This year, I published a book of Green Day fan stories and art. I wanted to document the band’s incredible impact on a diverse fanbase. So, I gathered stories and fanart from fans of all ages, from Greece to California to Costa Rica to China. All 161 pages are a truly wonderful testament to how Green Day have changed lives and the devotion of their fans. I knew I was going to be proud of it – and everyone in it – but quite how proud I was didn’t hit me until I opened up the box.
How it all began
I was making My Rage My Love My Life – a documentary of my own experiences following Green Day on tour – when I got the idea. I knew I was going to exhibit my photos. They'd quickly become a document of the fan community as a whole, rather than just myself. I thought a little book of other fans’ stories would be an amazing addition. I asked for submissions – at this point just for stories, not fanart – and made a short book in InDesign. Then I exhibited it. It was the most popular part of my exhibit (sadly, no one got in my survival bag).
Exhibiting My Rage My Love My Life in Cornwall
A while later, I put the book up for sale so everyone could read it. It was surprisingly popular!
We Are Revolution Radio, Volume 1
I knew at this point – shocked by quite how much the stories moved me and knowing there were even more out there – that I wanted to make a bigger, better book. This time, I asked for fanart submissions, too. It would be the final book, so it had to be good!
Looking for more stories and art was a slow process. A lot of people who weren’t too shy, or too busy to submit already had. I kept plugging the submission page, but there was little interest. I tried approaching fan artists on Instagram, but they didn’t reply, deleted my comments or blocked me. With my 9 to 5 job, I didn't have much time to continue going out of my way to get submissions. The deadline passed, but I never got around to printing. I felt very disillusioned with the Green Day fandom and its drama and hierarchies at the time, too. How much the book meant to me and what a great project it was faded from my memory.
When I pinned My Rage My Love My Life as an Instagram highlight, I included a few excerpts from the book. Unexpectedly, a lot of people messaged me saying they wished they’d been part of it, that they weren’t even aware of it until then, or that they wanted a copy. I went back to read it again. It immediately reminded me why I was doing it and how important it was to me and to document this. So I reopened submissions (feeling bad that I'd never got it done before!).
People now had months to submit. It was, again, a slow process, but this time I wasn’t letting it go until I’d got as many fans as possible into it!
Getting more submissions
I tried a few different strategies. One was offering the option to submit in Spanish, French or Portuguese, but no one did. I made fun and more ‘serious’ calls for submissions. I encouraged friends who’d previously expressed interest or I thought would like to be in the book. Half of my attempts were successful. My most successful plan was recruiting my East Bay native partner to speak with fan friends in the area and one in LA. Some were shy or struggled to write, so I ‘interviewed’ them or we just chatted about Green Day and pieced together stories. They were stories I’d never have found by only appealing to visible or ‘super’ fans – but they were some of my favourites and moved me to tears!
The biggest obstacle was definitely convincing shy or uncertain people their stories or art were absolutely worth a place in the book. I don’t know if I made a mistake giving people months to submit. Other than my partner’s unpaid internship at My Rage My Love My Life, the most submissions came in with my last minute reminders. Maybe I should have done that all along. It’s so easy to procrastinate or just forget to make time when you have forever to do something.
Deciding whether to publish an eBook
I had a long think about this. At first I was definitely going to offer a cheap eBook version to make it more accessible to everyone. A few weeks later I thought about how if I did, a free PDF would be much more likely to end up on the internet for anyone to see. Which isn’t inherently bad – I wasn’t looking to make money from it, after all. But the contributors shared personal stories under the assumption it would be a limited physical print people had to buy to see, not an easily accessible PDF. I also felt it wouldn't be fair to people who’d previously bought the physical book. So I decided against it. It’s a shame because I’d love it to be more accessible, but I don’t trust the internet with everyone’s stories.
Why not make more books?
A few people have expressed disappointment they weren’t in the book. Some felt I should make more books. Volume 2 is the final version, though. For starters, I don’t think expecting people to keep paying for extensions of the same book is fair. In total, people had almost two years to submit. I chased a lot of people who said they wanted to be part of it and approached others I thought might be interested. The majority didn’t reply or just never got around to it. Most genuinely didn’t have time and that’s a real shame. Before printing, some people had been waiting months to buy the book, so continuing to extend the deadline wouldn't have been fair to them either.
I really wanted as many people as possible to be part of this, but if people don’t submit, there’s not much I can do. The same will happen if I make another book. A few more people will submit, but most who didn’t have time last year won’t have time this year. I did make it clear when I opened submissions for Volume 2 that it would be the final book, so I don't think it's unreasonable.
This time, with the book being over three times longer at 161 pages, I had to use a professional – and pricier – printer instead of the simpler company I’d used before. In early February, I put the book up in my store for £14.99 until February 18th. After that, I’d put in a bulk order. If I only sold a few books, I’d lose a huge amount of money and end up paying to send the books out. It was a scary gamble at first, but I soon sold enough to cover everything. As February 18th approached, I finalised the file in InDesign and prepared to send it to the printer.
Despite having learned all about this at university, I was nervous. After all, studying something in a classroom and actually executing it are totally different things… and I wanted the books to be perfect for all the amazing people who’d supported and contributed to the project over the last two years. What if I messed it up somehow? I had a quick chat with the printer to make sure I was doing everything right and then I sent off the file.
A heavy box arrived with DPD on March 6th. I opened it and there were all my very own, professionally printed books! It was surreal.
Opening the book box (having excitedly taken a few out already!)
They were thicker than I expected. Even though I’d already published one book, this even better final product was somehow even more incredible. Flicking through and seeing everyone’s amazing art and stories there, in full colour and all their glory – I felt so proud! Despite having stared at my own art and story on InDesign for months on end, I was excited and a bit emotional to see that there, too. I knew then exactly why I’d done this and, regardless of inevitable drama, how special Green Day’s fandom really is.
Shipping the books
This was quite a big job, but also exciting! The first five orders got a little gift for their support. After carefully wrapping the books, I passed them to @Rumpelstiltskin2000 to be sealed in mailers. Her sellotape fortresses then went into a Primark bag, ready to be shipped the next day.
The parcels were transferred to some transport sacks (also known as my Pokémon backpack and Berkeley Bowl shopping bag) and we took them to the Post Office. I was a bit worried the Post Office lady might run away screaming. But no, she was professional and got it all done quickly. She even knew American Idiot. I left with a stash of comically long receipts.
And then it was done. My books had officially been published and dispatched. I felt like a proud parent. I sent out dispatch notifications, finished this and now I'm going to rest and play Pokémon.
I hope this might inspire or help anyone thinking of making their own book. If you need any guidance, feel free to get in touch!
To this day, I still get chills when I hear the intro to 21st Century Breakdown. I can still see my favourite band, as if in slow motion, running onto that stage like the heroes they were to 14 year-old me. I can see Mike thumping his heart and Tré sitting to play the show’s first beats. I can still feel the unbridled joy, the disbelief and looking back, how my life changed in that very moment.
This tour was arguably the biggest act of Green Day’s career. It was also the biggest turning point in my own life.
If you’ve read my Italy recap, you know I was unwell when I saw Green Day for the first time. For three years I’d barely left the house. I never went to school. My hope for the future was gone. While my single mum worked herself to exhaustion to support us both, my only company was Green Day’s music.
21st Century Breakdown, bringing with it the excitement of a new era, inspired me. I wanted to be like Gloria. I wanted to be able to say, one day, that I’d found a home in all my scars and ammunition and I’d never put away my burning light. Through that, I found hope. For the first time in years, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
‘Gloria is a person that’s trying to hold the torch for staying inspired, even as you lose a certain sense of your own naivete.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Radio NRJ, 2009
The first British dates for the 21st Century Breakdown Tour were announced later that year. My mum, as big a fan as me, bought tickets for four shows. I didn’t know if I could even go. After all, I could barely leave the house. How could I stand in a crowd of 16,000 people?
Before we knew it, we were in our Green Day shirts on the bus to the station. The local bus was one thing. A train to Birmingham, an unknown city, was a different story. I felt painfully obvious, like my illness was on display for everyone’s amusement. Of course, it was all paranoia. There was no one lurking to laugh at me. But either way, my love for my favourite band was stronger than my fear.
We got off the train at Birmingham Airport. It was quiet. Past a lake was our hotel. To its right was the LG (now Genting) Arena, white against the overcast sky. We checked in and wandered. Kids with multicoloured hair sat on the cold concrete, lining up to secure their spots in the pit. A line soon formed for seats. No one needed to join that so early, including us, but we were too excited not to. The arena’s walls were pink inside. We bought shirts and went to find our seats. It was when I looked at the stage, saw the album art I loved so much there, it suddenly became real.
My now well-worn shirt from my first show
Prima Donna were supporting. They opened with the jingling piano of Soul Stripper. Singer Kevin Preston soon tossed his leopard print jacket aside. Their glam rock sound kept the crowd entertained and dancing while they waited. My chest was tight after their set. Not because I was afraid – because, to my surprise, I wasn’t. As the drunk bunny stumbled around to YMCA, it was sinking in that all the live videos I’d watched of a show that seemed so far out of my reach… I was about to experience that for myself. The bunny was gone. The Ramones’ Do You Remember Rock ‘n Roll Radio? played. Then the crackling static that introduced Song of the Century echoed through the arena. The crowd of 16,000 sang along in unison. My heart was pounding with the first chords of 21st Century Breakdown.
Tré Cool ran onstage. The Big Three. Mike Dirnt. Then, finally, Billie Joe Armstrong.
With flicks of his wrists he drew roars from the crowd. My voice was another scream in the tumultous applause. The crowd clapped along with Tré’s hits of the bass drum. With exploding pyros the show began. I was screaming my favourite lyrics, the words that lifted me from stagnation, back at my favourite band. Billie Joe commanded us all to stand up. We already were, clapping as if our lives depended on it. Green Day’s ferocious energy reached from the front row to the highest tiers. In my seat that looked down on them as specks, I felt as part of the show, the mass of bodies obeying Billie’s every command, as I ever have on the floor since. It was a sense of belonging. A sense of acceptance. I felt understood. I knew I, like the other 15,999 people in that room, mattered.
Photo by Rob Ball, another fan coincidentally sat a few seats from us at two shows. We bought them from him afterwards.
The first fan was pulled onstage in Know Your Enemy. He staged dived to the pyros. Their sound was all enveloping, like a pounding warmth that attacked every cell. Everyone, on the floor, in the seats, was dancing. We repeated Billie’s ‘whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh!’ to East Jesus Nowhere religiously. In the bridge he announced he was going to save someone from the crowd. He stubbornly made his way up into the seats, heading for a young girl called Catherine. There was a long exchange before he returned. Unsuccessful in recruiting Catherine, he called up his own 11 year-old son, Jakob Danger (ensuring we knew his middle name was Danger). Jakob obediently waved his arms before allowing himself to be ‘saved.’ The crowd chanted his name while Billie sang ‘the sirens of decay will infiltrate Jakob!’ and he fell to the floor. Once the song ended, he tried to make a quick escape. Billie announced ‘hey, where are you going, Jakob, you little shit? Come here for a second!’ and promptly planted a kiss on his forehead.
‘Alright, see you later. That’s Jakob – Danger – Armstrong! Danger is his middle name.’
Jakob Armstrong onstage with dad Billie Joe to be ‘saved’ in East Jesus Nowhere. Photo by Rob Ball.
Then Billie yelled ‘do you wanna start a fucking war?’ and the show resumed with Holiday. Watching Bullet in a Bible, it was hard to imagine how chanting ‘hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!’ back at Billie in the bridge really felt. It was like a reeling high. As we screamed along to ‘the static aaaaa-aaaaaa-age!’ I just couldn’t believe I was there. The sweltering heat and my hoarse voice were reminders it was real.
Back then, we weren’t looking at setlists. My mum had no idea they were about to play one of her all-time favourite songs – Give Me Novacaine. I can still see the disbelief on her face. After all those years, working so hard she could barely wake up, she was free. Billie even announced that he was now one of us:
‘We’re still alive, Birmingham! It’s been a long fucking time, goddamn I’m so fucking happy to be back in England, you have no idea. Goddammit I’m fucking moving here, fuck this shit, I’m fucking moving. Packing my bags, I’m gonna get on a big old fucking aeroplane, I’m gonna take all my shit across the pond, and I am officially fucking English as of now! I’m bringing it back home!’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, October 27th, 2009
Another fan came up for Are We The Waiting. With a disco ball reflecting skulls around the room, it was like being in the starry nights, city lights coming down over me. It was anthemic. That dirty town might as well have been burning down in my dreams, because nothing mattered but singing at the top of our lungs. The world outside was irrelevant.
Photo by Rob Ball
Billie darted around the stage to St. Jimmy. It was more ferocious, more passionate than I could have imagined watching videos. The crowd was deafening through Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Then they burst into Murder City, a performance that was recorded for GreenDay.com. I didn’t expect that and I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled when, two songs later, they played At the Library. People were confused, wondering if this was a new song. We were the only ones in our block screaming every word. Now I wasn’t just seeing Green Day. They even went and played At the Library and Murder City.
Playing At the Library. Photo by Rob Ball.
When I Come Around’s old-school charm wasn’t lost in the dazzling show. Dancing to Brain Stew and Jaded, I didn’t feel I’d missed a thing by hearing them live 14 years after their release. Green Day were every bit the band they were in the 90s – except even more energetic. Everyone around us, young or old, was jumping.
As Knowledge came to a close, Billie announced a band of fans would finish the song. He sought out a drummer first. I was a drummer. I’d bought a poster before the show, which up until this point had been inconvenient. Without thinking, I waved it around. Then Billie was actually looking at me, pointing up into our seats like he did with Catherine. There was an exchange with security. Then I chickened out. I put the poster down. Looking confused, he went to find a bassist instead. Maybe he wouldn’t have picked me, even if I’d had the balls, but it’s still sort of funny.
Basket Case and She followed. The hits were every bit as invigorating as the rarities. The extended King for a Day, with all its goofiness, floor-humping and cover snippets, was a fun and amusing break in the intense set. Could anything top At the Library? Probably not.
‘It’s not written for two people. It’s written for about 20,000.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong on 21 Guns
Or so I thought, until King for a Day’s silliness faded to 21 Guns. I already loved this song. The music video was my all-time favourite. But I could never have imagined its rawness live. I was moved beyond words as I watched the fire rain down to ‘as a liar looking for forgiveness from a stone!’ and Billie’s added ‘whoa-ohs’ that seemed to come from the depths of his heart. Following that was emotional piano absent on the studio version. The band were silhouetted against the music video playing on the screen behind them. I might have been crying. I don’t remember. Billie described 21 Guns as not being written for two people, but 20,000. He was absolutely right.
21 Guns. You can see everyone dancing in the seats opposite us! Photo by Rob Ball.
Then the show was uplifted again with Minority. Billie thanks every crowd countless times after the solo, but each word remained sincere. Blue and white confetti burst from the stage, sprinkling the crowd as the song closed.
Green Day confetti during Minority. Photo by Rob Ball.
Finally, with American Idiot and Jesus of Suburbia, the show too was coming to an end. The crowd, drenched in sweat from the pit to the seats as if at the end of a journey with the band, watched the inimate Last Night on Earth, still and in awe. Billie began with an acoustic guitar. We didn’t yet know that with lights flooding the darkened stage, the full band would return. An emotional Wake Me Up When September Ends followed. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), a hate song turned revelling closer, ended the set. The band bowed and waved. It was over. We charged down steps to scoop up confetti from the floor, filling two tissue packets before security chased us off. Green Day played hundreds of shows every tour. Yet this, my first show that to anyone else was just another city on a list of tour dates, was still so special. That, how every show is a precious memory to be treasured forever, is why I follow Green Day on tour.
Tré Cool tweet about the Birmingham show
Sunset over Birmingham LG Arena
We prepared to do it all again the next day. This time our seats were closer. My new-found wellness could stretch so far, though. By Holiday, a panic attack so bad I was throwing up left me listening to East Jesus Nowhere from the toilets. First aid sat me beside someone with a broken leg. There was nothing they could do. I remember passing the back of the pit, seeing the crackling gas mask image in The Static Age. As When I Come Around echoed from inside, drunks assured me I wasn’t missing anything, because Green Day suck now. It was almost comical. I didn’t want to leave, but I was too sick to stay. We returned to the hotel. It took a while, but I convinced my mum to go back. Arriving to Billie humping the floor, she recorded 21 Guns for me and saw American Eulogy, Christie Road and Macy’s Day Parade.
It was a huge setback. I was more afraid than ever to go on to Manchester. But maybe it had to happen, because it also strengthened my resolve. Mental illness would not take my favourite band from me. It could have my future, my dignity, but not my spark of hope.
We arrived in Manchester. On the bus to our hotel, we met another mother-and-daughter pair on their way to the show. I stuck six A4 sheets together to make a ‘PLAY ¡VIVA LA GLORIA!’ banner before we left.
The Manchester Evening News Arena from the bus. This is a terrible photo, but this view was so exciting at the time!
My ‘Play ¡Viva La Gloria!’ banner
This time our seats were on Mike’s side. Watching Prima Donna and the drunk bunny, I was nervous. But once I heard those opening chords of 21st Century Breakdown, saw my heroes run onstage, I knew I would be alright. I knew whatever plagued me in Birmingham, I had overcome. The songs I was hearing for a second, third time were as fresh as ever. Those I heard from outside in Birmingham were even better knowing nothing could take this from me.
Billie with seated fans during East Jesus Nowhere. Photo by Rob Ball.
Security followed Billie as he ran up into the seats in Know Your Enemy and East Jesus Nowhere. In Boulevard of Broken Dreams, he announced he’d split his pants.
‘Did anyone see my balls?’
Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Photo by Rob Ball
After Boulevard of Broken Dreams, I held up my banner. Billie stopped and squinted. People around us were screaming ‘he’s seen it, he’s seen it, he’s seen it!’ and he pointed before yelling into the band mic. They began 2000 Light Years Away. The guys behind us were laughing, saying he misread it. I have no idea if it was really anything to do with my banner, but it was funny either way – and thrilling since they weren’t playing that regularly at the time.
Oldies section. Photo by Rob Ball.
Hitchin’ a Ride was followed by Coming Clean. It was a furious performance of a poignant song. I’m sure there was the odd homo/biphobe in that crowd, but everyone was dancing. This time, I noticed a stencil of Gloria was the backdrop for She. With that, the 15 year-old song joined the narrative of 21st Century Breakdown. In King for a Day, Billie sang snippets of Stand By Me, I Fought the Law and Champagne Supernova. 21 Guns remained as emotional as that first night. Maybe even more so. Because, though I hadn’t quite figured out what yet, I knew something was worth fighting for. That bridge was my favourite moment of every set.
