got my bearings and as I drove across the Bay Bridge, I started to cry a little bit. The tensions of the week, despite the happy and encouraging dream of my friend, overwhelmed me, as did the beauty of the Bay. The East Bay is where I want to die one day, so it’s always hard to visit knowing that I’ll have to eventually leave.
I arranged to meet them around 4:00 at the Pyramid, the bar/restaurant across the street from 924 Gilman, that night’s show venue. It was still raining out but there were about 20 people standing in line for the 7:00 PM doors to open. I grabbed a table inside, ordered a quesadilla and a beer and waited for Michelle and Nicole. They finally arrived, along with Nicole’s friend, Elizabeth, a New Jersey transplant now living in the Bay area, and we talked about our trips, laughed and got drunk since you can’t get drunk in the no-alcohol Gilman venue. As time wore on, other people who I’ve met on my Green Day adventures came through to use the bathroom, including Jordan, Beth S. Hannah and Lulu, who all live in California. It was great to see them.
Part of the Gang
We eventually paid our bill and headed to line up about 6:30. There I saw Amber from Tennessee, ToniAnn, Fallyn and Mary from New York, Tony from England, Doc Kerry and the Aussies, and Justin, who now happily lives in the Bay after escaping the confines of Utah. It was freezing, but the doors finally opened, and the losers like me bought our monthly cards for Gilman while the cool kids already with cards lined up to pay for their tickets in another line. There was a short kid about the age of 12 helping sell member cards, who kept making snide remarks about the new people, in essence, snide remarks about Green Day. It got to the point where I just wanted to punch his little face in, but hey, the sign on the door does say something about no violence, so I made a few snide comments under my breath. He was showing his elitism and arrogance, two traits that I’ve found are way too prevalent at Gilman for me, and I was so tired that I had no patience for some child’s crap. I must remember that Gilman is stupid like that and move on. It’s a great place with a bad attitude.
Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
All of the Frustrators shows from the Bay to LA held a bevy of talented bands and acts. I was impressed with each night’s lineups and all of it was due to one incredible guy, Corbett Redford III, of Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits. He put together four nights of great bands at wonderful venues and he and Dan Abbott of Bobby Joe Ebola were MCs to each night’s show. The fantastic lineups were primarily local California bands from the Bay and Los Angeles with the exception of New York’s Star Fucking Hipsters. The bands ranged from young punks like Disabled Intent, the Pillowfights, and Emily’s Army to mid-known bands like the Bombpops, Mystic Knights of the Cobra and Bryan McPherson to more well-known names such as the Billybones, Kepi Ghoulie, and of course, the Phenomenauts and a special appearance by Jesse Michaels with Classics of Love. Major kudos to Corbett for his putting together the week’s lineups and herding a bunch of punks, both not easy tasks, by far, to do.
For this night’s show, the first band up, Disabled Intent, impressed me from the word “go” with their young chops. The lead singer/bassist was very engaging and they did an amazing cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” that completely worked and held the audience enthralled. I wish I had taped it as the song is one of my favorites from last year, and the band translated it well to the punk format.
Sometime after their set, I started to look around for one of my favorite all-time people, Jason Chandler, lead singer of the night’s headlining Frustrators. Chandler created the “Rocktober” logo for the giant meet-up of Green Day fans that happened in England during their tour leg through Europe. I had gotten my Rocktober (which technically doesn’t refer to that band but to “Godzilla Doesn’t Understand Korean,” uh…) hat to wear at the two O2 shows in London. I wore it the last time I went to Gilman to see PHGP, losing it in the crowd at one point only to find it bedraggled outside the venue, across the street and under a car. Once the Frustrators started talking about making a new record, I asked him if I could write about it, and have continued to write about them since. The irony and wit of Frustrator’s lyrics speaks volumes to me and I always get a good laugh on their Facebook page as well. I met up with him in San Francisco when I was there for an extended trip last September. We sat and talked and laughed for a little bit in a bar early in the morning and drank Irish coffee while watching some tourists’ illegally and just-parked car get towed by the police. Good times.
Frustrators - BillyBones Tour Shirt - Design by Otis Link
I didn’t see him as I made my way to the merch table, where I eyed not only the great merch created by Chandler for the Frustrators, but also the tour shirt that the Billybones band had made for their Frustrators/Billybones tour. I coveted it from the moment that I saw it on the Billybones’ Facebook page. Don’t get me wrong, I coveted a lot of the other merch, too, particularly Chandler’s t-shirt and hat designs, but there was something about “The Credibility of Stupid” shirt (if I heard correctly, the title of the Billybones’ upcoming album), that spoke volumes to me. There were only 96 of them made, too. I bought one and headed out the back door of Gilman to put it in my car.
Outside, people and band entourages were gathered under a tent to smoke and shoot the shit, but there was no sign of the Frustrators that I could see around. They had come earlier in the day to unload their stuff and weren’t back yet. I stored stuff in the car and then back into Gilman, stopping to warm up under the giant heater near the front door. I headed toward the merch table again when, I saw him! The J-Man Grilla Gorilla himself, Jason! He looked up and saw me, too, and the hug I got was probably one of the best hugs I’ve ever had in my life. Warm, friendly, funny, and full of love, particularly when I told him that our good friends from across the Big Pond in England who have known him through Frustrators forums and Facebook for many more years than I have, but have never gotten the chance to meet him, Netty, Lis, and Sharon, wanted me to give him a giant monkey hug from them, too. My friend’s dream from earlier in the week of greeting someone in sheer joy and happiness had completely come true.
Jason and the Aussies - Photo: Kerry Harris
Weird and wonderful. This tour was like that for everyone. The Frustrators, Mike, the giant “we worship you” rockstar, Terry, the crazy-eyed shredder guitarist, Art, the quiet power and not-feeling-well drummer and Jason, the reluctant-but-loving-it frontman, opened up their hearts and love for music, laughter, small venues, and people throughout the Bay tour. They were so damned happy to play together again after such a long hiatus that it was infectious, like a disease. If I had to choose a name for the entire portion of the tour that I followed, it would have to be something like “Frustrators Love of Fun Disease Tour 2011” or some variation thereof.
We talked for a moment about how nervous he was. It had been a long time since he sang in front of an audience, and from previous conversations, he was concerned about whether his voice would hold up throughout the week. I felt a little awkward trying to avoid an impending fangirl moment, so I left him there as the next band, The Pillowfights, were about to start. They were cute and quirky, and as their name implies, they brought pillows to… uh… fight with. They threw them out into the audience, and it was funny, but I don’t know if they were prepared for what happened next: the waifs of Gilman tore their pillows apart, leaving them in shreds with pillow stuffing all over the place, on the stage, on the floor, even hanging from the ceiling. Oh Gilman, slay those pillows!
The Pillowfights – “Talk Shit Get Hit” – 924 Gilman 2/18/11 – Bring them new pillows at their next show – See request on their Facebook page.
Next up was Emily’s Army, whose drummer is some famous dude’s son, but really, every time I see this band play (it was my second time, the first being at The Bowery Electric in April 2009), I am impressed by how that doesn’t matter. These guys get tighter and tighter as a band and as performers, and as I’ve written before, I look forward to their potential long careers in the music industry.
Emily’s Army – 924 Gilman 2/18/11 – And the pillow stuffing keeps flying joined by toilet paper!
Emily's Army - 924 Gilman - 2/18/11 - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Mike - Just Hangin' - Photo: Kerry Harris
Their set was vibrant and the Green Day fans and Gilman waifs alike were having a giant mosh fit, and yes, there was pillow stuffing still all over the place joined by toilet paper. Their set ended and folks milled around again and at some point Mike jumped behind the merch table to sell stuff and talk with the fans. Unlike back at Gilman when Billie Joe performed with PHGP, there was a much more relaxed atmosphere around him, a tentativeness at first from fans to go up and speak with him, but the longer he stayed there, the more people came up to talk with him. Like Billie Joe at Gilman, the vibe that he gave off was not a superstar’s vibe, but one of genuine down-homeyness, a mellowness that attracted even moreso than his newly dyed-hot pink hair, which shined like a beacon everywhere he went.
The Billybones were up next and I had never seen them perform. I met the lead singer, Steven William Fortuna, aka Billy Bones, very briefly when I ran into Kevin Preston of Prima Donna and him at Green Day’s show in Irvine. He certainly looked like the seasoned punk rock star who’s been around since the late-1970s when he was in one of Los Angeles’s first punk bands, The Skulls. Kevin not only was in a 2000 formation of the Skulls, but also produced the Billybones’ 2008 7″ We’re Selfish. I was sitting and talking with Elizabeth when Billy Bones and his band walked into Gilman before their set, and Billy, who was probably one of the oldest people at Gilman, really stood out in the crowd. He had the air of punk legend about him because, well, y’know, he is a legend, and still rocks out, giving a dynamic performance that stirred the crowd up to no end. Sadly, there’s no video footage that I can find of the band from Gilman. But Michelle Lawlor of Lucky 17 Photography captured them perfectly through her photos at her blog.
Eight Years is a Long Time…
Frustrators - 924 Gilman - 2/18/11 Photo by Michelle Lawlor
If the headlining band was nervous, they didn’t show it. As the Frustrators got ready to perform onstage together in front of an audience for the first time in eight years, what was there to be nervous about? Well, a lot, but the excitement in the room compensated for any nerves as a room full of Frustrators (and of course, Mike Dirnt) fans were excited as hell to hear songs from the band’s first two recordings, Achtung Jackass and Bored in the USA as well as the new Griller, for the first time in years.
They ripped right into the set’s first song, “I Slept with Terry.” The Frustrators had warned on their Facebook page that anyone who dared to be at stage front better know the lyrics to the song, and the crowd huddled around Jason’s feet didn’t disappoint. And it was a good thing, because at times, Jason barely remembered the lyrics to some of the songs himself. Luckily, he got better as the week went by, ha!
Jason's Gilman Setlist - Not too practical, but it worked for him - Until the tea and sweat got in the way!
Jason announced the next song from the setlist written on his hand (YFrog photo here), “Trout,” recorded for an Adeline Records compilation “Might as Well, Can’t Dance” over a decade ago. I haven’t heard the song too many times played forward… it’s also on the band’s Achtung Jackass, but recorded backwards. “Tuort” is the one I’m used to. I asked Jason once why they recorded it backwards for Achtung Jackass and he said that they thought it “sounded as good backwards as it does forwards.” Well, I’m going to have to agree with that, so it was great to hear it in the forward position. Terry gave the first of many guitar thrashing moments at the foot of the stage, and it was fun to throw our hands up in the air and worship his guitar power chords. It was just about this time of the night that the Gilman crowd started to go completely wild in the moshpit, joined by Emily’s Army, the Pillowfights and Disabled Intent. I received the first of THREE TREMENDOUS STOMPS on the same pinkie toe… and while I winced in pain the first time, by the third time, I had to leave the dance floor as it felt like my toe had burst like a grape. I swear those Gilman waifs targeted my pinkie toe on purpose!
Might as Well, Can't Dance - Adeline Records Compilation 008
After “Trout,” the band asked for more drums and less snare in the monitor, and Jason said, “can we get more applause in the monitor, too,” and of course, the obliging crowd did as commanded. The next song up was “Stigma” from the new Griller, and Mike and Jason joked that the song was off their new “1/2 of an album” and that they only released four songs after eight years because “We love you that’s why we give you half of what we have” and that “We love you like a family, that’s why we give you half of what you deserve.” And all the while, Jason kept wiping the sweat off his brow thereby destroying the setlist written on his hand.
Mike Let's the Kids Play with Stanley - 924 Gilman - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
From there, Mike told the story of the song, “.25,” and of having to have someone put a bullet through the head of his 17-year old Japanese Akita dog after it got a bad case of mange, told with jazz interlude by the band. When the audience went “eeww,” Jason had to tell everyone that the “dog was fine,” but when you hear the song, well… you know, the dog wasn’t fine in the end. Heck, all good things must end, y’know? Afterwards, Stanley the Chicken made his stage entrance as Mike told the audience that they could play with Stan, so it was all good again as the band moved into “My Best Friend’s Girl.” I heard that later on in the tour, Mike realized that the story of his dog depressed people. I’m sure, though, that it wasn’t as depressing as having to actually put your dog down like that. And at least we get a great song out of it.
Don't let him fool ya! He's a rock star! - Jason Chandler - 924 Gilman - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
The next song, “Hide and Seek,” about working and not working at the same time, is pretty much the story of my life and it was followed by “Stupid,” with its refrain of “I feel stupid.” Yep. Both of ’em pretty much sum me up in a nutshell. The rest of the set went by in a blur since sometime between “Stupid” and “Pirate Song,” (an incredibly fun song to dance and scream the super-fast pirate lyrics to), I got my pinkie toe crushed for the second and third times. The third time, I had to leave the pit and I headed toward the backdoor of Gilman, standing between the door and the merch table and wincing in sheer pain. I’m pretty good in pits and I’m been known to throw down in the craziest of them, but having the same pinkie toe stomped by coincidence was weird. I was sure that if I looked at my toe at that point it would be a bloody burst of mess. So, instead, I didn’t look at it and pretended to be cool in the corner when all I wanted to do was scream in pain.
Mike's Gilman Setlist - Photo by ToniAnn Graffigna
The gig ended and the band had successfully gotten through their first live show in a thousand years, and they and the audience, were happy as clams. The bands hung out and talked with fans and sold merch, and eventually the night ended and we all said our goodbyes. Besides the music, the funny quips were what I loved the most about seeing the band, as Mike, Terry and Jason were full of one-liners throughout this and all of the shows. It’s kinda what I love about their music, the hint of intelligence, the whimsy of seriousness, the storytelling of odd situations, irony, laughter and a throbbing beat with a good sing-along melody. Having fun is the best disease of all.
The Frustrators recruited Greg Schneider to film the week’s shows and hopefully, one of these days, if we’re lucky, God willing and the crick don’t rise (heck, we’re still waiting on the new Frustrators website!), we’ll get to see the tour as well as back and front stage antics professionally filmed and edited. Though, if we have to wait eight years for it, we will all be awfully frustrated. Until such time comes, enjoy the HueyCam videos below of part of the show.
Frustrators at 924 Gilman – HueyCam – Pt. 1
Frustrators at 924 Gilman – HueyCam – Pt. 2
Stay Tuned for More Frustrators…
Stayed tuned for more about the shows… as soon as I get around to writing about them! Sorry that this is so long. I’ve said before how much I need an editor! Feel free to share your memories of this show if you were there in the comments!
I also have one copy of the Frustrators’ Griller that I’ll be giving away next week, so, brush up on your Frustrators history if you want to win it!
Mike Dirnt of Green Day and the Frustrators answers original questions! Interview by DJ Rossstar of the Punk Rock Show – Dr. Strange Records Frustrators In-Store, 2/26/11
Jnine F. went to the meet and greet and posted a few pictures.
Jnine with Jason Chandler and Mike Dirnt, Frustrators, Dr. Strange Records In-Store, 2/26/11
Mike Dirnt with Jnine - Frustrators Dr. Strange Records In-Store, 2/26/11
In other Frustrators news, Jnine posted an article about snow and hail hitting Los Angeles yesterday… just about the same time that the Frustrators are touring, two events that no one thought would ever happen. Hell may have just frozen over in both regards. Indeed, I’m sure there is a correlation!
Tonight the Frustrators play their final California tour gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Bands include the Phenomenauts, Billybones and Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits. It’s going to be an amazing show!
Terry was interviewed recently by Amp Magazine and he was asked if the band had other plans for 2011. He said: “We’ve already started working on our next full length and will do east coast dates to support that record.” All I can say is: YES! EAST COAST!