It was all surreal. Watching the confetti spray out again; hearing a passionate Jesus of Suburbia and seeing the show close, lights dimmed and band bowing, with Last Night on Earth, Wake Me Up When September Ends and Good Riddance.
The show closing with Good Riddance. Photo by Rob Ball
I’d reclaimed my missed show. I would reclaim it even more if I made it through the second night.
‘I like playing big places a lot. We got a chance to be playing these arenas, and I’m really grateful for that. I’m not going to sit here and say “fuck our fans, man, they’re not true Green Day fans because they heard us on MTV.” These people are paying to see me play. A lot of those kids have never heard the kind of music we play before, and a lot of them are from somewhere where there’s a single parent that works their ass off to give them $12 to go out and see us play our show. The last thing I want to do is slag on them for coming out to our show. They made us as big as we are.’ - Billie Joe Armstrong, Rolling Stone Magazine, 1996
Green Day merch in Manchester
It was Halloween. I hung back while my mum looked at merch after Prima Donna. Music was playing inside. It sounded awfully familiar. Was I hallucinating? Because I was sure I could hear Stop Drop & Roll! I squeezed past people to alert my mum.
‘Prima Donna are playing the Foxboro Hot Tubs!’
My mum stopped. Listened. Then her eyes widened.
‘That’s not Kevin, it’s Billie!’
We saw this tweet later
We ran from the merch stand to our seats. In our mad charge down the steps, we knocked over someone’s beer. They just laughed. Steps buckled and we almost fell. Everyone around us, as we stumbled clapping and singing into our seats, looked baffled. The Reverend Strychnine Twitch, AKA Billie, sprayed Carling beer – a British replacement for his signature Pabst Blue Ribbon – over the front row. His blond head darted all over the stage. Tré wore a leopard print shirt and Jason a fluffy white coat. In Mother Mary, Billie threw down his tambourine to leap into the crowd. Security helped him back up.
‘My name is the Reverend Strychnine Twitch and yes, we are the proverbial Foxboro Hot Tubs.’
The short set closed with Sally. Before we move on, I’d like to share another fan’s recollection of this from the We Are Revolution Radio book. I don’t think any trick or treat will ever match this for anyone!
Story by English fan redundantburnout from the We Are Revolution Radio book
The intro to 21st Century Breakdown still unleashed butterflies in my stomach. In Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Billie told us ‘last night in the last song I split my pants. I did that splits thing and my whole butt was hanging out after that.’ It was also the last outing of the leopard print thong. #blessed
That night, as 21 Guns faded to drum rolls, I expected Minority. Instead, in an explosion of pyros and energy Billie roared ‘MASS HYSTERIA!’ and I was swept up in exactly that; mass hysteria as I screamed along to one of my all-time favourite songs, American Eulogy, that I missed in Birmingham. In my own blurry video, I’m deafeningly loud as I bellow ‘vigilantes warning ya, CALLING CHRISTIAN AND GLORIA!’ over Billie’s ‘RIGHT HERE IN MANCHESTER!’ It was unreal. Thousands of people were in a shared ecstasy conducted by a tight performance. We watched through moments of quiet while Billie stamped his foot to solos, basking in the band’s talent and energy, religiously echoing ‘heeeeeey-ooooohhhhhh’ as Mike sang his last verse…
‘I can hear the sound of a beating heart, it bleeds beyond a system that is falling apart, with money to burn on a minimum wage…’
…and we screamed in unison – ‘I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE MODERN AGE!’
…and the song exploded into its final chorus.
‘I don’t wanna live in the modern world! I don’t wanna live in the modern world! I don’t wanna live in the modern world – MASS HYSTERIA! In the modern world – MASS HYSTERIA! In the modern world – MASS HYSTERIA! In the modern world – MASS HYSTERIA! In the modern world…‘
Then the music stopped and 21,000 voices, alone with Billie’s and Mike’s, echoed that we didn’t want to live in the modern world, mass hysteria… until Billie sang like an anthem, ‘nobody likes you, everyone left you, they’re all out without you, having fun!’ over Mike and, as Tré conducted with his drumsticks, we joined him.
The world could have ended then and I would have felt the bricks crashing down were healing gold dust. I could hear the sound of my own beating heart. The heartbeat of a kid stifled by mental illness now impassioned, inspired and ready to smash the silence with a brick of self control.
‘A lot of people were like, “you saved my life, you saved me from depression, you gave me hope.” All these things – it sounds cheesy to sit there and say it, but it’s true.‘ – Tré Cool, VH2 Dookie documentary
As we looked for our train home, my mum was, for some reason, driven to get on the London train. She insisted it was ours. I assured her it wasn’t and even if we wanted to go and attend the Wembley show, after blowing our money on merch we had a grand total of 2p ($0.025). Turned out the Foxboro Hot Tubs played a secret show that train would’ve taken us to. Maybe she should’ve become a psychic instead of working for the UN.
I returned to school. Though I was advised not to take on more than English, Maths and Science, I insisted on taking Art, too. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. But I knew now I wanted to be something.
One of my GCSE art pieces inspired by Green Day
‘Being in a band, you have to be a fan first. So when you meet people who have something to say about how some song affected them, those are the people I connect with. I still am that person myself.‘ – Billie Joe Armstrong in Spin Magazine, 2010
We began selling our possessions on eBay. Bags of clothes and trinkets swamped our conservatory, where light for taking photos was best. With our meagre results, my mum’s savings and some abandoned bills, we booked to attend four more shows – Hannover, Manchester, Glasgow and Paris.
This was my first time, at least that I remembered, leaving England. We could never afford holidays. So we landed in Hannover, Germany, on May 29th. Google Maps and internet access abroad weren’t really things back then. We couldn’t figure our way out of the airport. Expedia told us there was a train, but the ticket machines were broken. We ended up spending half our money on a taxi.
Expedia also boasted that Hannover Expo Plaza was full of things to do and a short train ride from Hannover Zoo. We arrived to a barren square of closed-up shops. Hannover Zoo might as well have been on the other side of Germany. The only shop was a distant gas station. We had two days until the show. It resulted in us aimlessly wandering around and filming a variety of videos whirling round on chairs and dancing in the hotel room. The most exciting moment was spotting some Green Day merch and a poster through a window.
Green Day poster in Hannover, Germany
On the day of the show, we awoke to another day of Expo Plaza fun to find some American band parked outside the hotel. There, we met another British fan, Kate. Her ticket was coincidentally just two rows and a few seats from us.
Because there was so much to do in the area, the three of us hung around to see if the band didn’t mind meeting fans. We didn’t meet them, but we did meet a lovely German mother and daughter, Julia and Iris and an Italian fan, Silvia. We also met some guys who climbed on our shoulders to let us know the band didn’t care about us.
Before the show in Hannover
As doors approached, we waited nervously with our tickets. Inside was a display promoting Green Day Rock Band, where kids tried out the ‘instruments.’ Then we filed in to find our seats. Julia and Iris were on the opposite side to us and spotted our Union Jack flag. Next to us was a Welsh solider stationed in Germany, who never missed a local show.
Fans playing Green Day Rock Band at TUI Arena, Hannover, before the show
German band The Donots opened. They were great. Then we waited, with excited butterflies, to be enraptured once again by our favourite band.
When my mum hears the 21st Century Breakdown intro, it’s this show she remembers. Billie running onstage in his red jeans, pointing at our flag, Tré sitting and blowing her a kiss, the pyros and city backdrop the band were silhouetted against.
‘Dream, Deutschland, dream, I can’t even sleep, the light’s early dawn!’
Mosh pits formed and crashed together as songs rose and dropped. They played Nice Guys Finish Last. Both of us were jumping up and down, pushing each other and dancing in our seats. The intensity between the band and the crowd was something else. I laughed at my mum and Tré’s interaction. I cried to 21 Guns. I was there, in Germany, another country, seeing Green Day. Billie didn’t sing ‘from Hannover to the Middle East,’ but I did.
Before we left, my mum bought some tobacco at the gas station and accidentally thanked the staff, who worked through our broken German with us, in Spanish. At least we provided amusement. The airport bid us goodbye with ‘see you again in Hannover – City of International Fairs.’ I don’t even know if the city is nice. We never saw it.
The excitement of seeing Green Day never changed. But there is just one thing about those first five shows I’ll never get back. I didn’t know anyone. I was just another fan. I hadn’t acquired an array of stalkers and I was unaware of fandom drama and hierarchies. No one was waiting for me to do something, anything, wrong so they could flaunt it online. There are parts of this I’m hesitant to share because someone will take my vulnerability out of context to use against me. It’s unavoidable when attending a lot of shows and having said all that, I willingly stuck myself in by making a documentary about it. Being oblivious was nice while it lasted, though.
When we got home, I saw an ad on the National Express website for coaches to the Wembley show. Well, if it was going to be that easy, we couldn’t say no. We bought tickets.
Green Day ad on the National Express website
On June 16th, we boarded another train to Manchester. We were halfway when it occurred to me our tickets were open. We didn’t have to go for the seats. What if we could make the front row? Catching a tram to the LCCC, we joined the line behind a group of blokes writing ‘GEORGE’ on everyone. The sun scorched the concrete. It was only after I agreed to become a George that I realised the sun would emblazon it over both of my arms. It was permanent marker. I couldn’t escape my destiny as a George. Then a lady saved me with some breath freshener. My mum has carried breath freshener ever since.
The line at Lancashire County Cricket Ground
It was still light when doors opened. With a speedwalk across the floor we made second row on Mike’s side. People around us had travelled from all over the UK. They were kind enough to squeeze me in. The girl beside me, who’d also been at the Birmingham shows, taught me how to hold a barrier spot. That was one of the closest things to this mythical ‘punk spirit’ I’ve experienced at Green Day shows.
Waiting for Green Day at Manchester LCCC
Frank Turner and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts opened. Then we waited for our first close-up experience to begin. The band ran onstage one by one. Up close, Mike looked perfect, as if someone had drawn him. Tré and the Jasons were unexpectedly petite. In Know Your Enemy, Billie ran all the way out to our side. He stopped in front of me and his face lit up as he pointed, looking surprised to see me on the front row. I can still see it now, preserved like a photograph in my memory. It meant the world to 15 year-old me that my hero remembered me, even though he’d only seen me from a distance in seats. Class lad, he is.
My first front row view
That was my first taste of the front row. It was also my first experience of petty catfights over front row spots, but I remember how in St. Jimmy, that all stopped; we were just one huge, thriving organism losing our minds to music, equal and united. People were being pulled out left right and centre. The heat was sweltering. Yet I loved it. I loved every second of being crushed and punched and my hair pulled. From that moment, seats would never be the same again.
‘I swear to God I would never want to be in any other fucking band than Green Day. I swear to God. I hate when bands break up. All of my favourite bands, either someone died or they broke up. It’s like your parents or something. But you gotta wheel me away in a fucking coffin to get me out of this fucking band, I’ll tell you that.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Lancashire County Cricket Ground, June 16th, 2010
I watched the show close with When It’s Time with tears in my eyes. Singing ‘we are all born in a world of doubt, but there’s no doubt, I figured out I love you,’ I was sort of speaking to myself, to my own life, knowing love was beautiful and real; and to my favourite band who reminded me how to love when I thought I never could again.
‘I feel lonely for all the losers that will never take the time to say what’s really on their mind; instead, they just hide away. Yet they’ll never have someone like you to guide them and help along the way, or tell them when it’s time to say I love you.’
Because, as I held my mum’s hand threading through the crowd on our way out, my heart was fit to burst with all the love it held. I did feel lonely for all the losers who would never understand.
Green Day billboard at Manchester Arena
We went home and got straight back on the bus to Wembley Stadium. Doors opened as our bus pulled in. Knowing there was no hope for front row, we hung back, taking in the atmosphere of Green Day’s biggest headline show so far.
‘When I was a little kid doing air guitar to my favorite records I never thought I’d be doing it with an actual guitar in front of that many people.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Kerrang, 2005
That yell of our capital city’s name is on the following live album, Awesome as Fuck.
‘Are you with me? Are you with me? This is what I need you to do. This is what I need you to do. When I say one, two, three, four – I want everybody to go fucking crazy! Are you ready? We are the class of, the class of 13, born in the era of humility, we are the desperate in the decline, raised by the bastards – ONE, TWO, THREE, GO!’
It was like a call to arms. At each yell of ‘jump, jump, go!’ Wembley Stadium obeyed. The band radiated energy.
‘Fucking Green Day is going to win the goddamn World Cup, I can tell you that now.’
For the first time since 2004, they played my mum’s favourite song – Waiting. People stared bewilderedly as we lost our minds. We laughed along as Tré played Dominated Love Slave and Billie gleefully hit the drums.
Confetti fluttered into the night from Minority to Jesus of Suburbia. I remember looking up and seeing it floating above me; stretching out my hands to catch some. The show closed with When It’s Time and Good Riddance.
Me after the Wembley Stadium show
National Express buses for the Green Day show at Wembley Stadium
A few people were late back to our bus. I took the chance to buy a £2 knock-off poster from a man who said our driver was ‘bein’ a bit of a funny bugger.’ Before we boarded, the driver said there was no way he could possibly drive off without us, because he’d remember my hair. The lights of Wembley Stadium faded away. I was jolted awake at a service station stop. We all piled off the bus. I nearly left my bag and merch, but I thought better of it. I left the knock-off poster. We bought a couple of cold drinks. My mum had been chatting to another passenger, moments before we went back outside. Where had the bus parked? We couldn’t see it anywhere.
That was because it had already left.
This is hilarious now. At the time, it was not remotely funny. It was 2am. We were stranded at a service station, in the middle of the M1, miles from Nottingham when we needed to be back in a few hours to catch the train to Glasgow. The summer heat faded to a chilly night. All we had for warmth was our Union Jack. This wasn’t even a regular National Express service. It wasn’t like another one would come by in a few hours.
A long-haired man who felt sorry for us bought my mum a coffee. We stared hopefully at the tired drivers passing by but no one was going our way. Our only hope was to contact National Express. We scanned our tickets and found an emergency number. I was fairly sure it wasn’t for Green Day fans stuck on the motorway at 2am, but it was our only hope; so with my remaining 10% battery, I called it. A grumpy voice picked up.
‘Hi. We’ve been stranded in the middle of the M1.’
‘What do you mean, stranded?’
He argued that it was our own fault. I argued it wasn’t. The driver just didn’t count his passengers after saying he’d never miss us because of my hair. Eventually the man sighed.
‘What service station is it?’
He agreed to divert a coach from Stansted and told us to go outside immediately. We waited for what felt like hours in the cold. Only cars and trucks rolled past. The bus wasn’t coming. My mum called them back (noting that this guy sounded like her call woke him up, which improved the scene). The bus was coming in half an hour, he said. It was an hour later when a Veolia coach turned into the car park. The driver’s assistant sat down to talk to us.
‘Were you at a football game?’
‘We went to see Green Day.’
‘What? Green… what?’
‘A band. An American band. Green Day.’
He looked lost. We suggested American Idiot. Wake Me Up When September Ends. Boulevard of Broken Dreams. He shook his head.
‘What kind of music is it?’
‘Rock. It’s like rock. Punk rock.’
‘Punk… rock!’ he told the driver, ‘A punk rock band called Green Day!’
We arrived in Nottingham as the sun rose. Whether we’d make our train to Glasgow was another matter. Our train and Green Day tickets were at home. We leapt into a taxi. Nottingham city taxis go as slow as possible and take the longest routes to maximise the fare. We explained our situation. The driver asked if either of us were available for marriage. We changed the subject.
Well past our 24th hour of no sleep, my mum called another taxi while we rummaged for our tickets and threw clean clothes into our bags. We made it to the station with minutes to spare. After our train to Preston was delayed, we narrowly missed our change by blocking the door with our bags. Someone was in our seats and we didn’t even bother questioning them. We just stood, basking in the relief of surviving Newport Pagnall service station.
A blue sky welcomed us to Glasgow. Misunderstood accents led to us buying the wrong onward tickets to the SECC. We escaped before the conductor reached us. From the station, we walked through the ‘SECC Walkway.’ We fondly nicknamed it ‘The Oven.’ Ever spent too long in a greenhouse? It was like that but worse.
In The Oven
We checked in and dumped our bags, finding ourselves in another episode of There’s Nothing Here. The only way out was back through The Oven. We chose being baked over more videos of us spinning on chairs in the hotel room. A chip shop offered a cheap meal. My sausage was rejected and cold. We walked back through The Oven to find the SECC was actually open and had a shop. The sausage was unnecessary.
We saw a bit of a river and a bridge the next day. Doors were still hours away. Unsure what else to do, we resumed aimless wandering. We thought someone was washing the stage trucks but it was just a guy having a piss. Sometimes I think that now I line up early, I miss all the sights, but I really don’t.
The River Clyde, Glasgow
Other fans were waiting for the band, so we joined them. I wrote ‘¡VIVA LA GLORIA!’ on my arms and held our Union Jack. Billie and Tré wound their windows down as they arrived in black cars. Tré stuck his tongue out. We chatted to a crew member who was amused by our National Express story. As soundcheck rumbled from inside, the first song we heard was ¡Viva La Gloria! so I guess that was more successful than seeing merch through a window in Hannover.
Our Union Jack outside the SECC
Doors opened. Fans trooped into the rectangular room. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts opened again. Billie wore a fan’s tie bearing the Armstrong family tartan. He wound up the crowd with statements of ‘fuck England!’ and ‘so much better than England – Scotland always is!’ Afterwards he grinned at us, as if expecting us to be pleased. Thanks, but I’m not Scottish.
In East Jesus Nowhere, Billie ‘saved’ a pair of twins. While a fan sang Longview, he took a toilet break. They played Waiting again. The arena show was intimate after stadiums. Coincidentally, the confetti was also the colours of the Scottish flag. Scooping it up after the show, all of this was still surreal. Also surreal that PCL Presents managed to get something right.
While my mum smoked a cigarette outside, a man asked if she was with the band. She said no, he replied ‘come here hen, ave got a picture o’ ye wee man’ and showed her photos of Billie, and not so wee Mike, at the airport.
Joan Jett’s drummer ate breakfast a few tables from us. Our hotel recommended some things for us to see, but we had no money left, so we just sat on some plant pots watching an incredible number of people cycle by. Glasgow is an active city, apparently.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we then missed a connection and spent the night on a bench in Manchester Oxford Street Station. I put my remaining pennies in a vending machine. Nothing came out. Of course it didn’t.
We were still exhausted when we boarded the train to Paris. Our fellow passengers thought being on the Eurostar was very classy, then there were these two Green Day fans munching cheap snacks. Emerging in the city centre, we took the metro to our hotel in the suburb of Saint-Cloud. Green Day’s crew were drinking in a bar opposite. For our dinner, we had the rest of the crisps we brought from home and some packaged ice-cream from a convenience store. If we craned our necks, we could see the Eiffel Tower from our window. Before the show, we actually – you might want to sit down for this – went to see it. We saw something! Sightseeing! It was a gr8 day. Even spotted someone else in the same Green Day shirt as me.
Me at the Eiffel Tower
On the way back, I saw another Green Day shirt and complimented it. I never expected the wearer to launch into a verbal essay about their Green Day experiences, how important they were to the band and – after asking how many shows we’d attended – how irrelevant we were in comparison. We laughed it off, because it was ridiculous, but that was the moment we realised what came with multiple shows. Anyway, we met some nice Swedish fans afterwards to restore our faith in humanity.
Green Day merch at Parc des Princes, Paris
At Parc des Princes, we found our seats and danced to Billy Talent’s set. Paramore followed. Then we were waiting, once more – with a new friend, the Paris native next to me – for Green Day. We clapped along as they ran onto the vast stage. Billie’s commands to stand up were unnecessary. Everyone already was, filling the stadium with a deafening chorus of ‘hey-oooooooh!’
‘Know Your Enemy is about empowering yourself, like within yourself. There’s no specific enemy out there. It’s just trying to stay engaged and educated to the world – being able to read between the lines and figure out what the bullshit is, but also trying to find the truth.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, MTV, 2009
In Know Your Enemy, he waved the French flag and hugged a kid from the crowd. It was our second show out of the UK and hearing Billie scream ‘PARIS!’ was surreal. For my mum, hearing him thank us in French after living much of her life in Brussels and Geneva was incredible. In the Holiday bass solo, as red text scrolled over black screens, Billie told us in a French accent that they were going to play all night long, before singing a verse of The Saints Are Coming.
‘I cried to my daddy on the telephone, how long now? Until the clouds unroll and you come home, the line went. But the shadows still remain since your descent, your descent. The saints are coming! The saints are coming!‘
The crowd completed the chorus. Then Billie announced ‘the representative from Paris has the floor!’ and the show resumed. Stageside, Hayley Williams fangirled to The Static Age. I waved my (new, Union Jack replacement) England flag. We heard Nice Guys Finish Last and Geek Stink Breath. It was almost 40°C and people were passing out in their seats. Others did the conga through seats below. Fans jumped in unison through the pit. Chants of ‘Green Day! Green Day! Green Day!’ filled moments of silence. The atmosphere was intense.
The sun set as fire rained down in 21 Guns. Billie held up his acoustic guitar, magnified by the huge screens, through the piano bridge. ‘Merci, merci, merci, merci, merci, merci beaucoup, thank you Paris, France!’ he yelled as drum rolls led to Minority. We watched confetti cover the stadium like shooting stars against the setting sun. As the show closed with When It’s Time, Wake Me Up When September Ends and Good Riddance, rain pattered down and the floor was a sea of ‘thank you’ signs. They inspired the signs that later named Awesome as Fuck. We left, drenched in sweat and spilled beer, picking up two discarded posters that have been on our wall ever since.
Sunset in Paris
That was our last show… or so we thought. When we watched videos of the secret shows leading up to this tour, from Oakland and New York, we laughed and said ‘imagine if we could see them in America one day?’ It seemed impossible for a single parent family who’d never had a holiday until the excitement of Hannover Expo Plaza. Transatlantic flights back then weren’t cheap. But we wanted to see Green Day again, and going to America was the only way. It had to be the last few shows. Otherwise we wouldn’t have time to save up. So, we spent the summer selling our possessions while mortgage arrears stacked up, living on toast. Our destination was California. San Diego, LA and the Bay Area.
We were late to the party, though. The only tickets available were from scalpers. It soon became clear we couldn’t afford three shows. San Diego would have to go. LA tickets were too expensive. What did we do? We couldn’t afford this. I tentatively looked up flights to, and tickets for, the prior Phoenix show; even though it meant staying extra days we couldn’t really afford. Well, it was see one show or find a way to see both. So of course, we chose finding a way. We put down a deposit on a flight. As departure drew closer, things weren’t looking good. Up until the last minute, when we were able to borrow some money, it was uncertain whether we could even go. We arranged with our Arizona scalper to meet him in the hotel lobby. Then, before we knew it, we were on a plane to Washington, DC.
The queue at Immigration inched forward agonisingly slowly. At this rate, we’d miss our connection. When we finally reached the front, they took our fingerprints and stamped my passport. They didn’t stamp my mum’s. On her Immigration slip was a huge X. A clock told us we had 30 minutes. Our flight was boarding. Then security stopped us.
‘You gotta go to immigration. That room over there.’
We were confused. Uncertainly, we took steps in the direction they pointed. We were eventually directed into a small room filled with confused passengers and people in handcuffs. A lady took our passports in silence. They were at the bottom of a large pile. We heard someone else ask about his connecting flight.
‘It’s not your connection you need to worry about. Your main concern is whether you are going to be admitted into the United States.’
With 10 minutes left until our flight, my mum stepped up to the desk. ‘We’re going to miss our flight to Phoenix!’
‘You shouldn’t be worrying about your flight to Phoenix. You should be worrying about whether you’ll be admitted to the United States.’
Five minutes to take off and we were stuck in a room with Homeland Security who made me cry. When they finally called us up, they handed our passports back without a word. We’ve since found out it’s because my mum shares her name with a criminal, but at the time we were just confused.
Our flight was long gone. The corridor outside was empty but for a baggage attendant.
‘Where ya going?’
‘Phoenix. But we’ve missed the flight.’
Without warning, he snatched our bags and threw them on a conveyor belt. Our bags containing our documents and worse yet, receipts for our Green Day tickets, which we’d need to show the scalpers (having since worked for an airline, that stupidity pains me). My eyes were wide.
‘But – but where are they going? We’ve missed our flight!’
The man looked bewildered. ‘They’re goin’ on the next flight to Phoenix. You’ll get ’em in Phoenix.’
Then he turned to chat to a friend. Feeling lost and like seeing Green Day was a distant dream, we went through security again and got directions to customer service. We were on our way when my mum grabbed my arm. ‘Maria, it’s Cone!’
Indeed, Cone McCaslin from Sum 41 was wandering along beside us in Washington Dulles Airport. Sum 41 were my second favourite band at the time. I ran the UK fansite. Cone was my favourite member. I was going to see Green Day in Phoenix. What were the chances of this? But there he was. I said hi and even though his flight was boarding, he took 15 minutes to talk to us. He was at Green Day’s Toronto show that month and loved it. He said he’d remember my hair and was kind enough to sign the only paper I had on me, the 21st Century Breakdown booklet. Without a doubt, he was one of the most polite people I’ve ever met. I always wonder if he missed his flight because of us. I hope not.
Cone’s autograph in my 21st Century Breakdown booklet
Every flight to Phoenix was full. United put us on a flight to Denver to connect there. The lady on the desk said ‘I’m gonna give you these boarding passes and you’re gonna run.’ So we ran, promptly stopping to buy a Washington shirt. This was ridiculous and I wanted to remember it, after all. We arrived in Denver on time. The only notable thing on our flight to Phoenix was a guy getting so excited about his hometown he shouted ‘PHOENIX!’ at regular intervals. After 48 hours of travel, we arrived… and there were our bags, looking sad and neglected in the lobby of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. A shuttle bus driver, who said ‘I thought you were a werewolf!’ picked us up. The hotel were about to cancel our booking. We were just in time.
Phoenix from our hotel
Our scalper met us in the lobby the next day. He told us it was awesome we’d come from England and advised us to drink lots of water. We hopped in a taxi to the amphitheatre. Doors had long opened and AFI, the opening act, were closing their set.
Green Day stage in Phoenix, AZ
‘I think of rock ’n roll as being the ultimate American culture. And I always look at that and feel like that’s what I’m playing too, and that’s what I want people to look at: this is the good side of America, this is the side that doesn’t just settle for the grand scheme of things.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Rolling Stone Magazine, 2006
It was like everything leading up to this was a five-second dream. I was sitting in England, then I was suddenly there in the dry Arizona heat, surrounded by palm trees; hearing Song of the Century, the closest I’d ever been to a stage Green Day were about to take. Around us, the crowd chanted ‘Green Day! Green Day!’
Then the band ran on – Billie with his blond hair and striped jeans, Tré in shorts, perfectly drawn Mike, Jason in a blue jacket – in perfect clarity.
‘Buenos noches Phoenix, ARIZONA!’
I have no words to describe what hearing that for the first time was like. My words caught in my throat as I sang ‘dream, America, dream’ there, in America. I could have cried, broken down in tears of joy, but I danced them away to Know Your Enemy. We were living a dream that once seemed impossible of seeing our favourite band in the United States. In East Jesus Nowhere, Billie pulled up a kid called Alexander, stealing his earmuffs and helping him play his Les Paul Jr.
‘Security, security, get rid of this kid! He’s gonna steal my pot! Alex, do you wanna start a fucking war?’
I was as thrilled as any local with Billie’s every roar of ‘are you ready, Arizona?’ In the Holiday bass solo, the amphitheatre flushed red by lights and scrolling text, Billie ran over to our side. He spotted us, grinned and pointed.
Billie spotting us in Phoenix. Video by Sheri Hunter. All others posted from this show are mine.
‘The representative of Arizona now has the floor!’
Pyros exploded with Billie’s ‘bang bang!’ as on the screens, troops marched in black and white. Drum rolls led to Murder City.
‘The clock strikes midnight in A-RI-ZO-NA!’
Then it cut to Give Me Novacaine. ‘Oh, it’s so hot, it’s so hot, I think I’m gonna take all my fucking clothes off. Whoever gets naked tonight gets 50 bucks!’
We chorused ‘heeeeeeeey-ooooooooh!’ to tinkling piano. The crowd waved, at Billie’s command, from the pit to the lawn in sync. Instead of ‘Jimmy says it’s better than here,’ he sang ‘Arizona’s better than California!’ and I screamed approval with everyone else. It ended with ‘give me the entire state of Arizona!’ Billie couldn’t have reminded us where we were any more if he tried.
Then Tré began the intro to a ferocious Letterbomb. It was my second favourite song at the time, after only ¡Viva La Gloria! and it was the first time I’d seen it. I went insane. I was screaming, the lyrics, just screaming, turning my voice hoarse and jumping until my legs were weak.
Me dancing to Letterbomb for the first time
‘This is it! Your time is right now! This is it! There’s no fucking job you’ve gotta fucking go to! There is no boss! There’s no bullshit! There’s no computers! There’s no television! There’s no cellphones! There’s no fucking school you gotta report to! This is it! This is the opportunity right now! This is your fucking freedom! Are you with me, Arizona?’
Some fans criticise Billie’s Letterbomb speeches. But you know what? He was right. That was our freedom and I was liberated, with Arizona as we screamed to tell Billie yes, we were with him. As Tré began Are We the Waiting, Billie announced ‘my aunt is out there in the crowd tonight! She’s a resident! Right here in Arizona!’ before singing ‘are we, we are! And screaming…’ and holding up his mic for the crowd to echo him. I had one hand on my heart, one in the air, screaming ‘heads or tails, fairytales in my mind.’ I felt like Jesus of Suburbia, escaping to a fairytale city to live ‘the rage and love, the story of my life.’ In St. Jimmy Billie roared ‘are you talking to me? Are you screaming at me?’
After the crowd sang the first verse of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Billie placed his guitar down. He proceeded to attempt a headstand. He soon fell on his ass, but he just got back up, did a dance and announced ‘I’ll fucking do anything for fucking Arizona, I’ll tell you that!’ The song was anthemic.
‘If you take a song and you get enough people singing it, it becomes an anthem, and an anthem becomes the national anthem, to a degree. I love people when they join together and sing, and it’s just massive, and it’s done for the right reason. Even if it’s just a great party.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Rolling Stone Magazine, 2006
Billie caught something from the crowd, threw it out, then grinned.
‘We’re gonna play a brand new song.’
My mum and I glanced at each other with wide eyes. We had no internet and no idea what they’d been playing.
‘It ain’t that brand new. This song’s called Cigarettes and Valentines!’
We didn’t know the words, but with the strangers around us, we jumped and danced as if our lives depended on it. It couldn’t have been more appropriate that it was here, in the Valley of the Sun, we danced and screamed to ‘the end of the earth, under the valley of the stars.’
The Cigarettes and Valentines performance on Awesome as Fuck
Burnout followed. If I thought this couldn’t get any better, I was wrong, because then they played One for the Razorbacks. I was drenched in sweat, watching people pass out around us, but I felt like I could pass out and stand straight back up. In 2000 Light Years Away they invited as many fans as they could fit onstage. Security guided them up, they danced, then were escorted back off. The regular oldies section followed. Seeing it here was like seeing it for the first time all over again. My mum and I were our own mosh pit, dancing and shoving and grabbing the other’s arm to scream our favourite lines. King for a Day’s fun dissolved into 21 Guns. Billie spoke into the internal microphone as he returned onstage to rolling drums. We expected Minority.
‘Sing us a song of the century, it sings like American Eulogy…’
We heard American Eulogy, in America. This mass hysteria was like the entire show’s rage, love, energy and passion rolled into one triumphant, dazzling climax as confetti exploded around us and the band.
Jesus of Suburbia
The crowd stilled as the show closed once again with Last Night on Earth, Wake Me Up When September Ends and Good Riddance. No dream of seeing Green Day in their home country could ever have prepared us for this reality. It was better.
One of Billie’s then-infamous ‘ho as hell’ tweets. Good to know he liked American Eulogy as much as we did.
The next day, we one-upped the Eiffel Tower and went to the Grand Canyon, stopping in Sedona on the way. It’s still one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen and I have no doubt that without Green Day, we’d never have visited.
On our way to Sedona
Back on the road to the Grand Canyon
My mum in her Green Day Paris shirt at the Grand Canyon
This is one of my favourite photos ever.
We landed in San Francisco to find we had, yet again, managed to book a hotel with no connection to civilization. Well, OK, there was one escape route. We got on the airport shuttle, which dropped us in Burlingame, where we could take the CalTrain to San Francisco.
Approaching Golden Gate Bridge
In San Francisco, we broke our own sightseeing record and crossed Golden Gate Bridge. The sky was cloudless blue.
Looking not very candid at Golden Gate Bridge
As we walked back, thick fog blanketed the bridge and city until we could barely see. We got to see two sides of it in one visit. It was cool until we found it caused most public transport to stop running. We wandered until we found a bus that took us back.
Fog over Golden Gate Bridge
Fog over the San Francisco skyline
We passed the rest of the time Hannover-style in Burlingame, where we lived on Walgreen’s buns, because we could only afford one more CalTrain and that had to be to the show.
Sunset over Burlingame
Arriving in Mountain View
‘Music is inspiring for me, it’s changed my life, so yeah, I absolutely think music can inspire people to change their lives.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Absolute Radio, 2009
On show day, we got off the train in Mountain View and walked through clean streets to the Shoreline Amphitheatre. Christian protests surrounding it went ignored. Scalpers met us on the driveway, where they upgraded our tickets for the all-seated show, placing us next to Mike.
Christian protest against Green Day’s show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre
Green Day merch at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. Tré did an interview at the Live 105 tent earlier that day.
We caught AFI’s set this time. Halfway through, Green Day invaded the stage in animal costumes. Singer Davey Havok went on to play St. Jimmy in the American Idiot musical. You should check them out.
Green Day crashing AFI’s set in animal costumes at their homecoming show
Darkness was falling when Song of the Century echoed through the amphitheatre. This was it. The homecoming and final show of the North American tour. It was filled with fans from the Bay Area to Japan to Australia.
The band ran onstage together. Billie screamed the names of every unfamiliar town we’d sped past on the CalTrain.
‘Home! Home! I am fucking home! It’s been fucking months! But Green Day are back at home! In the fucking Bay Area! However… if you don’t mind, I’m gonna refer to this night as Rodeo, California.’
Mike pointed at my England flag and stuck his tongue out. When he walked out, he beckoned for me to high-five him. Instead of ‘saving’ a kid in East Jesus Nowhere, Billie pulled up an older lady who ‘saved’ him.
Green Day playing East Jesus Nowhere at the Shoreline Amphitheatre
They played Murder City and Letterbomb again. My voice that had just recovered from Phoenix was hoarse already. The seats restricted no one. I was directly in Mike’s line of view and for much of the show he pulled faces and interacted with me. I rocked out with Mike Dirnt and I’m still not over it.
We knew a few of the words to Cigarettes and Valentines now, but it was like seeing it for the first time all over again. After Geek Stink Breath was Coming Clean. Billie announced ‘this next song is about revenge!’ before Going to Pasalacqua. Everyone was jumping to Only of You. It was followed by an explosive performance of Paper Lanterns. That bled into 2000 Light Years Away. They invited fans on stage. The people in front of me were screaming at me to go. My mum was pushing me. I shrugged and said I didn’t want to. By the time I realised both Mike and Eddie (band security) were beckoning me, it was too late. I’m honestly surprised I ever ended up on stage.
In 21 Guns, during that bridge I loved so much, Billie thanked us all for the last 22 years. It was beyond surreal to hear that where it all began in the Bay Area. Then we were thrown back into American Eulogy. I can see, clear as if I’m still there, Billie spinning around as he played the solo. I can still hear the roar of ‘Bay Area!’ and see the confetti covering us. I can still see the band returning to play Last Night on Earth and feel the tears in my eyes as I looked up at the night sky. Not going to lie, I was head over heels for my now-fianceé Annabelle who was at the show, but too stupid to realise. I remember thinking ‘I don’t know who you are, but I love you,’ and knowing, somehow, that whoever it was felt the same way. A year later, we danced to Last Night on Earth in my living room.
The tears were still streaming down my face as we left because it was over. This adventure, this journey I’d taken with my favourite band that had undoubtedly changed my life, came to an end. We packed our bags and caught the shuttle to San Francisco Airport. California disappeared below the clouds.
We hadn’t even considered the Latin American tour. So of course, we got home and looked it up. This story has been retold by others in various ways, from ‘Joy and Maria randomly decided to go to Latin America 24 hours before the show!’ to ‘Joy and Maria went to [insert Latin American country we didn’t actually go to] for 24 hours just to see Green Day.’ None are exactly accurate.