I’m writing up my blog post about the Bay shows, so stay tuned. I just got back into town on Thursday, and hopefully will write about it by the middle of next week! If you’re going to the Troubadour tonight, have an excellent time!
Enough about fans and all that! Let’s get back to some music, shall we? NAMELY… THE FRUSTRATORS!
The Frustrators (Mike Dirnt, Jason Chandler, Terry Linehan and Art Tedeschi) released three videos, one :36 second, one :35 second and one :34 second snippets from their upcoming new 4-song EP, Griller: “Stigma,” “West of Texas, Pt. II” and “Prettiest Girl,” a Neighborhoods cover which introduces a new character from the pantheon of Jason Chandler’s creations, Joy McQueefy!
‘Prettiest Girl” feat. Joy McQueefy. Find her on Facebook! Poor Joy needs some friends! She only has two and one isn’t Stanley!
“Stigma” Video Tease — Hey, there’s Stanley!
“West of Texas, Pt. II” Video Tease — Hey! It’s the BAND!
For a limited time, you can also hear the full version of “Stigma” at AltPress.com (Ignore the comments, apparently everyone thinks the name of the band is Green Day…).
I listened to “Stigma” like… a bunch of times when it was posted on AltPress, and I gotta say, I’m loving it. Their sound is a little different from their first two records, a tad more mature, though still filled with irony. I can’t wait to hear the last installment from Griller, “We Need To Talk (It’s Not Us, It’s You).”
I highly recommend that you head on over to Gabriel Kerplunk’s Fansite. Gabriel has been putting up a lot of images, dates, and updates in one place about the Frustrators.
I Hate the Frustrators Cause I Can't Go To THEIR Website Yet!
The Frustrators themselves will reignite their own website as soon as Jimmy Zeus cleans Jason Chandler’s cage! Which actually may take at least a couple of more days…
In the meantime, Dr. Strange wants to remind you that their in-store meet and greet with the Frustrators will happen on February 26th at Dr. Strange Records located at 7136 Amethyst Ave. in Alta Loma, CA 91737 USA at 12PM … It kinda surprises me that it’s so early in the afternoon because I’m sure that the Frustrators will just barely be waking up (if they sleep at all) from the gig the night before in Santa Barbara at Velvet Jones… and I’m sure they’ll all be wearing pants.
Gabriel Kerplunk kerplunked the Frustrators yesterday by posting images of the awesome cover art from the upcoming versions of the band’s vinyl EPs, even before the band posted them! The Frustrators themselves posted the vinyl covers, both of which are below, shortly thereafter. Love ’em! Enjoy!
Special thanks to Team Spider for sending in the video below!
Team Spider is a local punk bike activist group here in New York City. They are hardcore proponents of the right to free assembly, and are participants in the Critical Mass bike rides that take place here in the city and around the world. I believe that they are also part of Time’s Up, a local environmental direct action group here in New York, and participate in the heart of New York’s punk scene, C-Squat on Avenue C. I’ve been to C-Squat a few times lately, and have seen some excellent shows. While I stick out like a sore thumb, being that the venue is crusty punk, and I’m totally a middle-aged woman trying to hold onto youth, lol, everyone has always been super nice and friendly. I admire their stance, and frankly, courage, in regards to life. I couldn’t live the life, but I have to say thanks to such groups who keep it real, taking action against what they see as injustices in the world in regards to social issues.
Anyway, they got Front Row AA tickets to American Idiot recently. While they did not enjoy the show as much as a fan of it would like them to, they did take a great video of Mike Dirnt playing with Billie Joe Armstrong on 1/22/11 at the St. James Theater.
Special thanks to Team Spider for sending in the video!
In reading their review, looking at it as they do from the stance of street activism and the life of punks, they take exception to a lot in the show. In fact, they hate it! And it’s ok. Not everyone will love American Idiot, and surely, some folks won’t even like it. I remember the first time that I saw it in Berkeley, I had such conflicts with the production that I had to get drunk that first night in September 2009. Since then I’ve fallen in love with the production, but it’s taken me a long time to reconcile my not-so-in-love-with-Broadway feelings to my so-in-love-with-the-music feelings. Most of all, I go for the music, which has always been the star of the show to me, even beyond Billie Joe making his appearances as St. Jimmy. I’ve also been able to see how the performers have developed their characters, and to appreciate the hybrid opera/concert/musical experience.
Of course, I wish Team Spider had liked it, but looking at the show from a real-life view from the street, any production on Broadway is so far away from C-Squat on Avenue C, that I’m just glad that they went! I would take exception to one thing, though: I don’t think that Green Day did American Idiot on Broadway for the money, which is just another way to accuse them of selling out. I do think they did it for the love of creating. Of course, money doesn’t hurt, but for a production that has barely made its initial costs back (and I’m assuming that it has by now) hasn’t made its initial costs back at this point, implying that they possibly did it for money is pretty far from the truth. Though of course, royalties are always cool.
Yesterday, 1/21, the Frustrators™ revealed the title of their new 7″ four-song EP! And not only did they reveal the title, but they revealed the awesome cover art as well! And not only that, but they revealed a completely mind-blowing lineup of fellow East Bay musicians who are hitting the road with them in February!
All of this stuff at once would usually point toward only one conclusion, but don’t worry, it’s probably not another sign of the Apocalypse!
Instead, it’s a nice sign that we’re all a few steps closer to actually hearing the new EP from Mike Dirnt, Jason Chandler, Art Tedeschi and Terry Linehan!! In fact, the EP will be released on CD, FEBRUARY 15th, on vinyl, FEBRUARY 18th, and other digital formats on FEBRUARY 22. WOOT! The vinyl will be released through Dr. Strange Records and the CD and digital formats through Adeline Records.
I have to admit, I was a little stumped when I read about the EP title, unexpectedly announced by the California mini-tour MCs, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, early yesterday. I was like, Griller? Eh? That’s the album title? WTF?
The Frustrators™ Facebook page was having yet another crazy conversation, this one about potential titles, and no one was making guesses anywhere close to that (lots of ball jokes, though). Jimmy Zeus gave a cryptic clue: “Well our other two EPs have titles that make fun of overexposed top-40 monuments to over-production…” I had no idea what he was talking about until I remembered that their first and second recordings are named after albums by Bruce Springsteen and U2, namely, Born in the USA and Achtung Baby.
This all happened before I briefly saw the EP cover art later in the day, and couldn’t pay attention to it long enough to catch what was going on with the title. It had been a busy day and then I tried to win lotto tickets to American Idiot at night. I didn’t win the lotto and that’s ok, because it’s so frikking cold outside, I’m just glad I got home before the temperature hit the freezing mark.
When I finally got home and sat on my couch, I saw the awesome cover art that “make[s] fun of overexposed top-40 monuments to over-production…,” this particular top-40 monument being the late, great, and strange… Michael Jackson, or more specifically, his 1982 album, Thriller.
After eight long years of waiting, the Frustrators™ finally bring you brilliant, and dare I say, sexy (ooh, Stanley! your hot!), new cover art by the creators of those classic recordings, ACHTUNG JACKASS and Bored in the U.S.A. (which certainly aren’t monuments to over-production… or any production, actually… I kid, Denny!) Griller:
Ooh, that Stanley, he's a... Griller - EP Cover Art Courtesy of the Frustrators
Maybe it's just a thing about Vegetarianism and not Michael Jackson. But I doubt it.
Yes, it took me a teeny bit of time to realize what I was seeing and then I… cracked up with laughter… and some horror… or maybe I was just feeling a little thrilled!
Now, if the music is as good and irreverent as the artwork, I’d be way happy!
Stanley is one sexy chicken (or is he a cock?) on the album cover! However, I’m not sure if I should eat him or rescue him from the grill. Alas, unlike some members of the Frustrators™, I am not a vegetarian. Sigh.
After the jump, read more about the EP, the record release, and the hot-shit lineup packed with a week’s worth (2/18-2/27) of outstanding shows in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And… SEE A PREVIEW OF OTHER NEW ARTWORK FROM THE FRUSTRATORS™ LEAD SINGER JASON CHANDLER FOR THE COVER OF BOBBY JOE EBOLA’S EP, MEAL DEAL WITH THE DEVIL COMING SOON!