Our options were Caracas (before the terrible crisis Venezuela is in now) or Costa Rica. Flights elsewhere were too expensive. We settled on Costa Rica. It was the last show and gave us longer to save up. Every day was spent photographing eBay items and packaging them. It was mentally exhausting. My eyes were sore and bloodshot from staring at the screen. Our chances of making it still seemed low. With one week left, we emptied most of what remained in our house onto eBay for whatever low price it would sell at. We couldn’t even carry all our parcels to the Post Office. My grandpa kindly drove us with his car piled high.
Me sticking cardboard over a window to get the best light for eBay photos
‘I got my education through punk rock. It may not be the biggest education in the world but I formed opinions and views on the world and society, feminism and racism through it. I think it changes individuals.’ – Tré Cool, Big Cheese, 2004
If I went to this show, I’d miss a crucial Maths exam. My only option if I did was to take a much more difficult one and teachers assured me I would fail it. Regardless, with less than 24 hours to go, we crashed into STA Travel and booked everything. We had no tickets to the show. Just some National Express tickets printed on STA Travel paper and flights to San José, Costa Rica.
That night, we were on a flight to New York. My mum was, of course, taken to ‘the office’ and we were, once again, at risk of missing our flight to San José. If we did, we would miss the show.
We escaped to find someone had walked off with my mum’s bag. Staff shrugged, said it was probably on its way to San Juan and told us to file a report in San José. I was then held up by my illegal cargo, some sour cream and jalapeño crunchy combo mix that travelled all the way from Nottingham just to be told it wasn’t welcome. Rude. We ran and made the flight. In the seat beside us, someone was making a ‘St. Billie’ tapestry. We thought it had to be a bizarre coincidence but no, she was indeed a Green Day fan from New York heading to the show.
It was a relief when we arrived in Costa Rica and my mum was let straight in. She described it as ‘I could see the screen and it had like a big light bulb on it, and it said something like “green light, no problem, admit this person!” I love Costa Rica.’ We got into a taxi with our fellow fan from the plane. The next day we were in another cab on our way to Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, stopping briefly at a Masxmenos supermarket to buy our tickets. We joined a long line at the purple-painted stadium. Men with coolers walked up and down, shouting ‘agua!’ while others offered sunglasses and umbrellas.
Green Day line in Costa Rica
TV crews arrived and filmed our England flag. Other fans posed with it. We bought knock-off wristbands and shirts. Our new friend Alejandro entertained his mother during a phone call with ‘I’m with two British girls! No, really! I’m serious!’ He and I went to a nearby McDonald’s to get food and on our way back, thought we could hear Nice Guys Finish Last. Both of us cursing in English and Spanish, we ran, avoiding potholes and cars that honked as we charged in front of them. Turned out to be techs just testing the drums. Oh well.
Green Day fans in Costa Rica
We met up with others from England, Honduras and the US who we knew from the Green Day Community forum. Sitting on bird shit in Tibás, Costa Rica, probably should have been the moment we knew Green Day had ruined us, but honestly? There was a sense of community I wouldn’t have traded for the world.
Me and Alejandro with my flag
It was dark when doors opened. Security sorted us into male and female lines. When I ran for front row, my trousers fell down. Twice. After that, we made second row. There’s a reason I only wear leggings to shows now.
In the pit, we made two more new friends, Silvia and Adriana. We’re still in touch today. The local opener, Bufonic, were great.
Then, Song of the Century echoed into the night for the last time. We were in Costa Rica, about to see Green Day. I will never, ever, forget being diagonal, off my feet, as I looked up at Billie to see him put his mic aside to check he wasn’t seeing things, then give me the most incredible look of ‘what the fuck are you doing here?’ I will ever receive.
‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ – from videos by reinierocks and lostincoma
In East Jesus Nowhere, Billie ‘saved’ a man on crutches. Watching him wave the Costa Rican flag was like a bizarre, but wonderful, dream. I unfortunately had to give up the spot after being mugged and finding my passport was gone. Silvia kindly came with me. I should have been afraid, having been attacked in a foreign country with no passport to get home, yet as Billie and Mike ran over to point at me in Holiday, I felt safer than I ever had in my life.
Video by reinierocks
The attack went over my head. It was a minor inconvenience before we resumed dancing in decent new spots. After Holiday, Billie headed to the internal mic. I heard piano.
They were playing ¡Viva la Gloria!
I was hearing my favourite song, the words that gave me hope when I thought there was none, in Costa Rica. I couldn’t believe it. There are no words to describe the unconditional happiness I felt then.
‘Don’t let the bonfires go out, Costa Rica!’
Singing Give Me Novacaine, Billie one-upped ‘Arizona’s better than California!’ with ‘Costa Rica’s the best country in the world!’ and ‘at home in Costa Rica!’ That was certainly how I felt. As the show went on, he repeatedly checked I was alright. We exchanged funny faces and he pointed as we screamed lyrics at each other. Even Tré, who I was sure had no idea I existed (and I’m sure he no longer does), nodded and smiled as he threw out drumsticks. I’d never felt so connected to my favourite band. In Are We the Waiting, local fan Isabel who I knew from Green Day Community got onstage. Billie waltzed with her.
The dreamlike fuzz only intensified as One for the Razorbacks was followed by Brat, One of My Lies and Only of You. Then Tré switched places with Billie for Dominated Love Slave. They swapped back for Disappearing Boy. I felt like we were all in a bubble, on a separate plane to the rest of the world, with Green Day. Screaming until my voice would no longer come out to I Was There, I knew I would look back, thinking I was there, for the rest of my life. Road to Acceptance was next. I’d lost my mum, but I knew somewhere in that crowd, she was losing her voice to Waiting. After Christie Road, Billie announced ‘this next song was one of the earliest songs we’ve ever written and I gotta fucking tell you, it’s my fucking favourite fucking song to play right now! So right now, I want everybody here to lose your fucking mind and go crazy and dance, are you ready?!’ and pyros exploded to Paper Lanterns. I waved my flag and Billie pointed as we yelled ‘to this day I’m asking why I still think about you!‘ at each other.
In 2000 Light Years Away, after thrilled fans danced onstage, Billie commanded us to wave as we echoed ‘CO-STA RI-CA!’ to the bassline. I still get that stuck in my head every now and then. Fans posed for a photo with my flag before Hitchin’ a Ride. I waved it when Billie asked for a drummer in Knowledge. He considered it for a moment before shaking his head, smirking, then went to find his son Joey.
King for a Day
‘This is the last show… you wanna keep going?’
The crowd roared approval. Extraordinary Girl provided a poignant prequel to 21 Guns. I had never bellowed anything as loud as I screamed ‘one, 21 guns!‘ or ‘like a liar looking for forgiveness from a stone!’ in my life. I was crying, my whole body wracked with sobs that had waited all the years I was unwell to come out. Because I had so much to fight for.
In Minority, I wanted so desperately to scream ‘no, thank YOU!’ back at the band who not only blessed us with such a set but treated me with such kindness; yet I felt at the same time I didn’t need to. Rain fell as Whatsername began the encore. It was one of the first Green Day songs I ever heard. Listening to it on radio.blog.club, trapped at home with my Canada 3000 headphones from the charity shop, I never imagined I’d hear it live… let alone 5,375 miles from that home, smiling through tears in Costa Rica. My voice was trembling as I sang with my arms raised high.
As Good Riddance closed the tour, I sang ‘I hope you had the time of your life!’ with what little remained of my voice. They played almost four hours. I had the time of my life. More than I could ever have imagined. I found my mum and Alejandro after the show. They loved it. Everyone was buzzing on a Green Day high. We were all still smiling as we spoke to staff about my passport. ‘Where are you from?’ one lady asked my mum as she blathered a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese. Who cared? We’d sort it out somehow.
While we’re here, I’d like to share another fan story from the We Are Revolution Radio book. This one is by Isabel who got on stage for Are We the Waiting.
Story by Costa Rican fan Isabel from the We Are Revolution Radio book
We walked through dark streets, stepping over cockroaches, to Silvia’s car. Thanking them for the lift, we parted with hugs and a gift of Silvia’s amazing gun earrings.
The 21st Century Breakdown Tour was over. But the next day, as we waited at the police station to report my stolen passport, there were no regrets useless in our minds. Unable to get hold of the British Embassy the day before our flight home, we resigned ourselves to being stuck in Costa Rica and went to Volcán Irazú and Cartago anyway.
Fog over Volcán Irazú
The main crater at Volcán Irazú
I might have been stuck here indefinitely, but at least it was beautiful
Heading back down to San José
On our way back, I got an international phone call. Hoping it might be Annabelle, I answered to the unimpressed voice of my aunt, who has described the relief she feels when she imagines shooting us over Green Day. Needless to say, she did not know we were in Costa Rica.
‘A man in Costa Rica has called the number in the back of your passport to say he’s found it.’
‘Where the hell are you? You’re not telling me you’re in fucking Costa Rica?’
On the road in ‘fucking Costa Rica’
I was, of course, telling her I was in fucking Costa Rica. She gave me the mystery man’s number and hung up. We called him on a hotel phone. He said he’d found my passport discarded on the floor at the stadium and, after realising we did not understand Costa Rican addresses (have you ever seen one?), arranged to meet us outside. When we got downstairs, the passport was at reception. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed I wouldn’t get a new one saying it was issued in Costa Rica.
Please don’t get the wrong idea about Costa Rica because of the passport incident. The people I met there were some of the kindest and most welcoming I’ve ever met. I’ve experienced equally bad behaviour – for far pettier reasons – from European and North American fans. The same thing could have happened anywhere.
’21st Century Breakdown is sort of a collection of photographs, or ideas, or circumstances that have happened within the past five years. Whether it’s a different crisis or a natural disaster, or a financial breakdown, people losing their homes… revenge or whatever, there’s a lot of personal and political things going on in the record. It goes through a sort of dark tunnel with different themes, to hopefully find some sense of hope at the same time.’ – Billie Joe Armstrong, Radio NRJ, 2009
On arriving home, I passed the exam I was assured I’d fail. Two years after our first show, we sat on white folding chairs on our drive. Our remaining possessions were scattered around us, our keys in the hands of a sympathetic bailiff, as we waited for a moving van to take us to sleep on my grandparents’ floor. My mum’s UN pension disappeared with the house that was no longer ours. The words ‘Green Day’ stared at us, in white spray paint, from our green bin. We laughed. We cried a bit, too. But we regretted nothing.
Green Day are the faces of an inclusive culture from a little punk club in Berkeley. East Bay punks can criticise them all they want. With Green Day shows, their culture tours the world, becoming accessible to everyone and you know what? It doesn’t get much more punk than that.
21 Guns brought me to tears on this tour because I was no longer sure life was worth the fight. Two tours later, alone on the front row in an English arena – like the very one I had to leave in Birmingham – I couldn’t stop myself crying in Still Breathing. Because I knew, thanks to Green Day, that person who almost gave up no longer existed.
I could have chickened out of ever boarding that train to Birmingham. It was a bit like the moment of fear before, seven years on, I stage dived in Champaign, Illinois.
As I walked out on the ledge,
Are you scared to death to live?
Boarding that train, jumping out into that crowd – they’re like bookends to how terrified I once was to live.
But I did jump. I did live.
Did music save my life? Not literally, no. I saved myself. But would I have found the inspiration, the hope, the will to save myself without it? No way.
Hey, 14 year-old me –
You found a home in all your scars and ammunition. Don’t ever put away your burning light.
Thanks Green Day for bringing us the season we always will remember.
¡Viva la Gloria!
Disclaimer: all of these photos were taken with a cheap phone camera long before I studied photography.
If you’d told 12 year-old me these photos were mine, I wouldn’t have believed you. This was one of my photography dreams come true. Enjoy!
Kevin was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show, even though they were all in a rush. 10/10 guys. My hoodie from Discount Valley even featured.
Bonus fangirl moment:
If you'd like to repost my photos, please just ask! I can send you some without watermarks (and I'd much rather do that than see them badly cropped!). I don’t bite, I promise.
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When I got into Green Day, I was a typical new fan: watching interviews, old performances, vacuuming up every bit of history I could get my hands on. I wanted to understand my new favourite band. Plus, it was fascinating. The East Bay was another world… and it may as well have been tucked away on Mars. My chances of ever visiting seemed that remote.
Green Day brought that culture, that background I’d immersed myself in, to their live show. It was as beautiful and welcoming as my research promised. Through Green Day I met my now-fiancée, Annabelle, who grew up in that very culture and would be my tour guide when I eventually made it. Even as I grew up and forgot all I’d learned, the fascination remained.
My mum – a huge Green Day fan – and I briefly visited Oakland for the first time last year. We saw a few of the Green Day sights: the Fox Theatre, the Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café there, Broken Guitars, 1-2-3-4 GO! Records and the Bay Bridge. It barely scratched the surface, really, but I still didn’t want to leave. I knew this dirty city I’d never visited so well. Being there felt like the homecoming I expected. Pun unintended but let’s go with it.
So when The Longshot – Billie Joe’s new band – rescheduled their California shows, it was finally time. You know how my mum is always detained by Homeland Security? Even though she’s a disabled 60 year-old with no criminal record? San Francisco Airport just let her in. See, we were meant to be there.
Annabelle met us in Arrivals. We drove through San Francisco and across the Bay Bridge to Oakland.
I took this photo of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge last year, but it’s a Green Day reference. Billie Joe Armstrong’s nickname for his wife, 80 (and in turn the song title 80) came from this, since Interstate 80 runs over it. He’s also talked about how the band and his father, a truck driver, knew they were home after long journeys when they saw it.
While my mum and Annabelle were in line at Starbucks the next day, a lady complimented my leggings and backpack. I thanked her. She asked if I had a cell phone. When I said yes, she promptly had me post on Facebook that it was a beautiful morning in Oakland, then installed her ‘brain’ so I could take it back to England.
‘Welcome to Oakland.’ Annabelle said as we left.
Walking up the street to the ‘Longview house’
We sat on a wall, recovering from the brain installation, singing Love is for Losers (I don’t remember why, but it was great) and working out what we were doing. Then we drove up Adeline Street – the street Billie Joe’s now-closed record label and clothing line were named after – to Berkeley. Annabelle pointed us towards a quiet, unassuming street. Hills rose up to the blue sky in the distance. It was completely, utterly normal. We glanced around, wondering which of these houses was the one, until Annabelle announced ‘here we are.’
So this is the ‘Longview house’: where Green Day’s Longview music video was recorded in the basement. The sofa was rolled in just to be destroyed, but everything else was real. Green Day were living (squatting) there at the time, sharing their space with another band called the East Bay Weed Company. Much of Dookie was composed here. It served as their base while they dealt with record companies in the build-up to Dookie. In the apartment upstairs was Billie Joe’s ex-girlfriend Amanda, who inspired She, Sassafras Roots, Stuart & the Ave., Good Riddance, Whatsername and, of course, Amanda to name a few. Many of the street’s residents were UC Berkeley students, who weren’t fans of the band’s rehearsels disturbing their studies.
‘The record company guys would come to see us rehearse in the basement and their wives would go shopping on Telegraph Avenue. And when we went on tour we would come back to discover these crusty punks had squatted our place, and every single thing we owned was gone. And my love letters ended up on the Internet…’
- Tré Cool, Green Day: American Idiots and the New Punk Explosion, p.82
Someone actually left the house while we were taking photos, right as I announced ‘I’m so glad there’s no one here, or this would be really awkward.’
Looking at the unsuspecting house – the window that’s actually visible in the Longview video – was beyond surreal. Perhaps the most striking thing, though, was just how normal this street was. The house is so loaded with meaning for any Green Day fan, yet there’s nothing to say it’s more than a regular home. We walked back to the car feeling stunned.
924 Gilman Street, Berkeley: the careers of Green Day and many other East Bay punk bands began here
I could almost have walked past 924 Gilman Street. Then I looked up. Once I realised what this squat building was, it was like a punch to the gut. The number above the door; the caning shop sign; the graffiti on the windows and the door – unlike the ordinariness of the house, just that frontage embodied everything 924 Gilman was. I could feel what Billie Joe, Mike and countless other kids must have felt, walking through that doorway for the first time and thinking this was ‘salvation’; because that was me, 6,000 miles away at 12, discovering the culture Green Day brought from here to the world.
‘Armstrong and Dirnt began living for their weekends at the Gilman Street Project. Run out of the back of a caning-and-wicker-shop, the club would go unnoticed by anyone passing by. For those familiar with the side entrance, however, the shop opens into a world that Armstrong refers to as “salvation”: dilapidated wood floorboards; graffiti splashed across every inch of wall space; band after band with the look and sound of early British punk like the Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks.’
– Rolling Stone Magazine, 1995
Much of the fan graffiti in the doorway was Green Day-related. It went from thanking them to referencing drama between fans. Some might call that ironic considering Green Day’s eventual negative reception at the club, but I suppose that’s what punk’s all about: doing whatever you want regardless. So of course, we went and added our own with our crappy biro pens we picked up in airports and hotel rooms.
How much do you bet some guy will find this and get up my ass about stupid fangirls marking a ReAl PuNx™ site?
My mum had to be encouraged by me and Annabelle
‘Growing up and going to shows around Gilman Street was the best education I got. Walking through that door the first thing I saw was a sign saying “No Sexism, No Racism, No Homophobia,” and I think that’s had an impact on me for the rest of my life. Now when people come to our shows the main thing is I want them to feel like they’re in a safe space. If you’re gay, straight, white, black, brown, transgender, if there’s one place you feel you can go to, it’s a Green Day gig.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2016
We pulled up on another quiet, unsuspecting Berkeley street. Opposite was a building that looked quite a lot like my primary school, identified only by the word ‘Fantasy.’ On the corner was a stop sign, illuminated neon red by the bright sunlight. This was Fantasy Studios, where Billie Joe recorded his first single Look for Love and Green Day later recorded Dookie. It must have been quite the fantasy for those kids squatting in warehouses and basements, coming home to find their space invaded by crusty punks.
Green Day recording Dookie here in 1993
Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
‘[Fantasy Studios] definitely had that Seventies coke-y vibe, mahogany and strange dead wood around the place. We would go into the vaults and see all of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s master tapes. But I felt we belonged there. Our first album cost $700 to make. Kerplunk! was like $1200. “Let’s record these as fast as we can – because we don’t have a choice.” This time, I learned how to dial in good sounds, get the best guitar tones. I was able to take a little time doing vocals. I loved that experience.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2014
San Francisco from Berkeley Marina
Annabelle had been wanting to show me Berkeley Marina for a long time. Of course, it’s also referenced in The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink, from Fat Wreck Chords’ Short Songs for Short People compilation. The clear day offered views of Oakland, San Francisco and both bridges. Students learning to kayak crowded the paths, though the crowds thinned out before the closed-off pier. We walked as far as the sundial and decided we’d come back another day with a picnic.
Before we flew, my mum saw Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café advertising a performance of the American Idiot Musical. So that was our next stop: the Flight Deck on Broadway. It would be performed by Bay Area Zeta Players, a theatre company run entirely by local high school students. I was impressed with the set design as soon as we walked in. They’d fit the vibe of a huge production into a tiny room.
Theatregoers and people in Green Day shirts filled the remaining seats. The show’s director thanked us for coming and encouraged us to laugh, cry or clap whenever we wanted. A raffle was held for an American Idiot CD signed by Mike Dirnt; one of the guys in Green Day shirts won.
Jesus of Suburbia: introducing Johnny, Will, Tunny and the residents of Jingletown
Every performance of American Idiot is different. I know every line, but I’m never sure what to expect – or when I think I am, I’m surprised again. As relevant now as it ever was, it was made for these angry young voices.
Holiday: the ‘bus’ from Jingletown to the city
Favorite Son: tempting Tunny to join the army
Their performance had the perfect balance of rage, love and apathy so performative it mocked apathy. This take on Tunny by Anneke Angstadt was my favourite so far. She brought a fuller, angrier personality to the role; the perfect depiction of a loser easily enticed by military propaganda.
St. Jimmy: Johnny, having been deserted by Tunny, getting his first fix while Whatsername watches
Give Me Novacaine: Johnny falls in love with Whatsername while Tunny is soon hurt on the battlefield
Last Night on Earth: Johnny and Whatsername shoot up while St. Jimmy serenades him, willing him to choose drugs over Whatsername
Extraordinary Girl: in a morphine-induced hallucination, Tunny’s nurse appears as a glittering angel
Letterbomb: Whatsername, sick of Johnny’s drug habits, leaves him
Homecoming: St. Jimmy’s last moments before Johnny overcomes his addiction
Homecoming: Will, lonely and depressed in Jingletown
Homecoming: nobody likes you, everyone left you, they’re all out without you, having fun!
In the traditional Good Riddance, the cast encouraged everyone to sing if they knew the words. A shy chorus filled the little room. Afterwards, the producers thanked us again and explained more about the company.
Seeing American Idiot performed in Oakland – having been to the band’s squat in Berkeley, 924 Gilman and knowing I’d go to the warehouse Billie Joe lived in the next day – gave me a whole new understanding of where this album came from and, as a European, a real insight into the country it’s based on. Boulevard of Broken Dreams was the first Green Day song I ever heard. I loved and related to it so much when I discovered it at 12 that I overplayed it to oblivion. Every time I’ve seen the American Idiot musical it’s still managed to give me goosebumps, but this was something else. I relived every moment of how Green Day changed my life while watching this show. Can’t wait to see these guys in something else. If you get the chance, you totally should.
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café
Our next stop was the original Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café in Emeryville. Owned by Mike Dirnt, it opened in 2002 with the Oakland location following in 2011. The tables outside were packed. We ate at the Oakland one last year, so we took photos and left. Sadly, since we got home, the Oakland location announced its closure. Wish we’d gone there again now.
The now closed Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café at the Fox Theatre in Oakland (taken last year)
After a trip to Sephora, we got back out of the car at West Oakland BART Station – where ‘a gunshot rings out at the station’ in Welcome to Paradise.
West Oakland BART Station
Annabelle walked us down 7th Street, ‘the cracked streets and the broken homes’ and we stopped outside a patched-up old warehouse. This was the squat Billie Joe had just moved into when he wrote Welcome to Paradise.
Pay attention to the cracked streets and the broken homes
‘Billie Joe left home at 17, and he lived on couches and in a scary live-work band space. He once lived in an old brothel and hotel, located on a desolate block in West Oakland under the BART trains.’
– Spin Magazine, 1994
The BART track is right outside, hence the line about the station. When Billie Joe lived here the bathroom was infested with rats, so he chose to use a cat litter instead. It’s also referred to in Sweet 16 – ‘throwing down a bottle of Old English back in the warehouse.’
‘I was living in West Oakland at the time. It was my first time ever being out on my own, out of my parents’ house and I just tried to capture that feeling – sort of frightening but at the same time you come to the conclusion that it’s freeing and you can end up growing as an individual.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2005
Seeing this was a sobering reminder of where Green Day came from and how hard they worked to be where they are now – but also a powerful reminder that it’s entirely possible and, as Billie Joe said, that it can even empower you. With these photos I’d like to include Annabelle’s story from the We Are Revolution Radio book. They grew up in a similar setting, and their story makes great points about how Green Day inspire fans beyond the music.
Annabelle’s story from the We Are Revolution Radio book
Our next drive was to Jingletown, a real neighbourhood near Fruitvale. In a dead-end by the highway is Studio 880, also known as ‘Jingletown Studios.’ This is where Warning, the Foxboro Hot Tubs’ Stop Drop and Roll!!!, the ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! trilogy and parts of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown were recorded. It got the name ‘Jingletown’ when the Foxboro Hot Tubs used it to cover up their identity.
21st Century Breakdown is my favourite album of all time and the only record I’ll ever claim changed my life. So seeing the studio where recording began, and also where the album art – a massive inspiration to me at 14, which probably still shows today – was painted; it was emotional and left me a bit shaken in the best way. I also bonded with an old guy across the street when he waved to me.
You might recognise the parking lot if you’re a Green Day fan. It appeared in the ¡Cuatro! documentary and several of the ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! promo videos. Much of the 21st Century Breakdown album art was painted on the walls, but sadly now it’s been sold and from what I could see, it’s gone.
27th Avenue sign near Studio 880
The studio is on 27th Avenue, which likely gave the Foxboro Hot Tubs song 27th Avenue Shuffle its name. Jingletown itself is also, of course, the name of Jesus of Suburbia’s hometown in American Idiot.
This store was an unintentional Green Day reference. I took a photo because it said Jingletown, but it also has a brief cameo in the ¡Cuatro! scene That Just Happened (around the 0:22 mark).
Despite Annabelle saying ‘we need to get your photos then get the hell out of here,’ we spent the evening eating 29¢ cakes in the Food Maxx parking lot. It felt a whole lot like we were Johnny, Will and Tunny. We even escaped alive. Peak Jingletown.
Sunset in Jingletown
The next day, we headed to San Francisco for the Longshot show. Our last stop before postponing our tour was Powell St. BART Station: so we could go do what we liked, making sure we did it wise. This is the phone (or the only usable one on the same wall) Billie pulled off during that line in the When I Come Around video.
I’ll write about the two Longshot shows in a separate post, so if you’re not interested, you don’t have to scroll through it. If you are, a recap is on its way and you can read my DC and Baltimore one in the meantime. My make-up stayed intact for three days, tho.
On arriving back in Oakland from Orange County, I found two guys I recognise in a Visit Oakland magazine.
We went for dinner at Homeroom, one of Annabelle’s favourites they’d been nagging me to try for two years. My vegan GFF did not disappoint. Afterwards, we passed Broken Guitars and went to 1-2-3-4 GO! Records which is, of course, a Green Day reference. Here they played an early show – the ‘Bay Area Music Fan Appreciation Event’ – for ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré!, The Longshot played their first show and Billie built the stage with his son Joey. They’re currently selling Turn It Around: The Story Of East Bay Punk.
1-2-3-4 GO! Records (taken last year)
Inside 1-2-3-4 GO! Records, Oakland, CA
The guy working was kind enough to show us the back room, where the stage is. It looked so much smaller than it did on photos. Its official capacity is 49.
Phone pic of me in the back room at 1-2-3-4 GO! Records. Don’t judge me guys, I’d just wiped the three-day-surviving make-up off
They also have a Live at Maxwell’s doormat in there, which confirms its status as the best record store in Oakland. We spent the remainder of our evening talking on various benches, moving regularly to avoid drug dealers and men with mini America flags non-ironically attached to them.
Sunset in Oakland
Next, we finally ventured out of Oakland to Pinole. Knowing the area inspired Jesus of Suburbia, I expected it to be a shithole. Like a mini Oakland, because that’s what the suburbs no-one wants to live in are like in England. Instead, the city dissolved into an endless vista of rolling hills, scorched by the sun. Sleepy streets led into the town. Annabelle drove on to park in an equally sleepy shopping centre.
To us, it was just pretty, but I could see why it felt like the end of the world in a completely different way to Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Instead of chavs grumbling outside the Job Centre, there was no-one. Just silence amongst the rows of parked pickup trucks. Now I understood exactly why the song was called Jesus of ‘Suburbia,’ and how a loser like its namesake pitted himself as Jesus; sitting in ‘my living room, for my private womb, while the moms and Brads are away.’ At the same time, though, those lyrics can still apply to anywhere. Because, for so long to me, they applied to my home so far-removed in England.
Fiat Music, Pinole: where Billie Joe Armstrong learned to sing
We stood for a while outside Fiat Music: a little section of the shopping centre, between Trader Joe’s and a martial arts academy. This was where five year-old Billie Joe was taught to play piano and sing, by Marie Louise Fiatarone and her husband.
‘Billie Joe’s mother brought him in because she was signing him up for piano lessons. Jim took one look at him and said, “He looks like he really belongs in show business. Why don’t you take him in the studio and see if he can sing?”’
– Marie Louise Fiatarone, 2006
With reassurance from Annabelle that we weren’t being creepy, we went inside. The building looked surprisingly modern outside, but once we opened the door, its age was clear. We were greeted by one of the kindest and most well-spoken people I’ve ever met: Mrs Fiatarone herself. Feeling embarrassed, my mum explained we were Green Day fans and knew Billie learned to sing here. Mrs Fiatarone smiled and said yes, he was one of her very successful students. She showed us the back studio, where Look For Love was composed. Propped up on the shelves was Green Day fanart by new students, inspired by Fiat Music’s past. When we said we were from England, she showed us a photo in a folder: a group of Green Day fans holding up the t-shirt from the Look For Love cover, in which we spotted one of our friends, Tony. You might know him from Bullet in a Bible – he’s the guy who comes in too soon when playing American Idiot. Even though we and Mrs Fiatarone were aware of Green Day’s ability to connect people around the world, it still seemed crazy these random English girls recognised someone in the Fiat Music guestbook.
Mrs Fiatarone then told us her own crazy story. When Billie Joe began looking into his Italian ancestry, he posted his grandfather’s birth certificate on his Instagram, asking if anyone could translate. Mrs Fiatarone’s son offered to help, since he spoke Italian. He soon found Billie Joe’s grandparents were from Viggiano, the same little town of 3,000 people, as his own. What are the chances of that?
‘I learned show tunes as a kid. My dad was a jazz drummer, and I used to go to veterans’ hospitals and sing. I wanted to play guitar, but they said my hands were too small.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2005
We looked at the Look For Love cover and she smiled, saying ‘he’s still that same sweet little kid.’ Then she held it up so we could take a photo.
Me and Marie Louise Fiatarone, who taught Billie Joe to sing
We thanked Mrs Fiatarone, feeling like we couldn’t thank her enough, and said goodbye with a promise we’d send her the photo. Maybe one day someone else will recognise us in the guestbook.
This was by far one of my most unexpected, but surreal and incredible, Green Day experiences. We didn’t expect anything more than having a peek inside – let alone meeting Mrs Fiatarone herself and being treated with such kindness. We were just in time, too. It was about fifteen minutes before she started teaching and the next day, they were holding a concert for the 10th anniversary of Trader Joe’s. Meeting her was an absolute privilege and it’s a story I’m honoured to share.
Pinole Valley High School
We walked down an overgrown, cracked pathway to Pinole Valley High School – the latter high school Billie Joe and Mike Dirnt attended. Green Day also played an early show here. It’s currently being renovated, but we could make out the spot Green Day played and get a feel of the area.
The area around Pinole Valley High School
Across the street was ‘the’ library from At the Library. Green Day played that the first time we saw them. It always seemed fitting considering that’s where I met Annabelle. Everything was coming full circle. Sadly, the library is permanently closed now.
At the library
A minute’s walk away was perhaps the most mundane, but most exciting site for me (not counting unexpectedly meeting Mrs Fiatarone).
The center of the earth in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven where I was taught.
It said home is where your heart is but what a shame, ’cause everyone’s heart doesn’t beat the same
Like Pinole, the ‘end of the world’ wasn’t what I expected. I’ve been to some very dodgy 7-Elevens, and I expected this one to be the same; not set against the quiet backdrop of a hill. It was an entirely new take on Jesus of Suburbia.
Billie Joe worked here for a while in his teens, which is likely how it ended up in the song. We went inside, because we had to and bought a rainbow dragon, now named Pinole.
‘It’s that lost feeling. Hanging out at the 7-Eleven. Disenfranchised. Alienated. You just get that feeling of “I’ve got to get out of here. There’s more to life than this town.”’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2006
In the 7-Eleven at the center of the earth
Before we got back in the car, we looked for a bathroom stall. There was no way of knowing which was ‘the’ one, or if it even existed. So we just went for the only place that didn’t require a 500-digit code and pickaxe to get in: Trader Joe’s. It was a bathroom stall in the shopping mall.
A bathroom stall in the shopping mall from Jesus of Suburbia, also known as peak California tourism
Unfortunately there was no graffiti to confirm the center of the earth is the end of the world. Hopefully the random English people, accompanied by a local trying not to laugh, who piled in and bought one banana were enough confirmation to any bystanders.
‘[American Idiot] sort of follows the path of this guy, Jesus of Suburbia. He’s, like, 19 to 21 years old, he’s stuck in a small town, and he’s sick of everything there – the people, the 7-Eleven he grew up with, his friends, the institutions that he’s been in the whole time. He finally finds the courage and the anger to leave his hometown, and he moves to the city and tries to find people who are kindred spirits.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2004
People love to claim Green Day betrayed their roots when they wrote American Idiot. The truth is, it’s no further from those roots than Dookie. You only need to stand on this street in Pinole to know that.
Rodeo, CA: Billie Joe Armstrong’s hometown
We weren’t sure if it’d be creepy to go to Rodeo. ‘But it’s just a town, and it’s not like you’re going to find his mom,’ Annabelle said, so we went. If we thought Pinole was a sleepy hamlet, this was even more so. We parked first opposite a gas station and wandered around; just taking in the atmosphere of the little town of 8,500 people.
‘I grew up in a town called Rodeo. It’s right off the 80. It’s off the 80 at Willow. And it was the inspiration for this next song. This is Jesus of Suburbia.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong on stage at The Warfield, San Francisco, 2005
‘Rodeo is on the water, you know,’ Annabelle said, ‘And there’s something you’ve forgotten there.’
Still unsure if it was weird to be here, I hesitated. They drove us up there anyway. We came to a view of a reference I’d completely forgotten: the oil refinery referred to in 21st Century Breakdown.
The last one born and the first one to run.
My town is blind from refinery sun.
OK, I may now be an adult with a cold, dark heart who won’t talk about how 21st Century Breakdown changed (what I really mean is saved) my life. Because at some point since I felt that way, the phrase became overused and I shied away from ever saying it again. But as Billie Joe will say East Bay punk saved his life, I can say the same about that record. As a teenager, I lived by Gloria’s ideals: striving to claw my way out of a stagnant existence and find a home in all my scars and ammunition. She was my idol. Feeling that way inspired me to carry on when I felt there was no hope left. Now, walking around what might have been one of the most desolate streets in Rodeo; I was living in the songs that inspired me so. Like loving a movie all your life and finally visiting the set.
‘Aren’t you glad we came up here?’ Annabelle asked, and I was. I didn’t feel creepy anymore.
I’ve been to the edge and I’ve thrown the bouquet of flowers left over the grave
‘We came from such a highly polluted area in Rodeo, California. It’s a refinery town and we ended up getting sent home from school because kids were having headaches and nobody could understand why, when of course, 200 yards away from the elementary school I went to was the biggest refinery in America.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2005
The San Pablo Bay from Rodeo
As we walked up the beaten road to Lone Tree Point, I had Outlaws playing in my head, too. Because if there’s one Green Day song, not from 21st Century Breakdown, that personifies what growing up here must have been like, to me, it’s Outlaws.
I found a knife by the railroad tracks.
You took a train and you can’t go back.
Forever now you’ll roam.
We sat for a while on a picnic bench at Lone Tree Point, talking and watching the sun go down. Two men threaded their way over the train tracks to a caravan by a dilapidated pier.
Christie Road was still on our to-see-today list, so we marked this as another spot we’d have to return to with a picnic (who has a picnic near a refinery? Us). We took a slow walk, taking it all in and detouring onto a bridge to take photos, back to the car.
A yard in Rodeo (I like cacti)
On our way in, we saw a Rodeo sign Billie Joe took a selfie with. Assuming Annabelle remembered we wanted to stop there, and even if they didn’t we’d leave the same way, we didn’t mention it again. We were back out on the 80 when my mum and I looked at each other.
‘I think we’ve come a different way.’
Annabelle glanced at me. ‘Ohhhh, the sign. Uh, we’re long past that…’
We turned in Hercules. Annabelle was doubting their knowledge of the area.
‘Which side was it again?’
It wasn’t exactly something we could Google. We continued, hoping for the best, until my mum grabbed my arm.
‘THERE! That’s it!’
‘Where do I park? Where the hell did he park?!’
My mum pointed. ‘There’s a bus stop, look. Park there. We’ll only be a few minutes…’
‘That’s illegal, Joy,’ Annabelle replied, but parked there anyway.
References galore (see THAT sign in the background)
We were wading through the grass when a horn screeched behind us.
‘It’s a fucking bus!’
I turned, watching Annabelle dive back into the car, and saw an entire park and ride.
‘Oh, that’s where Billie parked.’
The bus driver stepped out, laughing, and asked what we were doing. We said we were Green Day fans doing our history tour. He replied that he loved Green Day and knew Billie Joe’s brothers, who lived locally. We had a short conversation about Donald Trump and England, then he went on his merry way. Annabelle, now parked legally, was judging when was a good time to charge back over the highway.
By the time my mum and Annabelle had been to Starbucks to recover, the sun had set. Christie Road would have to wait. Thanks, Rodeo sign.
Sunset over the 80
We’d also forgotten John Swett High School – the first one Billie Joe and Mike attended – Tight Wad Hill and Foxboro. It seemed a shame to have little things outstanding up there, so we went the next day.
For some reason I didn’t take a single photo of this on my camera, so you’re stuck with this phone pic ft. me
Foxboro is a housing development five minutes down the 80 from Rodeo. Billie Joe and Mike used to sneak into the hot tubs dotted around the village, a spot to drink and make out late at night. So, perhaps obviously, it gave the Foxboro Hot Tubs their name. We didn’t wander in to see if we could find any hot tubs. However, we did go and say hi to our favourite sign, since it was a two minute walk away.