Frustrators in the Studio! OK, sorta kinda - Exclusive Photo Courtesy of Frustrators Monkey Manager, Jimmy Zeus (aka Jason Chandler)
The Frustrators’ Facebook page lit up last week with the hot cigar glow of the band’s monkey manager, Jimmy Zeus, heralding news that band members Terry Lineham and Art Tedeschi had outed fellow band members Jason Chandler and Mike Dirnt by announcing something awfully special… A NEW FRUSTRATORS 4-SONG EP coming soon! Yeah, I know you’ve heard that before, but apparently this time, it’s really going to happen!
Stanley the Chicken, Booking Agent, is Uber Excited (Fake Stanley Courtesy of Amy Hettrick)
Fervent followers of Mike Dirnt’s side project band whooped it up something fierce and spread the news far and wide that the Frustrators, rumored since early 2010 to be recording in the studio bunker, were at it in full force. And by full force, that means, well, actual new songs on both vinyl and CD! The EP’s title hasn’t been announced yet, but the vinyl will have different art work from the CD. Art Tedeschi has created a sculpture of Frustrators mascot booking agent, Stanley the Chicken, for the vinyl that will be different from the CD cover art version.
I tracked down Jason Chandler through Zeus, who forced him to stop working for just one damn moment to share the following with you all:
Here’s an exclusive photo fer ya! It’s us in the Static Room mixing with our engineer pal Denny Muller. He doesn’t actually wear overalls and a red handkerchief all the time, that’s just an old stereotype which has no place in the 21st century and I include myself in this.
The EP itself is coming along swimmingly, we’re scrambling on the final CD mastering and artwork right now which is fun really. And the vinyl stuff is already at the press. But manufacturing and printing take time. Hopefully all our new-found Facebook fans will still be around in a month or so, but attention is fickle and I assume that we’ll lose a good chunk of them to Angry Birds, etc.
We also started a twitter account (@Frustrators) so let the sexting begin! Actually I’m not quite sure how it works, but I figure if a celebutard can do it, so can I.
As for Stanley and his pals, you should try to get in touch with Stanley directly at his Facebook account. (He’s my friend so you could probably just sneak in a browse through my address book to find him. My face is an open book.) I don’t want to violate his privacy. [Note from GDM: oops, I linked to Stanley’s page… do chickens really have privacy?]
Not only should we expect the new EP to be mastered and out the door, but there’s also rumors of gig dates coming up, too! I smell a giant Frustratorhead meet-up in the near future as the Frustrators haven’t played a gig since the early dawning of the new Millennium. We’re all ready for a hot flash of frustration and if all goes well, Green Day Mind will see you there!
I’ve noted a few times over the last year when a specific segment of Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdowntour ended [LINK HERE], and this time, it’s the complete end of the tour. Green Day finished off their tour last Friday in Costa Rica and did an amazing bunch of old songs, including a full band version of “Christie Road,” and “Brat” and probably the most rare song of them all, “I Was There.” [SEE SETLIST HERE] According to DJ ROSSSTAR, a mega-fan and host of LA’s The Punk Rock Show [LINK HERE], the band hasn’t performed “I Was There” since John Kiffmeyer left the band as Green Day’s drummer. I would have hocked my Grandma to be there in Costa Rica to hear that one live, but alas, I was not there.
While Billie Joe and the band absolutely hates Youtube and concert videos, I hope that one pops up of “I Was There.” Unfortunately at this point, the only videos that have turned up on Youtube have been of the set’s regular mainstays. Though one person did capture “Christie Road” so far. It’s not the best of recordings, as happens on Youtube, but I literally cried hearing it, but hey, that’s just me.
I’ll Meet You at Christie Road – Green Day in Costa Rica – christian1449
If “I Was There” pops up on the ‘tubes, I’ll probably have to go to the insane asylum and complete my personal 21st century breakdown there.
This is the Future
There is plenty more in the future to come from Green Day, so even if the tour is over, let’s not be sad, let’s celebrate it, not mourn it. In fact, pretty soon, we will be able to look forward to a few things over the next year including:
*Some time in the next year, Green Day will release a new live album featuring songs from the band’s 21st Century Breakdown Tour. Maybe a DVD, too!
*Green Day is already working on a new album.
*American Idiot on Broadway is extended to the end of April 2011, as a new batch of tickets for the show were recently released. For more information on tickets sales, go the official American Idiot on Broadway site.
Who knows what else the band has in store for us, too? Heck, maybe a little Foxboro Hot Tubs record? Maybe Billie Joe will go back to Broadway for a bit? Maybe Mike Dirnt and his bandmates, Jason Chandler, Art Tedeschi and Terry Lineham, from The Frustrators will finish their new album, too! So, don’t be sad, be happy! Celebrate the future! It is bright!
Green Day Fans Celebration on May 28, 2011
Coming up for fans in May 28, 2011, there will be a huge Green Day fan and environment celebration, put together by fans for fans! The event is still in the planning stages, so I don’t have much to write about so far, but once there are final details, I’ll post something about it. The Green Day Authority may also be providing information on this event, too.
The Future of Green Day Mind
Just a note on this blog: I said I was going to end the blog when the tour ended, but I’ve decided instead to expand it a bit beyond Green Day and write about other bands, theatrical events, and just plan life crap, too. So, if you have enjoyed anything from this blog over the last months, please continue to visit and thanks for stopping by. I’ve always appreciated the positive feedback I’ve gotten from the blog, and your comments have always made my day. If you’d like to write anything about bands, fanzines, concerts, crazy theater or anything of the like, feel free to send in stuff. While I may not use everything depending on the writing and the topic, I’d love to share the best of your opinions, new discoveries of bands and events, and happy fan stuff, Green Day-related and otherwise. Thanks!
Some Dude, aka, Billie Joe Armstrong - American Idiot Talkback, 9/19/10 - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Three Points - Brooklyn, Wednesday, 9/14/10 - Photo by GDM
Last week in New York began with a storm, literally. On Tuesday, September 14th, 2010, the day that Billie Joe Armstrong was to attend the first of a series of five American Idiot University Talkbacks — opportunities for students to hear the creative team and cast talk about the show and ask questions (a tradition on Broadway) — tornadoes touched down in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. The storm devastated the trees of our city landscape and caused a hella lot of damage. I can’t say it’s because Billie Joe, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool swept into town that day; they were already here. Billie Joe appeared at the Stand Up 2 Cancer telethon on Friday, September 10th, 2010. [VIDEO/DONATE HERE] On Monday, September 13th, 2010, Green Day, along with touring musicians, Jason White, Jason Freese and Jeff Matika, and the full cast of American Idiot performed “Last of the American Girls” at New York Jets stadium in New Jersey. [AUDIO/VIDEO HERE] I was originally unsure about the choice of songs until I saw the performance. LOTAG at a football game? Come on, it’s about girls, but frankly, it’s about powerful girls, and women that can blow up cars with the strength of their thoughts; have you seen the music video of it? Who needs football when you have that kind of power! [VIDEO HERE]
Green Day and Cast - New York Jets Stadium Opening - Photo GDA Picture Vault
Green Day and the cast sounded great, with the women of the cast surrounding the band, singing in harmony with Billie Joe’s lead and adding some intricate melodies (Tom Kitt arranged, perhaps?), even if their mics were a bit low. The boys of the American Idiot show? They were relegated to the back risers, rocking out and trying not to fall off at the same time. Billie Joe sounded, and frankly, looked, great. Like a rock star, cause he is one.
Billie Joe with PBR Cans for Autographs - Photo by Green Day Mind
There is another side to the dude, though, and over five nights, despite having a head cold, and ending with a huge appearance at the 92StY in a talk with Jujamcyn Theaters president, Jordan Roth, and AI director, Michael Mayer, Billie Joe Armstrong donned his flannels and his old man Kangol hat (which covered up the remaining vibrant and brassy blond still at the ends of his hair) and sat down and just talked about American Idiot, the album, and American Idiot, the Broadway show. Like a dude, who happened to have a show on Broadway, and feeling, in his own words, like a rookie again.