‘The Foxboro Hot Tubs were a place we used to sneak booze and chicks into late at night. But most of the time it was just “dude soup.”’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2008
Crockett is the other side of Rodeo, after the 80 threads through hills and the refinery. We stepped out of the car at John Swett. The first thing we saw was the board that announced Green Day’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
A board at John Swett High School, where Green Day’s 2015 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was announced
‘The fear was always there, even when we were doing American Idiot. I’d get this voice in my head: “Who do you think you are? Why did you write a song like Holiday, you high school dropout?” I think the working-class part of me comes out. Sometimes the people who have the loudest mouths are upper-class, upper-middle-class. The quietest are often working-class people, people who are broke. There is a fear of losing whatever it is that you have. I come from that background.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2013
John Swett High School, Crockett: Billie Joe and Mike’s first high school
Across the street from John Swett, peeking through trees is Carquinez Middle School – where Billie Joe and Mike met. It’s an orange-and-pink-painted building in a dip, before the ground rises back up as a green hill.
‘Our school district went bankrupt, so they closed down the junior high and combined two elementary schools. So [Mike] went to one elementary and I went to the other. We used to have to take the bus out there. First day of elementary school, I think in fifth grade, I was like the class clown – but Mike was like the class clown, so it was kind of like these dueling banjos that were going to go back and forth. What you get is Deliverance. Mike is my musical soulmate.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong in his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech, 2015
Carquinez Middle School, where Billie Joe and Mike Dirnt met
This was something else totally alien to us: suburban American schools. Everything, even this, was on a scale so much larger than England it was fascinating. At first glance, the warm brick buildings surrounded by trees were just pretty. All we’d seen of quiet, hilly Crockett, overlooked by the Carquinez Bridge, was pretty. It was difficult to imagine it feeling like the end of the world, but the more we walked around, the clearer it was that the silence and empty sidewalks could feel suffocating.
THIS DIRTY CITY IS MY SUGAR TOWN (yes, I went there, I non-ironically enjoy Nightlife)
‘I’m not royalty. I’m the king of nothing. I’m in the same high school rock ’n roll band I’ve been in since I was 16.’
– Billie Joe Armstrong, 2016
Down a hill dotted with porta potties is an urban scramble of metal and chimneys. It looks like part of the oil refinery, but it’s actually a huge sugar factory. This is where the phrase ‘sugar city urchin’ in Tight Wad Hill comes from – and, of course, ‘my sugar town’ in Nightlife. The latter likely references Crockett since Sugar City Tattoo, where Lady Cobra worked, is here.
C&H Sugar Factory in Crockett, referred to in Tight Wad Hill: ‘sugar city urchin wasting time’
Tight Wad Hill itself – a spot junkies and cheapskates hung around to watch school games for free – overlooks the John Swett field. The area has changed since the song was written, including the field itself; so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where qualifies as ‘Tight Wad Hill.’ We climbed over a barrier and peered through trees at (what we at least thought was) the view.
The field and yard at John Swett High School from a spot near Tight Wad Hill
That was all our Rodeo-Crockett references ticked off. We thought we’d better see the bridge and a bit more of the town before we took off – part of the magic was just experiencing these places, after all. We wandered up the hill and through quaint streets.
The local bus Billie Joe and Mike would have taken to school – it stops outside Carquinez and John Swett
Toot’s Tavern, a street-corner pub adorned with an American flag and advertising live music, wasn’t on our list. I’ll admit I didn’t even realise its relevance until Annabelle pointed it out – it’s where the Foxboro Hot Tubs played their second show. We passed it, so why not?
Toot’s Tavern, Crockett, where the Foxboro Hot Tubs played their second show
On our way to the bridge, I found an unintentional reference. Not that this sign is directly referred to in any songs, but it’s Westbound Sign summed up.
Finally, we walked a bit of the way across the bridge as the sun set… and now it was too late to go to Christie Road again.
Sunset from the Al Zampa Memorial Bridge in Crockett, CA
Sunset over the refinery
These trips to the ‘end of the world’ might have been the dullest part of our trip to anyone else. For us, though, coming from an overcrowded little island where even the most isolated places can’t compare to American suburbia; this was our favourite part. I feel I’ve learned so much about Green Day and their inspiration by experiencing it myself. Next time I sing along to songs like Jesus of Suburbia at a live show, where Billie Joe’s lyrics are their most poignant, I’m not even sure how I’m going to feel. I just know I’ll lose my voice.
Block Party, Oakland
We spent our last day at the annual Block Party. The line-up included Dead Sound, Destroy Boys, Same Girls, Prima Donna, Anastazi and Arrica Rose. Stalls representing local businesses, from Homeroom to Atomic Garden, filled the street. We unexpectedly met our new friend Evangelina, who we’d met a few days ago at the San Francisco Longshot show.
Prima Donna live at Block Party
Finally, we attempted the photobooth in 1-2-3-4 GO! Records. We ended up with some photos of my mum’s cheek, the top of Evangelina’s head and my left boob. SAD. Fear not though, because Evangelina recognised the bathroom wall from a Longshot selfie (the one used to announce their show there, no less), so we got another to add to the Rodeo sign.
The 1-2-3-4 GO! Records bathroom wall featured in a Longshot selfie
I’d say eating mac & cheese and watching local bands (well, Prima Donna, aren’t quite so local) was a pretty good way to end our trip. I even have a new jam, Feral Children.
So, the next morning, it was time to pack our bags and head back out over 80 to the airport. I’d never wanted to stay so much. My head was spinning from everything I’d taken in over the last week and a half. Still, we were missing some crucial bits and pieces… so we’d just have to come back.
For your comparison: arriving back in England
I knew this trip would be special. I could never have imagined quite how deeply it would immerse me in music I thought I already understood so well. In finding the roots of the three people and art that inspired me, gave me hope when there was none – I’ve found another part of myself. People ask me why I love Green Day. That’s why. Because they embody a culture, one that could have been forgotten in one tiny club in Berkeley, so much it reached this lonely kid looking for a purpose in England… and I know I was one of many.
Now, I’ll return to my own center of the earth; but unlike the graffiti in the bathroom stall, these memories will confirm it’s not quite the end of the world. I don’t know about you, but I’d disagree that Billie Joe never made it as a working-class hero.
Note this tour is missing (alphabetical order): Art of Ears Studio (Kerplunk), Christie Road, Hyde Street Studios (Insomniac), Passalacqua Funeral Home, Rod’s Hickory Pit (now a gas station), Ruby Room and Stuart/Telegraph (Stuart & the Ave.). If all goes to plan, you’ll get a second instalment later this year!
It was my last day of training in my new job when tickets went on sale. Our trainer set us up to go for different shows: some for Washington, some for Baltimore. The biggest venue The Longshot was playing had a capacity of 750. Even with a committed team of not-so-professionals, this wasn’t going to be easy.
People must have wondered what the hell we were doing in the training room, because I was screaming and it was infectious. I had Washington. Two of us had Washington. Baltimore was gone before I could even switch tabs.
‘Sam has Baltimore!’
Sam did indeed have Baltimore. I ran to and fro with my card. I’d forgotten my Ticketfly password and had to make a new account. My heart was still pounding when it was all over. I expected something to go wrong. There’d be some reason I couldn’t keep the tickets.
I ran into the canteen to text my mum and my partner. They’d both panicked and bought Washington tickets too. It turned out it didn’t even sell out for an hour and a half. Still, there was a two ticket limit per person for every show, and the only reason ours weren’t cancelled out was that I accidentally entered the address I no longer lived at in Cornwall.
It was a week until we left when I began to feel so ill I could barely even look at my screen. When it got worse, I took the afternoon off and went to my GP. I never get sick. I once went to work photographing kids with swine flu. This was bad. The doctor debated sending me to hospital because I was so dehydrated, but eventually sent me home with a bag of medication. As I spent the evening throwing up, all I could think of was the shows. It wasn’t about the money I’d lose. It was about the opportunity I’d never have again. I absolutely adore Love is for Losers – as much as anything Green Day have released – and the thought of not making it left me feeling very angry with whoever gave me the bug.
I got a suitcase in my hand, don't even know just where I am 🎶
I made it to East Midlands Airport. I’ve done some stupid things, but getting on a plane this unwell is somewhere at the top. Still, there was no way I was giving this trip up. Landed successfully in Dublin. So far, so good.
OK, I think it’s funny now, but I’ll admit that night in Dublin was bad. I was scared I wouldn’t get out of the bathroom for long enough to check in. With my mum’s encouragement I did. Somehow we were through security. I was feeling slightly better. The next hurdle was US preclearance. We had under an hour to clear, and we knew my mum would be detained, because she always is for no apparent reason. I rushed through separately so I could speak to the gate staff.
‘What’s the purpose of your trip?’
‘I said, what’s the purpose of your trip?’
‘Oh. I’m going to see a Green Day side band, mate.’
I had never received such a glare of hatred from a Homeland Security officer until then. He stamped my passport and let me through without a word. No sign of my mum. It would probably be OK, the gate staff said. Probably.
They were late boarding. She reappeared with time to spare. We were on the plane. It was too late for them to throw me off if I suddenly got worse, but it seemed like the Dublin episode was the last of it. That was some high quality relief.
Newburgh Stewart Airport looked less like a barn miles from civilization in the sun. I watched suburbs pass where ‘VOTE’ signs sprouted from the grass, crammed into every corner until they dissolved into the open highway. In the middle of nowhere, a huge, glass-fronted hotel rose from a clearing. That’s America.
I’d never been to New York City in summer. It was reminiscent of trying to run for a bus on Falmouth High Street after 9am, when all the tourists have woken up. We walked to Nintendo World and bought caught a Blastoise. It took longer than we expected and we realised we couldn’t make it to the Megabus stop in time if we walked. We unsuccessfully flagged down yellow cabs until a minibus stopped. He got us there just in time. Of course, the Megabus was an hour late and the minibus adventure was unnecessary.
You haven’t experienced America until you’ve stood on roaches, sweating 10 litres, in line for an overbooked Megabus that’s an hour late
I fell asleep at some point on an anonymous highway (on the bus, not off it). When I woke up, the sun had gone down and the bus was creeping through dimmed city lights. Clean streets were washed pink by the night-time glow. We pulled in to a strange bus station, like a parking lot, under Union Station. While my mum went for a cigarette, we made friends with a lady called Elizabeth who asked if we knew Meghan Markle or Princess Diana. Wherever we go in America, the Diana question is national.
We walked through streets of columned buildings to my mum’s first Walmart. While I stared aimlessly at cheese, probably having forgotten my own name, a guy asked where I was from and learned about The Longshot. I grabbed two packs of honey buns, some strawberry M&Ms for Sam – the hero behind our Baltimore tickets – and red velvet Oreos to take home. Finding a stupid supermarket: success.
The receptionist at our hotel thought we were a couple, and wanted to change our room so we weren’t in a double bed. Eventually he decided we looked alike and gave us the key. Mate, I’m not from Sutton-in-Ashfield.
It was a hot, sticky day when we went out to wander. We scoped out the 750-capacity Black Cat, the dodgiest building on a fancy street. There was definitely no-one camping out 36 hours in advance, so we walked on to the White House.
The White House was well fenced off, with police patrolling the street outside. Photographing and marvelling at it was a strange bunch: indifferent tourists, students and news crews filming, and sunburnt, middle-aged men in completely non-ironic Make America Great Again hats. It was hot and crowded (and the MAGA hats looked contagious), so we didn’t hang around.
DC was more like a British city than anywhere else we’d visited in America. Like a cleaner, American London. There was something quite emotional for me about visiting the capital city of my favourite country. The first time I went to America we actually landed in DC. I was 16 and Homeland Security made me cry. They held us up so long we missed our connecting flight to Phoenix and met Cone McCaslin from Sum 41. It was quite nice to make it out of the airport, having seen the last of Homeland Security in Dublin.
It especially got me at the World War II Monument, looking up at the pillars that marked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the names of all the states. I know it has its (huge) faults, and I’m not a stupid European who naively believes in the American dream. I will probably die getting shot in America. But from Wisconsin to New Mexico, wherever I go (except LA), it’s my favourite place in the world. One day I will make it all the way out to Hawaii. OK, I’ll go back to laughing at America now.
The last stop on our tourist expedition was the United States Capitol. Everything had long shut by the time we arrived. The sun was setting, tinting it all gold.
We returned to The Walmart™ before we headed back, re-emerging with a camping chair, battery-powered fan and sun umbrella. We were ready.
It was nearly 11pm and there was still no line at the Black Cat. The street was packed with clubbers now. I’d probably have got stabbed with a stiletto if I’d rolled out my sleeping bag. We hesitated before going back to sleep and returning at 6am. I was eighth in line, behind Meri from Finland who we’d seen all over the world on the Revolution Radio Tour.
The first few hours passed quickly. We made friends with a fellow Maria, who’d brought her twelve year-old son Daniel. He bonded with eight year-old Chase from North Carolina. Both of them had been on stage with Green Day and couldn’t wait to see Billie Joe again. There were fans from Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, England, Germany and Australia behind us. Most were hardcore fans, as you might expect at a side project show, but there were lots of casual fans too.
Once the sun reached its peak in the sky and shade receded, the hours began to drag. I spent a lot of time shoving my face in free ice water from Peet’s Coffee. Chase gave us all fabulous Longshot tattoos with a sharpie – and Maria gave Daniel some incredible, detailed Green Day ones – though in the afternoon they all began to melt off. I was very glad for the fan and sun umbrella. Best $20 I’ve ever spent. I was glad, too, that the stomach bug seemed to have finally disappeared completely. Only just in time, but I made it. It felt like coming home. The fact we’d be seeing The Longshot, these songs Billie randomly decided to bless us with, in such a small venue that night, was still surreal. We were incredibly lucky, and I was struggling to believe it wasn’t all just a big joke. Maybe we were actually seeing Green Date.
Future rockers of America waiting for The Longshot
Half an hour before doors, staff checked ID and stamped our hands. The stamps were our tickets. I was frightened mine might melt off like Chase’s tattoo. Outside of our little groups, the atmosphere was hostile now. Thankfully, they let us into the air conditioning early, lining us up in a corridor before the stairs. I was shocked how calmly everyone filed in. It was even more of a shock, then, when they called us up early. Now it was, as usual, every man for himself. I was sitting on the floor and before I even registered what was going on, feet were thundering past me. My mum had gone to sit down and was nowhere in sight. I leapt up, joining the stampede up the stairs. Staff screamed at us not to run but no one listened. We crashed into the front row in the exact order of the line. I was up in front of Kevin Preston’s mic. My mum was still nowhere to be seen. Carling and Lindsay from Canada helped wave to her and we ushered her in. Panic over. Now, resting our arms on the stage with no barrier, only the amps between us and the band – it seemed at least real enough to know it wasn’t some huge joke.
It seemed an agonisingly long wait for The Trashbags. Then they were gone, their kit was dragged off and replaced with a shiny Ludwig kit that read ‘The Longshot.’ In the meantime, Billie opened the door behind the stage, stared at us and shut it again.
This was real.
It wasn’t like Green Day, where Billie Joe is the final, dramatic entrance. The four of them strolled on stage together, smiling and waving to the crowd mere inches from them. I was staring in disbelief at Billie, at Kevin and his setlist taped to the amp in front of me, at David behind the Longshot kit that looked so new – like it was. They tore straight into Kill Your Friends. We were slammed into the stage in a surge I’d only ever experienced in England. All the tourist attractions we’d seen yesterday were long gone. The four walls that packed us in could have been anywhere. It might as well have been England, or maybe it was Washington DC. I’d felt like I was watching Green Day through a thick screen before, many times. Somehow, so close I could see the smallest features on their faces, this seemed more dreamlike than ever. Devil’s Kind was a song I’d listened to on YouTube. Not screaming the words back at Billie in a sweaty club. By Taxi Driver, I was jumping on people’s feet and they were jumping on mine. I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t care. I don’t think anyone cared. It certainly didn’t silence the collective voice screaming the words: ‘taxi driver, I’m rolling, taxi driver!’
Next up was Happiness. I remember looking round at my mum and her face was just alight with, quite literally, happiness. Billie yelled ‘oh my God, I fucked up the lyrics!’ but that might as well have been the actual line, it mattered so little. The crowd sung along as a raucous chorus to Rockaway Beach.
Then it was straight into Soul Surrender. There was emotion in Billie Joe’s eyes and voice I’d never known before. These songs resonated deeply with me, too and I felt connected to the band in a way I’d also never experienced, at any show, before. I keep saying it was surreal, but it was.
‘This is another cover song, this song was done by a band I saw play when I was 15 years old, in San Francisco…’
I screamed because I knew this was Bastards of Young. Annabelle introduced me to The Replacements when we got together, and I’ve loved them ever since. I’d never, ever dreamed I’d see any member of Green Day playing a Replacements song. And it was perfect. Paul Westerberg would be proud of his #1 fan.
Billie Joe sang As Tears Go By with his eyes closed. It was clear it meant a lot to him, and the emotional way he played it meant everyone in the room felt whatever he felt too. Cult Hero was a proper banger. Even the Longshot songs that weren’t my favourites were more incredible live than I could ever have imagined. Now I had memories I’d recall every time I heard them.
I knew they were going to play Fell For You. I could see it on the setlist in front of me. But this is one of my favourite songs of all time. It was released at a poignant time for me, when I was in my first relationship with someone who really shouldn’t have fallen for me. I’d dreamed of seeing it live since the first time I heard it. I thought that was far less likely than any Replacements song – they were probably more likely to cover Destiny’s Child. Nothing could have prepared me for it. I was losing my voice, in tears at this point. Billie caught my eye and gave me the cutest smile. I know he doesn’t have a clue how any of us feel – but I’ll say again, it’s a connection I’ve never experienced with any other musician.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Bill Schneider filming. We didn’t know, but our phones were buzzing in my mum’s bag with our friends telling us they could see us on the live stream. Sadly, I don’t think it’s saved anywhere so I never got to see it.
Whilst few people knew Walking Out On Love, it fit so well with the theme of Love is for Losers. Billie was really into it when he was in the American Idiot musical (in fact, I think they played it several times in a row at the closing night’s after party). We’d seen Green Day play it once then and I still knew the lyrics, which seemed to amuse Billie.
Body Bag was beautiful in a way a studio version just can’t capture. At the first chords of Love is for Losers, the whole crowd erupted into a screaming, dancing mess. We could have been 65,000 people in Emirates Stadium. Maybe it was after the lull of Body Bag – or maybe it was that we’ve all been there, searching the winter for the bride of Frankenstein with our delusions of lost love. In that line Billie Joe widened his eyes and spread his hands, playing the Frankenstein part. What a loser.