I would love to sit down and have a small group conversation with Billie Joe Armstrong about theater and performance. I love the theater, particularly experimental theater or anything that pushes the performance edge, but alas since that has a slim, if not zero percent, chance of happening, the next best thing was to spend five nights in the St. James Theater, three of them watching American Idiot, five talkbacks, and ending with the 92StY on Sunday, September 19th.
Two Nights with An American Idiot – Berkeley Repertory Theater – September 2009
Heart Like a Hand Grenade
When I saw American Idiot in Berkeley for two nights back in September of 2009, I was worried about two things: that I would hate the show and that my love and sense of experimental theater (which I suffer from acutely), would walk away feeling that the album American Idiot was slaughtered by Broadway. I am not a big fan of Broadway. Too much money and glitz and not enough shows that appeal to my sense of theatrical anarchy. My theater tends to lurk in dark and dank black boxes, with minimal theatrical assets. I’m always looking for the real and the crazy in a show, something that makes me look at the world in a different way, from a different angle. I’m a theater punk, what can I say? Don’t give it to me straight, give it to me strange and odd, is my theatrical motto.
I wrote about the show in a brutally honest way: the book needed growth and character/actor depth, but was essentially solid; the orchestration (and hence the music itself) was the star of the show; there was too much choreography that gave lip service to punk denizens; John Gallagher, Jr. wasn’t bringing the rage and love to the Johnny character; the set was brilliant and video outstanding; the female vocals were fabulous; and the director wasn’t necessarily the right man for the job, but he could sufficiently get the job done. What bothered me most was that the show did not bring the “rage and love” of the iconic heart grenade image of the American Idiot album. I wanted the line, “she’s holding onto my heart like a handgrenade,” made real. Pull that pin out and make it explode, just like the album and the songs as sung live by Green Day do. I wanted that. I didn’t get it from the overall production that first night. I knew, however, that it was in workshop form and still developing, but I was actually a bit panicked about the entire process of seeing the show. I had to have a few drinks afterward and a bit of a cry. [Read GDM Review here: Pt. 1 (Book); Pt. 2 (Arrangement and Cast); Pt. 3 (Choreography and Direction)]
Pull the Pin and See What Happens
On night two, I let the critic and punk theater snob in me go. I listened to the show and watched what I saw onstage from the standpoint of its star, the music and arrangement of American Idiot, and I knew that I would be in love by the time this punk rock opera came to Broadway.
Fast Forward to the Present
The Rookie Again (And What An Outfit) - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Since September 2009, I’ve seen the show a bajillion times on Broadway. I take every opportunity to tell my Broadway and theater friends to go and see it before it closes, which is currently scheduled for the end of January 2011 (though B’way shows can abruptly close prior to their official dates, so see it now!). The reaction from them has been mixed, but the majority are quite taken with it. My friend Yana Landowne, a director in New York City, recently told me that she saw the show and wept at the end. While she wasn’t absolutely familiar with the album prior to seeing the show, she told me that the music combined with the overall design and the enthusiasm of the cast, along with a powerful story of youth setting out on their own and failing, moved her more than anything she’s seen on Broadway in a long time. Yana and I were both members of the theatrical, satirical and political group, Billionaires For Bush during the 00’s, and we fought hard and long to bring the economic realities of the Bush Administration to the attention of America: the man was made by the elite and wealthy of this country and for those same people. His administration had nothing of good for the economic welfare of middle-class and lower middle-class Americans. We thought we could make a difference if we told the people what was happening, but alas, he was elected President again in 2004. For a long while, we felt like (and still do in many regards), utter failures in our attempts at life, just like Johnny, Will, and Tunny, the three lead characters of the show, with one failing at life in the big city, another suffering from being a clueless and stoned unexpected parent, and the third a kid caught up in the shiny glamor of televised reality teevee-war, who looses a leg, but gains the love of an Extraordinary Girl in the process. They left home and loss the game of life, but at the least they tried as hard or well as they could.
Last week, I saw American Idiot three times. By the time the show ended on the second night, from my seat in the balcony, I was crying from the emotional journey of the young adults onstage who had taken the show and pulled the emotional pin out of my bleeding heart. I’ve encouraged Green Day fans to see the show, too. Some of them are super enthusiastic, while others, not so much. I’ve read more than a few Green Day fans who despise the idea of American Idiot being on Broadway. They have only seen clips of the show on Youtube, or the cast singing with the band on the Grammies, the Tonys, or last last week at the New York Jets game, and because of whatever reasons (‘I want to see the band, not those cast members,’ ‘The actors are trying to get famous from Green Day,’ ‘I hate that Broadway musical shit,’ “The music is destroyed’), their minds are closed to the larger picture of what Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer have created: a modern-day opera of immediacy and relevancy that stays true to the music and ideas that we fell in love with from the album in the first place. It doesn’t destroy the original album but brings it literally, to life.
American Idiot University
American Idiot University with Panel and Set - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
The talkbacks during the week of September 14-19th, 2001, were pretty neat. I’ve noted a few times in posts how I sneaked into two of the talkbacks. I even told Tom Hulce that I sneaked into two, treating them as “second-acting it,” used by Broadway-goers to walk into a theater for the second act of a show. He said, “I understand, I’ve first-acted a few shows in my life. Thank you for coming.” I’ve spoken with Michael Mayer and a few of the cast members here and there at various events, but it was the first time that I had spoken with Hulce. Why I told him that, I don’t know, but I have the spirit and mind of Green Day: a tendency to say anything off the top of my head, and sneak to the pit from the lawn if you can; take the rules and bend them if you must. The opportunity to see a bunch of Green Day fans and hear Billie Joe Armstrong talk about the show was too great of an opportunity to let safely pass by.
On Friday, I found myself hanging out with Larry Livermore, along with Tony Anastasi from England, ToniAnn Graffigna from Staten Island, Lauren Banjo from New Jersey and a few other Green Day fans. I mentioned to Larry (who I’ve met here and there at shows in NYC) that I wanted to one day write academically about the show. When I said it, he scoffed under his breathe, and while at the time it hurt a bit, I had to realize who I was talking to, the man who gave the first incarnation of Green Day, Sweet Children and Green Day, their first starts back in day. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, and yes, he’s a punk, and he’s probably heard it all when it comes to Green Day and fans. I’ve often wanted to talk to him about the history of Green Day and East Bay punk, but I’m always afraid of getting that same scoffing reaction, so I never bring it up. Sadly.
David Cote, Time Out New York Head Theater Critic - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
David Cote, the lead theater critic of Time Out New York, moderated the talks. Over the five nights the panel included: Billie Joe Armstrong, director Michael Mayer, lightning designer Kevin Adams and set designer Christine Jones (both Tony Award winners for the show), arranger/orchestrator Tom Kitt, video/production designer Darrel Maloney, assistant choreographer Lorrin Lotarro, costume designer Andrea Lauer, music director Carmel Dean and assistant music conductor, Jared Stein, and actors John Gallagher, Jr., Michael Esper, Stark Sands, Tony Vincent, Declan Bennant, Ben Thompson, Gerard Canonico, Christina Sajous, and Alyssha Umphress. The second and fourth nights of talkbacks, I recorded the audio so that I could remember what was said. SundayMorning6AM from the Green Day Community YouTubed the event on 9/15/10, and you can watch the three parts here: Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 2.
American Idiot University Q&A
Below are paraphrased questions and answers of two of the talkbacks that I attended. I’ve transcribed things as well as possible, but hey, I do not get paid for this, so take it with a grain of salt at how completely accurate exact “ums” and y’knows” are. The majority of questions were asked by Cote. Please note for Green Day fans who may not be familiar with theater jargon, there is technical stuff about theater below in general, i.e., “ownership” means taking the play/musical form within yourself as an actor in a performance, going all out in portrayal of character and script; “movement,” is the contrast between ‘real’ everyday movement and that portrayed as stylized in a show, can be used in dance or non-musical performances as well as musical ones and comes primarily from experimental theater ideas.
I’ve taken the time out to transcribe two of these sessions because I feel it’s really important for Green Day and non-Green Day fans to understand where both Green Day and the cast are coming from… a place of love for what they have created. Of course, for those who haven’t seen the show, many things may not be understandable in terms of the stage action.
Of course, my personal highlight of the entire five nights is that my blog was mentioned as an opening comment on the second night. You can see that below.
Green Day Mind Blog Mentioned at American Idiot Talkbacks. Thank you, David! – Video by sundaymorning6am
Are the characters in the show punks by your definition?
Billie Joe Answers A Question - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Billie Joe:Not necessarily. I don’t think so. It’s like the outcasts come in all different forms, not necessarily a punk rocker, whether you are, I have no idea, all the other alternative lifestyles out there… I think from us, that’s our background for sure, and it’s ground zero for us, and we are like, the mafia, once you think you’re out, you’re back in.
Billie Joe on hearing a workshop of the show for the first time.
Billie Joe: … The first time everyone was sitting down and I didn’t know what to expect and I had a really bad hangover. So, I came in and I watched. We came in on the West Side Highway and it was slow and there was this big… very large man with his asscrack hanging out in a car that was stopped in front of us, ‘What the hell is this guy doing?,’ and we’d go and take off, and we actually get there and uh… I had a bagel and some Advil. So we were watching and all these voices came out with Tom Kitt who did all the musical direction, so all these voices came out, it was like whack-a-mole… y’know, out of nowhere, here’s this voice here and it’s coming all together, and it was just beautiful to hear the arrangements put in that way. And for a while I so wanted to get away from American Idiot because we were doing 21st Century Breakdown, but to hear it performed in that way, was just like, it was totally refreshed. And it was brand new to me.
Can you tell us a little how you first got introduced to American Idiot and what attracted you to it?
Michael Mayer, Director and Book Co-Writer, American Idiot - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Michael Mayer: I listened to the album when it first came out.. and I was driving everyday [in L.A. working on a movie]… and that was the CD I listened to in the car, pretty much non-stop for six weeks. Wherever I left off, I would drive and listen to it on the way back. And after a while I realized I was hearing a story inside it, and listening over and over to it again, and it started calling to me in the same way that a cast recording would call to me, like when I was a little fag back in Rockville MD, when I was listening to live show tunes, “Oh this is my favorite song, this is my favorite song.”… So it was this incredible collection of songs, but the story in it spoke to me, maybe because I’m from Rockville, MD (where one should not go back to) and moved to the city, and was like the character of Jesus of Suburbia, so I related to it. And it seemed really stage-worthy to me, and it felt like a punk rock opera, or rock opera, or something opera-ish.
Can you address the arc of the story, it starts with incredible dissatisfaction with suburban blandness, but ends with a homecoming. As someone that doesn’t speak too well of returning to Rockville, is there a message there?
Michael Mayer: … Where you come from is a little bit of who you are. And something essential gets lost in a person if they look for… something that… can’t be integrated into themselves, and these characters are all in danger of losing themselves. And part of what the homecoming is, is that they come back and reclaim something that is essential about themselves and may be the thing that will bring them to a better future than what they had before their journey.
David Cote to Darrel Maloney, video and production designer on the pattern and chaos of video used in the show.
Darrel Maloney: I think we all knew what “American Idiot” [the song] was going to look like, and how that was going to work, but then after that… I was kinda terrified whether the video screens would stay on after that and what’s that going to be and how people would react in front of this video that was happening. And oddly enough as it went on, we started adding more video, and what I realized was two things that people could [react to]: one was chaos and one was pattern, but if you turned a video monitor on to one side of the theater, people would look there and be distracted, but if you have 43 of them, they could actually sit back and watch all of them as a background to the actor.
Michael Mayer: You know what else was kind of cool that we discovered in the process was finding when the video projection would happen… on the walls, using the whole set as a screen because that changed how we would have to light everything and the staging. We thought early on [in the show] that we would use it more, but decided not until “Holiday,” until we were actually making a movie up there.
Lorrin Lotarro, assistant choreographer,on the rock concert-type movement in the show.
Lorrin Lotarro: We saw Billie Joe jump off the stage and into everybody’s arms and we decided to put that into the show, body surfing… into the show… The thing about [choreographer] Stephen Hoggett that is so brilliant, that he opened up my mind to what movement means, dance is movement, just simple movement, that it doesn’t mean that it has to be technical movement, and we had this group of amazing actors who were great movers, but if you asked them to warm up at the barre [a railing used by ballet dancers for warm-ups], they would bring in some beers. What Stephen did was to create a way of movement that meant something to the actors that everyone could do…. and [was worked on] collectively and collaboratively. Bring two moves into rehearsal that would bring out your idea of living in a small town, punching, anything you want… We faced each other in a circle and taught each other the movement…. The actors felt a real sense of authority, and I’ve never had to give a note on acting full out since they all felt a sense of ownership of the material.
Michael Esper (Will) on the violent (frenetic) movement in the show and how the actors work with it and not twist ankles. Esper noted that he had twisted both of his ankles during the show.
Michael Esper: We do feel a sense a ownership and we’ve created it as a sense of family and we became a family so easily, so it’s easy to… do it together and have a good time. Injuries are all worth it in the end because you are doing American Idiot.
Stark Sands on the development of his character, Tunny, who goes off to fight in the war and takes a wrenching personal journey in the process.
Mayer, Gallagher, Jr., Sands, and Vincent - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Stark Sands: I played a soldier a few times before this, and that really helped me sort of build the ideas of where he’s coming from. I’ve never played someone who joined up, they were already in to it. So that was very interesting investigating what would make someone want to… Michael was really great in helping me and allowing me to build this with his help in deciding why this guy would join up, why he would put himself out there like that. I was too scared to walk onstage and just sing pretty because otherwise… I found a way to make it meaningful for me and hopefully that carries out. It’s a really wonderfully rewarding journey to take, and at the end of it, I feel like I walk away with something… I’ve actually found something to take home and I don’t end up punching and kicking, up on the stage.
Billie Joe: There’s a lot of vets that have come to the show, and I’ve heard a lot of comments about his performance and how they relate to it. I think that’s a big deal, especially with a lot of these guys coming home right now.
John, your character loves and looses in a big way. Do you draw a lot of personal history from that?
John Gallagher, Jr.:Absolutely, as much as you can. In Johnny’s case, it’s rather extreme, I think… Johnny and the other characters are in a state of arrested development where, y’know, I’m 26 years old, and we decided that he’s about 25-26, at this point where he should be in a different kind of place in life, a much more developed and mature place, but for a variety of different reasons, he’s really stunted, he comes from this really broken family. It’s the love story that you find in a lot of adolescent kinds of films or plays or stories, that first love you find when you’re about 17-18 and you fall in love. I don’t think that his character, other than the camaraderie and the love that he shares from his brothers, his best friends, Will and Tunny… I don’t think that he’s ever been shown any real love since his father passed away at a young age. This is the story that we came up with for him, that’s only hinted at in those letters and journal entries. While that is kind of vague… we really wanted to make sure that was solid and that we had a full backstory [an actors ‘blueprint’ to a character]. And in his case, it’s really complicated because when you haven’t been given the tools to figure out how to love someone and be loved, it can be really messy. He’s going through this troubled time with this kind of split personality situation going on with St. Jimmy and this entity that is not real comes between them [Johnny and Whatsername] and ultimately tears them apart. But there is a lot to be learned from the love… and the loss.
The book [story of the show], the lines between the songs as well as the story that actually doesn’t get spoken, is that all from you, Michael? I know that there is a booklet from American Idiot?