Turn Me Loose is, just slightly ahead of Chasing a Ghost, my favourite Longshot song. Seeing it live was everything I expected it to be, from the thumping drums to the emotion in ‘so turn me loose, but don’t call me a loser with dumb tattoos.’ Billie Joe stage dived and at some point I was pushing him off my head. What a time. Have you listened to Turn Me Loose? You should.
I was still innocent then. Before the Ultimate Trauma 2k18. A stray fan landed on the stage as they began Stay the Night. Then another. Then another. Billie beckoned more. My hair was soon being grabbed. My mum was being kicked and punched. People were trying to push her down. Kids with no idea how to crowd surf were flailing and hurting people. Once they got up, they whipped their phones out for selfies. The crowd that seemed so unified earlier, that one collective voice, no longer cared who they hurt. They just had to get to Billie Joe. It continued through I Fought the Law to Chasing a Ghost. The stream of bodies was incessant. There was no room left on the stage. Kevin and Jeff Matika were out of sight. Billie was on the floor, three strings broken, asking ‘what the fuck?’ – but like true professionals, the music continued uninterrupted. Some guy had his hands around my mum’s neck. When I wrenched another guy’s fingers off her, he yelled ‘relax, slut!’
The kicking and punching continued until she was slumped, unconscious, over the amp. They still didn’t stop. Eventually, Carling managed to alert a staff member. To get her out, he had to shine his torch in their eyes and fight through them. In the meantime, fans on the front row were helping Billie up. When Chasing a Ghost finished and the band disappeared, we watched, completely stunned, as staff ushered fans back into the crowd. My mum and I have a pact that if something happens to one of us, the other has to stay on the front row. I hadn’t even processed what had happened yet, except that her smile so bright it lit up the room was gone.
I don’t want to vilify everyone who was up there. Nor do I want to lie or exaggerate to prove my point. It’s a wonderful idea, and a concept I have no doubt Billie loves. I know some went up just to dance or stage dive and caused no harm. But I’ve seen the ones who did touting it as everything from ‘punk’ to ‘love,’ and as someone who’s been to many loving, but still violent, punk shows – this was 95% a rush to get to Billie Joe. No one was hurt in the name of punk. They were hurt by rabid fans.
The band returned for the encore unfazed. Billie announced ‘fuck it, Love is for Losers one more time!’ and they played it again. It seemed a bizarre moment frozen in time that embodied the confusion of what just happened. I think I just stared blankly at the band in Ziggy Stardust. This night was surreal enough without 50 asses in my face.
The show ended with Kiss Me Deadly. This was originally going to be me and Annabelle’s first dance song. I remember watching videos of Billie playing just the intro at Soundwave in Australia, and thinking just hearing grainy audio of him playing that was enough. But I was standing there, in Washington DC, just a few metres from him and hearing it in full.
What a night.
Me and Meri found my mum outside. While the staff guy helped her, apparently some girl from the stage took photos of her because she thought it was funny. Fans of various nationalities approached her, broken because their show was ruined and they knew she’d understand. Now I’m home it’s only a damper on my memories, but at the time it was awful to see.
We said goodbye to Meri, thanked Taylor from Ohio for storing our camping chair in her car, and headed to Union Station. As upset as my mum was, she’s 59 and she’d just got knocked out, and she was just chilling off to Baltimore. I know there are a lot of kids bitching that she shouldn’t be at punk shows right now, but I think she’s more punk than all of us.
People from Baltimore told us not to line up before the sun rose. An employee was apparently murdered outside the Ottobar. Everyone else said they’d get some sleep. I’d read the stuff about how Baltimore is the most dangerous city in America. I still thought they were having us on. You know what Green Day fans are like.
We stepped off the train into a grubby station. A cop asked us if we were alright. As our Uber approached the Ottobar, we could see the street was completely deserted. They were not having us on. Our driver unloaded our luggage, unfazed by these morons about to set up for the night with a camping chair. Then he left. We were alone with some roaches and all our luggage. It was clear from the dirty street of squat buildings that this was not DC. A police car screeched past, sirens blaring. We were finally going to die. But what if we went to our Airbnb and 10 people arrived? We tried to hide ourselves behind a tree and I shoved our luggage into the shadows with the roaches. A bench I’d seen on Google Maps that said ‘BALTIMORE’ on it was opposite us, which improved the whole scene.
The moment I knew I was going to die for a stupid band, at 4am on a street in Baltimore, Maryland
A potential murderer ambled aimlessly past us. Another stumbled down the street. Murderer? No, he was with a woman and they were trying to hitchhike. A few expensive cars (meaning they could afford to shoot us?) passed. Then there was total silence. I kept hoping other fans would come. None did. Eventually, more headlights glowed in the distance. They approached slowly. It was a big vehicle. Oh God. This was it. It wasn’t just one murderer, it was a bus full of them.
‘Why is it driving so slowly? Are they going to get out and kill us?’
My mum squinted at it. ‘It looks like a tourbus.’
‘Why has it slowed down again? We’re going to die.’
We sat with bated breath awaiting our doom. Even the roaches, startled by the lights, stopped scurrying.
‘It’s stopping right here! It’s actually murderers!’
‘I’m sure that’s the Longshot bus.’
The murder mobile slowed to a halt. Then it turned into the Ottobar. Singing floated around the corner. This was officially one of my most stupid moments: being alone on this street in Baltimore, Maryland with just The Longshot, whose tourbus I thought was a murder wagon.
As 6am got closer, commuters began to cycle past. A man cheerily said ‘morning!’ as if it was standard to find English people there with a sleeping bag and camping chair. We replied ‘morning!’ as if it was our daily routine.
The first fans arrived shortly afterwards. I recognised one guy from Green Day’s Rose Bowl show. Rescue at last. I’m kind of glad we had the murder wagon experience tho. It made a good story.
Soon venue staff told us we were queuing at the wrong door. They directed us to another door in front of the bus. It was still running and pumping heat at us. Rude.
The above three photos were stolen from @thisisjoyjoyjoy xo
I spent much of the day laying on my sleeping bag, under the sun umbrella with the Walmart fan in my face. Kevin and David got off the bus, waving as they passed. At some point I must have fallen asleep. I woke up abruptly to feet in front of me. There was a guy with a Blue replica. I sat up. The bus door opened. Billie stepped out.
Me, summed up: sitting on my sleeping bag, three-day-old eyeliner on, just staring groggily at the musician I’d come to see. He let the Blue guy have a photo, then Bill Schneider announced they had to meet someone. No one swarmed him or tried to follow as they left. That was a refreshing change. They passed by again later, waving before they went in for soundcheck.
When venue staff accidentally left the door ajar, we were greeted by the first chords of Love is for Losers. It was surreal all over again; hard to believe it was really The Longshot in there, not just the album we’d been listening to on repeat. Bill passed, my mum joked ‘no, don’t close it!’ and he was kind enough to actually leave it open for us. Fans pressed their ears to the wall to identify the next song. It took me a while, because I didn’t expect it. It was Fever Blister. My favourite of the b-sides Billie released on Soundcloud, I never expected to hear that, either. Too much for my cold, dark heart, guys. Too much. Then a venue man came by and undid Bill’s hospitality. We could still make out Taxi Driver.
Staff checked my passport and stamped our hands. A man stepped aside and said ‘nearly there.’ The room was completely empty. It was the first time I’d ever walked onto an empty floor with no rapidly approaching stampede behind me. I’d never been quite front centre either. Folding my arms over the amp in front of Billie’s mic was an emotional time. My mum was on one side and Taylor on the other, followed by her friend Alex, Meri and little Chase and his mum. Raiishelle from Australia snapped a photo of us from the balcony. It was such a good feeling to be at a tiny show with so many of my old and new friends.
Photo stolen from @_greendaytrash
During The Trashbags’ set, Billie peeked through the backstage curtain, pulled a face at my mum, waved and disappeared again. Murderer.
The thrill of the drum intro to Kill Your Friends hadn’t worn off. It wound up the crowd like a clockwork toy. One verse in and we were this meme personified. But no one flinched. Billie demanded we clapped to Devil’s Kind. The crowd obeyed in force. I had no room to breathe, let alone jump, but I still was. It was impossible not to. This was what these shows were all about: nothing but the band, the crowd and passion. My voice was already hoarse. As we all screamed along to Taxi Driver, I looked at the faces around me and up on the stage; and not one was filled with anything but joy.
‘She’s my soul defender, don’t be so uptight! I… oh shit!’ Billie laughed, turned away and before he spun back round, saying ‘I got it! I got it, I swear!’ the crowd was already filling in for him: ‘just me and my imagination! I swear I think I saw a ghost!’
Soul Surrender is, to me, an incredibly intimate song. A lot of The Longshot’s tracks are. Yet there was nothing uncomfortable for me, the band, anyone about sharing them with the other 350-or-so people in that room. Whatever our backgrounds, whatever we got from that show, we were experiencing it all together. It’s weird – I’ll never see most of those people again, yet in those sweaty crowds, we subconsciously learn so much about each other people in our ‘real lives’ will never see. ‘Send me a message through the window…’
I could process Bastards of Young better this time. I think I knew, now, I wasn’t dreaming. I’d seen The Replacements play it in London, now I was seeing The Longshot play it in a shitty bar in Baltimore, Maryland. After the song I yelled ‘Wild One!’ as a request. Billie just replied ‘I could say the same thing about you’ before slapping his nose and adding ‘next time bring me a [something I have no hope of ever deciphering].’ Whatever, murderer.
As Tears Go By hit me even harder that night. ‘My riches can’t buy everything. I want to hear the children sing…’ That line went over my head listening at home, but hearing it there – it almost brought tears to my eyes.
Screaming ‘I got my darkest secrets and whispers at the moon, where all the stars never align!’ back at the band, it seemed impossible I had a life outside these walls to go back to. Whoever it was, we were celebrating a literal Cult Hero, in a sweaty ritual only those 300-and-something people would ever know.
Billie repeatedly yelled ‘fuck DC!’ and ngl I cheered. This crowd was equally rough, if not more so, but far less rabid. Sure, I’m bruised all over, but it was from people just having fun.
I had no excuse for squealing at Fell For You this time. I still did tho. I think I terrified the people around me. Soz guys. Apparently there are two things in life I’ll cry about: Rose Bowl security, and seeing stupid bands play my favourite songs. But seriously, if the murder wagon ran me down then, at least I’d seen Fell For You.
Walking Out On Love tied all my memories together in this stupid theme of Love is for Losers that resonated with me so much. Able to take it all in so much more, I realised how perfect Body Bag’s place in the setlist is: a bittersweet lament after the bop that’s Walking Out On Love and before Love is for Losers, which is actually heartbreaking but so catchy and fun you’d never know.
People think American crowds can’t match the British. But this tiny crowd’s chorus of ‘heeeeey-eeeeey-ey-ey-ey!’ to the intro to Turn Me Loose could have been a stadium packed with the worst of us. Billie replaced ‘for the record and the afterlife’ with a roar of ‘for the record I ain’t gonna take no shit from anybody!’ that was smooth enough to be fun, but emotional enough to make that line more poignant. When Billie stage dived he landed right on my head. My face was just smashing into the amp over and over. Murderer.
Premium content: Billie Joe Armstrong giving me a concussion. 📷: @bjguitars
Stay the Night was a song I associated with stadiums and arenas; with Green Day’s huge performance and blinding lights. It was the exact same song, the same experience, yet completely different at the same time
Billie introduced Chasing a Ghost and announced ‘do what you want, come up here, I don’t give a shit.’ I will not lie, there was an audible groan from the left side of the crowd. But this was so much more in the spirit of ‘punk’ the DC fans preached about. Rabid people clawing their way up were in the minority. A lot more helped each other and went another way if someone got hurt. I was diagonal against the stage when Billie gestured to us for help before he fell off. Hey, we actually saw most of Chasing a Ghost this time.
They returned for the encore with Fever Blister. The rumble of the soundcheck came to life. It was the crowd’s last furious dance before Ziggy Stardust, when they preferred to respectfully nod their heads. Then Billie was playing the first chords of Kiss Me Deadly and I knew this dream was nearly over. These were two of the best nights of my life. I knew that too.
My life that seemed so distant was staring me in the face again. But it was OK. This would live in my heart forever.
We said goodbye to our friends, old and new, and hurried back to our Airbnb to sleep before the journey home. I didn’t feel like I hadn’t slept since 4am the previous day. I felt like I never needed to sleep again. Of course, I did sleep. I woke up with a concussion. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been concussed after a stage dive in 2013. Thanks mate, now I get to tell the story of Billie Joe the murderer giving me a concussion.
Our Greyhound stopped in Wilmington, Delaware so I got off just to say I’d been to Delaware (of course I did). Raiishelle was on the same bus and we got to discuss the shows again, standing in front of an escalator in Port Authority. I promised I’d see her again at a show in Australia. Hold me 2 it, kids. It is my big stupid dream and one day I will do it.
I needed one more thing to make this trip complete. I left my mum in Walgreen’s and crashed into the first tattoo studio I found. It crossed my mind that this would be the day I lost a limb, but no. My artist, Lee, made a great job of a design I drew on the Greyhound. When I told him it was a Green Day song, he said so many people had come to him to have Billie’s autograph tattooed while American Idiot was on Broadway he wished they’d go somewhere else.
We flew to Dublin, then flew to Birmingham, then got a National Express and a train home. A reasonably short journey by our standards. I went to work the next day, ringing up passengers with my concussion, and it all seemed so surreal. It’s a bit like New York City – the gateway to my most stupid, but best adventures. It holds you, in its embrace of neon lights and towering buildings; then they fade and crumble to warehouses and empty parking lots, and it lets you go. It’s almost as if it never happened. But the skyline glittering in the distance reminds you it did.
Like my bruises, my memories, the guitar pick I found on the floor. We all got our delusions.
I’m a loser with dumb tattoos. But for the record and the afterlife, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’d flown over New York City once. My knowledge extended little further than a night shot from Top of the Rock I’d seen – a view I dreamed one day I would see with my own eyes, or better yet, photograph myself.
On February 22nd, 2011, on a plane stuck in a gate at Heathrow Airport, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get there. After a failed take off, rows of anxious people waited several hours to learn the fate of our flight. The de-icing system was probably alright, the crew said, and we’d try taking off again. We were in the air after two more attempts. When I saw steam coming out of the wing, I was pretty sure we were going to die, or at least miss the evening performance of Green Day’s American Idiot.
Despite my self-reassurance that I’d at least go down for Green Day, we got to New York alive. Signs directed us to the restroom, elevator, told us not to use our cell phones. Welcome to the United States, a recorded voice announced over and over. The queue stretched all around the room; my excitement died down a bit as it moved increasingly slowly, nudging forward every five minutes or so.
Homeland Security were, as always, convinced my mum was a criminal and dragged us into a side room. Today’s excuse was ‘the system isn’t working.’ All we could think of was the show that would begin in a few hours. When they let us go, we ran out of baggage control, into the American air and in a panic, threw our luggage into a yellow cab. It rolled away from the airport, along highways, past dark, sprawling neighbourhoods. As the twilit skyline came into view, for some reason, this foreign place felt like home.
Our panic was unfounded: we made it to the St. James Theatre with half an hour or so to spare. I looked up at the sign that read, in neon lights, St. James: American Idiot. With this trip being very challenging to fund, then all our travel troubles… finally being here was surreal. I was no photographer back then – I just had a crappy (borrowed) phone camera – but I was certainly eager to document it as best as I could.
We wandered across the street, taking it in, and a black car pulled up beside us. Billie Joe Armstrong, arriving to play the character of St. Jimmy, climbed out. We could have tapped him on the shoulder, certainly approached him, but he looked exhausted. It was enough to be reminded that this was real, that we weren’t just going to see our favourite band’s musical, but starring him. We left him alone.
As doors drew closer, the street outside the theatre became a meeting place, packed with excited fans and theatregoers from around the world. People who’d never met, but knew each other from the fan community online, were united for the first time with hugs. The energy there was an experience in itself.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the musical. Part of me expected to hate it, to be disappointed by how it didn’t live up to its iconic inspiration. What were the chances someone could get such a huge venture right?
I knew, as soon as the first song began, that I was wrong.
Tré Cool once described it as closest he’d ever get to seeing Green Day live, and I think that’s pretty accurate. It took the emotion of American Idiot, the live energy of Green Day that no other (living) band can match, and channelled it through a talented and passionate cast. I was seeing, hearing the album that introduced me to Green Day in a way I’d never seen or heard it before. These people sang and danced this every night, twice a day sometimes, but you’d never know it wasn’t their first or final performance. I knew, by Holiday when I was on a visceral journey to a city of dreams with Johnny and Tunny, why people were seeing it countless times.
Watching Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Are We the Waiting, the lights and effects that looked so like New York City itself; these words resonated with me in a way they never had before. A disillusioned teenager, I felt just like Johnny – running from a dirty town burning down in my dreams, to find salvation in these starry nights, city lights of a lost and found city bound in my dreams. I was an English kid with no experience of American culture, but in Favorite Son, watching the dancers in the colours of the stars and stripes, tempting Tunny to join the army – I was as immersed as anyone else.
I couldn’t have imagined this stage any more alive, until the thudding drums that preceded St. Jimmy, when the whole theatre waited with wide eyes; for the roar of ‘one-two-three-FOOOOOUUUUUR!’ that was Billie Joe’s entrance. I couldn’t judge the chorus of screaming fans. His stage presence was overwhelming. I had never imagined St. Jimmy as a small man staggering around, wiping his nose and tossing glitter with a ‘RAWR!’ – but this was him from now on. He was sweet, in a bizarre way that was enticing like the addiction he embodied, but for the same reason, extremely menacing. When he looked out at the crowd, he caught my eye and grinned. It would be hard to forget my stupid hairdo after it showed up in Costa Rica.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the 21st Century Breakdown songs that were mixed in, either, but Last of the American Girls complimented She’s a Rebel in a way that was more invigorating than the original tracks. Especially when St. Jimmy reappeared, questioning Johnny about whether he’d choose Whatsername or drugs; before climbing the steps to serenade him over a scene of the pair shooting up in Last Night on Earth. The gut-wrenching ballad was followed by the cheery intro of Too Much Too Soon, that showed Heather finally leaving Will – who’d remained in Jingletown getting high, living ‘every waking moment as a means to an end’ – with their newborn child. In Before the Lobotomy, we learned of Tunny’s demise: he laid now in a hospital bed, lamenting days of laughter. Extraordinary Girl was a moving, visceral portrayal of his morphine-induced hallucinations, flying freely with the pretty nurse who treated him.