Mayer:Once Billie first gave me the permission to go ahead and start dreaming this up in a real way, he made some materials available to me that I didn’t know about, including a special edition booklet of American Idiot [LINER NOTES HERE], that had these letters and journals entries that [Billie Joe] had written. I was like, oh, OMG, this is gold, y’know… I started playing with them right away and at first, I was extremely faithful to where they were in the booklet as they related to the lyrics. And then I started pulling them apart. By the time we came to New York, I gave some of them to the two other guys [Will and Tunny]… it was just Johnny at first… and then we started finding that we needed fewer of them and I basically changed a few little things here and there… but it’s all grounded in those little journal entries.
I want to ask about the audience reaction to the show. What’s the sort of thing that is happening at the stage door with people? What kind of reactions are you getting from fans?
Ben Thompson:[Gets joking sad face] They all hate it, it’s awful. [General awwh and laughter from audience] No, I mean tonight was a great example, you guys were incredibly exuberant, and I’ve found that, generally, to be the case. I’ve said it before, but we have two… main types of people coming to the show, we have theater fans, and then we have Green Day fans. [Wooo! ensues from audience] Many times at the stage door, people will be like, this is my first B’way show, or I’ve never heard their music before. A great example is my dad. He knew who they were from me, but he had never heard their music… and he now owns, I think, every album. So we are making Green Day fans into theater fans and theater fans into Green Day fans, so it’s like two different groups of people who you would never think could exist in the same world, and thanks to Billie and Michael, they do. [Applause]
Billie Joe:Speaking of fathers, Alysha’s dad surprised her the other day with a Green Day tattoo, a really, really, big one. Alysha tried to show us the tattoo on her cellphone; and related that her dad flew in for Monday Night Football and they were having lunch, and he showed her the tattoo. She literally thought that it was a decal at first. It is the Heart/Handgrenade image of American Idiot.
Stark Sands:And speaking of parents, that’s another thing I would add is that in addition to these two types of people that Ben is talking about, one thing that I really notice is that there are parents who bring their kids here who come out and will be very honest and say, “You know, I didn’t think I was going to like this, but it was awesome!” So that was another wonderful thing to change someone’s perspective for their 13th birthday or something.
I remember one of Michael’s previous shows was Spring Awakening. I wrote a book about it [Spring Awakening, In the Flesh by David Cote]. Parents and children talked about it after the show and the show is about adults exploiting children and children rebelling in various ways. In this, we only see the adults, but has there been some kind of dialogue about the world you’ve created?
Spring Awakening: In the Flesh by David Cote
Mayer: I certainly have seen a few conversations about drug use. I have certainly seen a few parents yanking some kids down the aisle when they see the syringe use, they panic a little bit, but the ones who stay, they see that there is a method to our madness in that regard… But other than that, by and large, it really isn’t about a generational disparity. It really isn’t. The adults that are referred to in this play are absent. It’s a very different world… it’s not about that struggle, it’s about people who should have individuated at this point anyway. It’s more about people becoming an adult as opposed to being a kid and moving into adolescence.
David Cote: I heard somewhere that the show has affected you, Billie Joe [Uh, probably he heard it on this blog?] in the sense that you have added the words [Rebecca Naomi Jones’] “Wake Up” to the song “Letterbomb,” live?
Billie Joe:We weren’t even playing Letterbomb. We’ve only played that song a few times since [it came out], but this last tour we ended up adding it, and I just ended up doing it cause Rebecca Naomi Jones is kinda badass…”
Billie Joe on what it is like to have his songs sung by women.
Billie Joe: Yeah… That was… yeah, that was nice. I remember when Mike first heard them and he said, ‘Wow, your songs sound better when they are sung by women.’ … These women can sing like acrobats, and it’s just beautiful…. Y’know… a lot… uh… They sound better than what I do. They are just beautiful singers, all around. Because of the arrangements, you don’t really know… I mean… Me and Mike and Tre are a three-piece and we are fighting to be heard. I think that’s been the main argument of our band, [us fighting to hear who will be louder]. So hearing arrangements with these women singing them, everything is almost like the music is pulled back and the vocals up in front, you just hear… it adds a whole new dimension, dynamic, and range. I mean, they can sing a frigging dictionary, it’s amazing.
WTF? Maloney, Armstrong, Mayer - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Iconic image of the album, a handgrenade with a bloody hand, what is the image about?:Billie Joe:Rage and Love. Heart, pull the pin, it’ll explode.”
Where did the idea come from?
X - Unclogged
Billie Joe:John Roecker [director of Live Freaky!, Die Freaky! and the unreleased Green Day documentary, Heart Like A Hand Grenade],… inspired by an illustration [Roecker] did of a bloody heart on an X album, and the American Idiot cover illustrator, Chris Bilheimer, came up with the image. Michael Mayer asked, “What came first, the lyric or the image?” Billie Joe: “The image came first, and since we had that, we changed the lyrics. In fact, I was talking with [cast member] Alysha Umphress and I told her that some of the lyrics got changed because of the art image and she asked me what lyric got changed and I said, ‘Well, “she’s holding onto my heart like a handgrenade, [laughter] and then I said… that’s uh, pretty much it.”
In terms of the original album, The Wall and Tommy and this show have a view of youth culture as perverted and also an attraction to a messianic figure, a sort of darkness, and militarism. Where the Wall and Tommy influences?
Billie Joe: “Yeah, sure, but I would say even before that… I would also say “A Quick One” by the Who… Every single part of that song is catchy; You take power pop to an extreme level, like a song “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick, super catchy chords, very melodic, three chord mayhem, that’s what’s we were trying to go for, very big, very broad strokes.”
Question for Sands, Gallagher, Vincent, Armstrong from 9/19/10 Talkback “Keeping the energy high, balancing rage and love, St Jimmy, meeting veterans, military and relatives” – NYCForest
Audience Question: Obviously the audience experience is quite different from a rock show vs a musical, and I had a hard time not moving my feet tonight. What do you think is gained in this adaptation to the stage and the audience member’s experience in a rock show and do you think anything is lost between the two?
Billie Joe:It’s just two different things altogether, really, cause it’s more storytelling here, where in a rock show it’s storytelling, but short storytelling or whatever, where people are… it’s just kinda people losing their shit. I would encourage people to do the same thing here, you don’t have to sit down here. Y’know…. I don’t know, I think there was a lot gained in this experience, I don’t think anything was lost. For me, I think the first time I heard it and it was quieter, that was a real adjustment for me, but you have to hear the story, and that was part of the learning process for me.”
Audience Question: The show is very accessible. I’m thinking of the accessibility of the show vs maintaining the edge of the album, which gives the album resonance. Does the accessibility of the show and the reception of the show surprise you in any way? Because I know that as a band, one of the things you thrive on is being on the edge and being actually perceived that way.
Billie Joe:I think that Michael Mayer is on the edge, that’s what I think we share in common. He didn’t want to do anything that was safe, and that’s why I think he got it and he was right, and that’s why he chose us. Yea, I don’t know, I guess, you might as well be dangerous, there’s no other place to be.
Michael Mayer:I think it’s to the extent that we made any accommodation to this venue, it was all in the service of the story, and never about making the story easier. In some cases from Berkeley to New York we made the story more brutal, we had Tunny loose a leg and in Berkeley he was injured in a kind of non-specific way, and that’s something you don’t see too often, in a realistic way, in a Broadway musical.
David Cote: That reminds me of a question from last night when someone asked about “Time of Your Life” being played at the end of the musical, he said it’s like a happy ending.
"That guy was a smartass..." - Photo by Michelle Lawlor
Billie Joe: Well, the funny thing about that song is that it’s not called “Time of Your Life,” it’s called “Good Riddance” and that snarky little bastard (I’ll say it), he was kinda… he was kinda… a cunt. He knew good and damned well what the answer was to that question, he just wanted to be a smartass. It’s an encore. So, the curtain goes down, and everyone has acoustic guitars and that’s sorta like the rock show aspect of it.
Audience Question: Is there some song that you wished had been put into the show?
Billie Joe: I remember Tom Hulce saying that “East Jesus Nowhere” could have made it into the show. Michael Mayer:Hulce’s assistant is still insisting on trying to put it in somewhere in the show.
Audience Question: For Kevin Adams, lighting designer, I was looking around and you have a shitload of [lighting] instruments, and I’m wondering if doing the lighting design for this show was different from other shows and what were the difficulties of moving the show from Berkeley?
Kevin Adams: The hard thing, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but for the past few years, these rock-pop theater shows have been popular, and I have been very lucky to ride that wave. So I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to do Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, Next to Normal, Hair, and this, I think I’ve … so it was just trying to find a way to find different vocabularies for each show. I knew this show was coming up, and I wouldn’t let a bag of tricks, of strobe tricks, that I had be used for Hair because I wanted to use them for this show.
Audience Question: What kind of struggles did you face with trying to develop the album into a stage production, particularly in terms of story and character development?
Michael Mayer:Well, the whole thing was a process, and I wouldn’t say it was a struggle, because it was a beautiful challenge. And I have to say that we all… we had a wonderful time making it. So even where we got stymied at times about how something should look or could function, it was always a groovy experiment, do you know what I mean? That said, I think one of the big challenges was how to parse the lyrics in a way that would make sense as dialogue, monologue, as hallucination, as a source of connection between people that got penetrated by another force coming through at times. How to create true simultaneity, which is one of the great gifts that the design team gave us in this world that can sustain a multiplicity of voices and lives and images and experiences that cascade around each other and impact each other. It was the surgical approach that was a little painstaking. This line has to actually have a question mark… even if you don’t get the rest between that note and the next. That was the trickiest part.
Lauren Banjo, who got Billie Joe to sing the song “Misery” at a soundcheck in Las Vegas last year, asked a question. She wore a tye-die shirt, which is a bit of a running joke between her and Tre Cool, who at the same soundcheck (I think), told her that he ‘hated tye-die and that she couldn’t come to the show unless she changed her shirt.’ So he gave her a Green Day shirt. [Lauren wrote in to say that it was Chris, who ran the Verizon soundcheck contest from last year, the shirt. ] Lauren asked Billie Joe: In 2005, you said in an interview that an American Idiot musical would only happen over your dead body. I have the recording of the interview on my phone if you want to hear it. Billie Joe responded: “Will it be as loud as that tye-die shirt you’re wearing?” Lauren went on to ask why he changed his mind.
Billie Joe Disses Lauren (But hey, the shirt deserved it!) — laurenbanjo
Lauren with Signed Misery Lyrics from Soundcheck in Las Vegas - Photo by GDM
Billie Joe: No, I don’t remember… things come out of my mouth… I can’t even remember… I believe you, you don’t have to play it for everyone… I don’t think it was… we immediately wanted to do it as soon as we were were asked. We were interested in what they had… what Michael had to say. We saw Spring Awakening. We really didn’t know what was going on with musical theater. We saw Spring Awakening, and I was blown away by it. Because it was y’know, something different, y’know, it was new. He’s a revolutionary dude, so…
Audience Question: Was it hard or easy to put the music into a story?
Billie Joe: Making that record was really hard, really difficult to make. If it’s not hard, you’re not doing it right.
Audience Question: How do you as actors prepare for the show?
Ben Thompson: During the rehearsal process, early on, starting at Vassar, our amazing choreographer, Stephen Hoggett, basically put us through boot camp and got us into shape, got our bodies ready for this amazing car wreck. Y’know, I think we each have our own ways of preparing for it. These guys [Gallagher, Esper, Sands, etc] , y’know, their emotional journey that they have to go through every night is a different kind of preparation that is a whole other story. We have a mandatory warmup, which is kind of odd for a Broadway musical. That company that Michael was talking [having been created by the cast in a first workshop stage] about at Vassar… the first five minutes of the warmup, it never fails, [we talk to each other about what happened during the day, even if we just saw each other the night before] and it’s like, ok guys, can we focus, ‘[but] we haven’t seen each other since yesterday!?…’ But the warmup really gets us to start that… unity… that we enjoy.
Audience Question: Since you’re acting opposite St. Jimmy for most of the play, I’m kinda confused. Do you consider him a real character or a feeling? I have also heard another interpretation, that St. Jimmy is like a drug?
John Gallagher, Jr.: That’s a great question. The trickiest part of the rehearsal process… was figuring out the relationship between Johnny and St. Jimmy… What made the most sense was that for the first half of the show is, Johnny is in such a fractured and freaked out place, alone in the big city that he’s come to, doesn’t have any friends, wants to meet girls, he’s feeling like a complete screwup. His buddies, he feels, have abandoned him, and he creates what he needs in that moment, which is… this… protector, and this person to guide him. Guides him down a very dangerous and ultimately, wrong path. I made the choice that Johnny really does think he’s a real person, up until that moment when he says, “It’s time to wake up” after Wake Me Up When September Ends, and he sees St. Jimmy’s face turn into his face on those television sets, it’s that moment where he’s probably sober for the first time in months and realizing… the kind of feeling I read about with a lot of addicts when they look in the mirror and say “That’s not me.” To believe the stakes of the show, Johnny really needs to believe that he’s a real person.
Audience Question: To the cast, how does it feel to be working with Green Day in general?
Alysha Umphress:Amazing. They have been nothing but… so completely generous and involved, I think that has been the best part of it. A lot of times when you have famous people involved in shows, it’s like they show up at opening night and they put their name above the title, and y’know, they take some pictures…. They have been so involved from the very beginning, and it’s been so inspiring, they are amazing. No one can top them.
Audience Question: Billie Joe, how did you reach out to society to write the lyrics to inspire so many?
Billie Joe:How did I reach out to society? I don’t know, um… I’m still struggling with that… rephrase the question… let’s get deep… Audience member: “You write about very important things that are going on in the world. Did you interact with anyone that influenced you to write about these important things?” Billie Joe: I think for me, it was my own confusion about what was going on. I never grew up during a time of war, that kind of chaos, that close to a dictatorship, with a president, ‘he who will not be named’ [Crowd whoops]…. There was a lot of reality television happening at the time. Everyone wanted to see these people who weren’t talented and they just had calf muscles and fake tits and put ’em in a room and eventually, they’ll fuck each other. And then, with this other side, you need this kind of toothpaste or your teeth would fall out. Or your dick’s not gonna get hard because you’re not taking this kind of pill. And then you mix all that in and you see these embedded journalists that were going into Iraq and everything was coming together and seeing this on television. And to see those planes smashing into the World Trade Center, seeing it live, right there. I don’t think we ever really as a society, we’ve never seen anything that that’s up close. These are handheld video cameras, this is the kind of stuff that you shoot your little fucking kids with, you see kids growing up, you see the first time you change a diaper, but here what you see is war, that other side of it, and I don’t think anyone expected it. I know I didn’t. It was just chaos. I was just so confused, I just felt paralyzed, I didn’t know what to say. So the song “American Idiot” was the first thing that came to mind.
Audience Question: Bullet in a Bible was recorded of the biggest punk rock concert in history with over 65,000 people. How does it feel to know that you are trying to recreate that feeling with people [onstage]?
John Gallagher, Jr.: I don’t know that we are necessarily… we can’t… that’s something we couldn’t in a million years do, there is something that happens at a Green Day concert that… can’t ever be recreated by anybody that’s not Green Day, especially at a place like Milton Keynes arena, seen by thousands and thousands of people… But bringing it to this kind of venue [a Broadway theater], especially from an actor’s viewpoint, it’s been so rewarding… but it’s rewarding to me as an actor in a way that some plays can’t… bring you to that place. There is something so cathartic about these songs and this music and performing it, and being given a platform to allow it to grow and dig into it and create these characters. The total sweetener is just the fact that it’s Green Day, some of the greatest music ever written and we get to sing it every night is a total gift.
Green Day as Gateway Drug to the History of Punk and Inspiration to Kids in Flannel Departments Everywhere - Photo by Michelle Lawlor