The lights faded and Johnny was illuminated by a lone spotlight. In a rare moment of lucidity, he picked up his guitar and sang an emotional When It’s Time to a sleeping Whatsername. However, St. Jimmy was never far: Billie Joe’s green eyes seemed luminous as, unblinkingly, they watched the quiet serenade, before he leapt up to yell ‘do you know the enemy?’ at the top of his lungs. Johnny was terrified as Billie Joe ‘rallied up the demons of [his] soul,’ trying to talk him back to drugs; while Will, alone on a couch in Jingletown, asked himself the same question, before insisting ‘there is nothing wrong with me.’ As the song closed, St. Jimmy was in control, separating Johnny and a frightened Whatsername. She was left emotionally beginning 21 Guns, as he laid unconscious on the bed they shared.
In the meantime, a now lucid Tunny was finally aware he lost a leg and his dreams, of fighting for his country, amounted to nothing; while Will lamented now that ‘the hangover doesn’t pass’ and he, too, was left with nothing at all. Johnny sat up, refusing to face Whatsername’s chorus of ‘did you try to live on your own? When you burnt down house and home? Did you stand to close to the fire, like a liar looking for forgiveness from a stone?’ At St. Jimmy’s command, he pinned a letter, telling her he never liked her anyway, on the bathroom door.
As he stumbled away, a now-glamorous Heather reappeared, singing the iconic intro to Letterbomb. This song, now a girl power anthem, belonged to Whatsername. Screaming at Johnny that ‘the St. Jimmy is a figment of your father’s rage and your mother’s love, made me the idiot America,’ her words destroyed them: Billie Joe, wearing a ‘happy birthday’ tiara, was knocked away from Johnny onto a sofa. After Whatsername left him with a cry of ‘I’m leaving you tonight!’ Johnny, Will and Tunny were left with reflection in Wake Me Up When September Ends. As the song closed, screens showed the face of St. Jimmy fading back to Johnny.
By Homecoming, St. Jimmy was left alone, asking ‘please call me only if you are coming home.’ Though it was entirely unrelated to the story, I watched him singing ‘you taught me how to live’ and thought wow, you really, really did. He remained a looming temptation to Johnny; but eventually ‘blew his brains out into the bay,’ with a gun that said ‘bang.’ He flopped from atop the steps into the arms of the mourning swing. Of course, because it was Billie Joe, he looked back and waved as they carried him away. Truly free, Johnny took a dull day job to get home.
Will waited alone on a couch, lamenting that ‘everyone left you, nobody likes you’ until Heather appeared with her new ‘rock ’n roll boyfriend.’ Michael Epser (Will) interrupted ‘and another ex-wife’ with ‘somebody get me a knife’ which isn’t on the cast album, but it should be.
Johnny headed home, reunited with Will and eventually, Tunny, who introduced them to his new girlfriend: his nurse, Extraordinary Girl. Will – having made peace with Heather – introduced them to his newborn. The entire cast, all reunited, finally gathered to sing a roaring chorus of ‘nobody likes you, everyone left you, they’re all out without you, having fun!’
Years later, Johnny had moved on, but still could not forget Whatsername. He could recall nothing but his regrets as she peered out from a window above; only to disappear as he turned around. The shadow of St. Jimmy appeared, too, to disappear before Johnny caught his eye. As the curtain fell, we were left with him wishing desperately to turn back time.
The show ended with a full cast rendition of Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). Looking up at the colourful stage, I was moved beyond anything I could have imagined. I was level with Billie Joe, and he grinned at me and winked. I smiled back, thinking yes, I truly did have the time of my life.
We walked out to a glittering New York night. It was then that I experienced, for the first time, how New York City does not need the stars: it has its own, each one with a story as complex, beautiful and ugly as any up in the sky. Unsure where we were going, just buzzing from the show, we wandered up West 44th Street into Times Square, where the towering buildings dazzled in vibrant colours. I’d never seen so many ads in one place. Shops, hotels and restaurants blared their names out in neon signs, fighting for attention. The air buzzed with countless languages and accents. Scalpers bellowed from corners, still selling tickets for sold-out Broadway shows. Tourists took photos, spilled out from the sidewalks onto the road; cars honked at them to move.
We realised we needed to eat and crashed into the McDonald’s there, where we avidly discussed how good the show was. My favourite part was in Last of the American Girls/She’s a Rebel, when St. Jimmy screamed at Johnny to talk him out of Whatsername. My mum’s was the glitter ‘RAWR!’
The next day, we got very lost searching for the Pokémon Center (now sadly just Nintendo World), which we eventually found with the help of some very kind locals. I wasn’t coming all the way to New York to miss out on catching ’em all, after all.
We acquired Lugia, Flareon and Raikou plushies, who joined us at Top of the Rock. Standing atop this city, looking out over the sea of skyscrapers, was that moment in Are We the Waiting: when that dirty town was burning down in my dreams, searching for the lost and found city bound in my dreams. It wasn’t the glowing nighttime vista I once saw a photo of and dreamed of seeing myself; but I knew, already, that I was in love with New York City, and the show we could not resist returning to later that day. Despite the money we spent on tickets being reserved for food, but who needs to eat when you have Green Day, right?
At the theatre’s box office, the vendor asked if we’d really come from England just for this musical. When we told him yes, he laughed and wished us a great night.
Outside the theatre we met, for the first time, our longtime friend Micheal from Georgia. My mum got to know him when she bought a green 39/Smooth vinyl from him on eBay, and now by pure coincidence, here we were. We also made a new friend, Dao from Venezuela who was studying photography in New York.
A fan since the Insomniac era and Green Day collector, Micheal brought his #001 numbered copy of Dookie on vinyl for Billie Joe to sign. The streets were becoming increasingly packed as he arrived, though, and we couldn’t catch him as he went in.
Employee doors inside the St. James Theatre, painted for American Idiot
Even with a partial view from the mezzanine, the show blew me away. It was as fresh and exciting as the previous night. Before Good Riddance, Billie Joe sang a snippet of Basket Case and dedicated it to ‘a kid that was waiting outside of a record shop in 1994.’ That kid was Lady Gaga, who watched the show from the front row and strutted out in heels that would probably break both of my legs. I texted one of my friends in England, a huge Gaga fan, and she was freaking out too. There was sadly no chance for Micheal’s Dookie now; fans were now leaving well in advance of the show’s close to secure their photos and autographs.
My crappy phone pic of Times Square
The three of us walked back to Times Square, then to the Hard Rock Café where Micheal kindly bought us dinner. We kept ending up back at the Church of Scientology. A sign? I hope not.
West Side Highway: a Pinhead Gunpowder reference
The next day, we were booked on a cruise we got talked into by some guy in Times Square. It’s a good thing the staff were nice, because we got lost and missed our boat. While we waited for the next one, we ate cream cheese bagels in P.D. O’Hurley’s. Maybe it was because we were frozen and it was warm in there, but those things were good. The pale imitations in Tesco do not compare.
While the boat’s captain told stories of a plane that landed in the Hudson River, my mum fell asleep. I woke her up so she could charge out to photograph the Statue of Liberty. One of us had to man our nice window seats, because this thing was as rabid as a Green Day show, except full of tourists with cameras they were confused by.
Later, of course, we went back to the theatre. We only meant to see this bloody thing once. Now we were destined for a diet of soda pop and Walgreen’s crisps (get it?). All that was left were balcony tickets, which were certainly easier on our wallets, though the view wasn’t that good. It was still exciting to see the show from another different angle, and the bad view didn’t change the energy. It didn’t change the raw talent. I found myself relating to the character of St. Jimmy in a way I never had before. Not its literal meaning, but what he represented could be interpreted in a hundred different ways. For me, it was perhaps the ‘demons of your soul’ that he sent to torment Johnny in Know Your Enemy. When I prepared myself for hating this show, I never thought I’d want to see it again and again; let alone that I would leave each night with a different, more personal and emotional interpretation of the album that introduced me to Green Day.
After the show, I accidentally met Rebecca Naomi Jones (Whatsername) and got a brief chance to tell her how incredible she was; which she acknowledged with a smile and gracious thanks. She signed my playbill and so did Michael Esper (Will), who was perhaps my favourite non-Billie cast member, though only by a small fraction. I just loved his voice and his portrayal of Will. My mum’s was Stark Sands, who played Tunny.
February 25th and this was a routine now: wander, theatre, repeat. That evening, I met Michael Esper properly. I was able to tell him he was my favourite, he replied ‘really? Thank you so much!’ and he was kind enough to take a photo with me.
Before every show, the theatre held a ‘lottery’ for $25 front row tickets. We put our names in every time, of course, thinking we’d probably never win anyway; until the lady pulled out the first slip of paper and announced ‘Maria Gloria Harvey?’
I couldn’t help but scream. There was a lady with her daughter who was so happy for us, saying we were huge fans and deserved it. I was shaking and I couldn’t stop laughing. Inside the box office, our friend on the desk served me with a grin. This trip was not getting tired. It was getting better.
I remember in American Idiot, looking up at the stage, just inches away and my face stretched by an ear-to-ear grin; and one of the cast members seeing it as he slammed his fist onto the floor, and smiling back. This was an entirely different experience, where every pivotal moment truly shook me. When Billie Joe stood in front of us in St. Jimmy, he slobbered all down my face. Thanks for that, mate.
It’s hard to describe exactly what this meant to me. To be sitting there in New York, so close to this energy and talent I had fallen totally, unconditionally in love with. Before the curtain fell for the last time, Stark Sands approached my mum and firmly placed his pick in her hand, saying ‘for you.’ Everyone involved treated us with such kindness that I will never forget.
The next day, February 26th, offered both a matinee and evening performance. Our friend in the box office got us decent seats, in a box on the right, but the evening was sold out. That was OK. We would just enjoy the matinee even more.
Looking down from above, I was struck again by Boulevard of Broken Dreams: the imagery of Johnny, alone with his guitar, before the vast city until he finds Whatsername. It was the first Green Day song I ever heard, and I’d overplayed it to the point I never listened to it anymore; yet it was one of my favourite moments of the musical. Van Hughes, who would later play Johnny, played Will this time. I was watching the heartbreaking renditions of 21 Guns and Whatsername with tears in my eyes now. I’m pretty sure I’d sob, a lot, if I ever saw this cast again.
Outside, people were selling tickets for the evening performance, but we were almost out of money. Our haggling was unsuccessful. We were walking away when one of the guys approached us again. My mum asked if we could just buy one. When he heard that, he took pity and reduced them both. We were in.
This was Christina Sajous (Extraordinary Girl)’s last performance, before she went across the street to Baby It’s You. Extraordinary Girl that night was the best so far, and though unrelated, so was Last of the American Girls/She’s a Rebel. That moment I loved so much, when the song is taken over by St. Jimmy – Billie Joe put more gusto into that than he ever had before.
We were planning to go to the party organised by Green Day Community in a nearby bar, but I was sick at this point (the diet of soda pop and Walgreen’s crisps was not a sin I got away with), so we just went to rest. They’d invited Billie Joe and several cast members, though, and they actually showed up! Apparently Billie wanted to be ‘closer to the fans.’
The view from our room: we could see the American Idiot sign
February 27th was not only our last day, but John Gallagher Jr., Michael Esper and Billie Joe’s last, too. After begging the hotel for our deposit back, my mum and I got separate tickets. I was in the side orchestra; she was, according to the usher, in the ‘best seat on Broadway,’ which the guy who sold it to her for $50 clearly didn’t realise. The family next to me asked where I was from and of course, if I’d really come from Nottingham, England just for this. Then when my mum came running down to ask if I wanted to swap tickets, they were like ‘there are TWO of you?!’ We weren’t the only ones, though – people had come from all over the world ‘just for this.’ I stayed with my new friends, who kept asking to hear my accent, anyway.
Last Night on Earth became more emotional every night, as Billie Joe screamed the words louder, from deeper within his heart. With just his raw voice, no glitter, no wiping his nose, St. Jimmy seemed frighteningly human. I not only saw American Idiot in a different light; but also 21st Century Breakdown, my favourite album of all time, that I never imagined could become more than it was.
After the curtain fell, the family asked me if the show was worth it. I said yes, of course, and they agreed.
We were high up in the mezzanine for the final performance. After St. Jimmy, Billie Joe accidentally let out a ‘HEEEY-OOOOOH!’ and despite this having no place on Broadway, the crowd obediently responded ‘HEEEEEEEEY-OOOOOOOOH!’
The applause after St. Jimmy went on and on, until Billie Joe and John gave in and laughed. I’m not sure what the theatregoers who weren’t Green Day fans thought, but oh well. In Homecoming, when Billie drew the St. Jimmy heart on his chest, he stopped halfway and smudged it. It was the little things that made the shows individually special. The whole performance was packed with emotion; both John and Michael cried at points, knowing they were leaving for good. I was desperately trying to take it all in because I knew this was the last time I’d ever see this cast, and possibly any of Green Day for a very long time.
After a tearful Good Riddance, Billie Joe asked Michael if they could play Walking Out On Love, which he’d played for Theo Stockman’s departure the previous month. Michael said yes, so Billie proceeded to sing it into their faces, then kneel down to serenade John. Then they waved goodbye, the curtain fell, and it was all over.
Before our flight, we walked with our bags to the St. James Theatre to see it one last time. Of course, to say goodbye to our friend in the box office, too, who was the only reason we got into most of those shows. Other fans were there, heads bowed, as if paying tribute. It brought tears to my eyes because I knew it meant something different to all of us; but that we were the same in how much it meant to us.
On our flight home, the pilot announced that his name was Captain Heritage. He was very proud of this, and kept repeating it. He also claimed we’d land in London an hour early, before the British Airways flight that just left. To do this, he strayed from the usual route into bad turbulence. The flight staff were thrown around until they had to sit down, quite frightened and yelling at us to keep our seatbelts on at all costs. Anyway, we landed in London late. British Airways had long been at the gate. I’m not quite sure what Captain Heritage was trying to achieve, but he probably shouldn’t try again.
When I opened my bag, I found a note telling me that Homeland Security ‘deeply regretted’ this, but had to break in. Clearly, they thought I was a Pokémon smuggler.
I’d heard rumours that Billie Joe would return to Broadway in April. A woman in the lift at our hotel insisted on it, and so did Annabelle. A few weeks later, it was confirmed. I still haven’t learned to listen to Annabelle. Anyway, this was perhaps the first time in my life I burst into tears of pure joy. We bought tickets for the closing night as soon as we could. Not only would we see Billie Joe as St. Jimmy again, but we would see this incredible show close. As we pieced the money together, we bought tickets for the matinee and the two shows the day before.
Flights were not cheap, though and despite our best efforts, we could not get the remaining money together. After a lot of tears, we sold our tickets. Then, with about 24 hours to spare, we were able to borrow the money. We booked it, threw all we needed in a suitcase, I took a bath, the heating exploded, my mum went to my aunt’s house to dye her hair, we made a run for the bus to the airport… and that is how we went to New York with 24 hours notice.
We arrived just in time for the evening performance, on April 23rd, 2011. As we approached the theatre, someone told us Green Day were rehearsing. Fans had their ears to the wall and soon it was identified as Jesus of Suburbia. None of us knew each other, but we sang along together, before we parted ways to find our seats. On one side of us was Tanya who runs Green Day Mind and on the other, a lady with some flowers for Billie Joe. I hadn’t slept for well over 48 hours at this point. I only realised I’d fallen asleep when I was jolted awake by Billie Joe’s ‘ONE-TWO-THREE-FOOOOOOUR!’
Don’t judge me, I was jetlagged. When the lights illuminated the crowd, Billie spotted us, grinned and yelled ‘oh my GOD!’ which remains one of my favourite ‘what the fuck are you doing here?’ moments. Hi, just got on a plane from England less than 24 hours after booking it, glad u like.
All three leads had now been replaced: Van Hughes now played Johnny, Justin Guarini played Will and David Larsen, on a break from Billy Elliot, played Tunny. I was, yet again, unsure what to expect and, yet again, blown away. Van’s portrayal of Johnny was completely different, yet equally funny and moving for that very reason. Rebecca Naomi Jones still played Whatsername, yet to miss a single performance, but her passion never wavered. I left, as always, with another different take on two of my favourite albums of all time; but perhaps more importantly, knowing that coming to New York for 36 hours, on a flight I booked not that long before, was the right choice.
From left to right: Tony, Ross and Kate from England, Hege from Norway and me
The next day – April 24th, the final two shows – the street outside the theatre was packed from early morning. We met people we’d met in San Francisco, in Paris, in Costa Rica and people we knew, or who recognised me from the online community (at least the hairdo served a purpose). An older man, with tickets to see the show for the first time, kindly offered to take a photo of us when someone said ‘hi.’ We turned to see it was Billie Joe’s wife Adrienne. Other fans screamed as she passed. I suppose our blurry photo has an interesting story behind it.
Thanks to our friend in the box office, we got seats about six rows back. He insisted he could get us better tickets for the evening, too, but we didn’t want to be greedy when the guy we sold them to let us have them back. By pure coincidence, we sat to find the man who took our photo beside us. He was excited now and watched with wide eyes as the stage came alive. This cast wasn’t just a replacement, it was a whole new experience. I loved Van as much as John. Billie Joe was clearly tired, but on fire regardless. Last Night on Earth continued to become ever more emotional. This was the closest I’d ever get to seeing songs like Homecoming live, and it lived up to any expectations I would’ve had if this was Green Day.
Before Good Riddance, Billie Joe knelt down and unfolded a piece of paper. Other cast members peered over his shoulder. No one but Van knew what he was doing. Then together, they began to sing The Beatles’ Two of Us, reading the lyrics from the crumpled page. By the time it sunk in, they were done, standing back up and playing Good Riddance. The man beside us asked if they always do that, and he was pleased when we told him no that his show was special.
Cast members doing the ticket lottery
We hurried off to discuss the show, inevitably ending up in the Times Square McDonald’s. Back at the theatre, cast members Libby Winters (Extraordinary Girl) and Alysha Umphress (swing) did the final ticket lottery. Rumours were flying that Green Day would perform after the show. I would have been content with this – to be there to see this show close.
Rebecca, especially, put her all into her performance like never before. Letterbomb was something else that night. After Good Riddance, cast members and others involved gave speeches on how it all began, what it meant to them, and how it ended up. There was certainly a sadness in the air, since after a year on Broadway, it was finally over.
Then, the stage was cleared. Instruments were set up. Green Day were on stage. Jason Freese sat at a piano, only to be sent back off when Billie Joe changed course. They opened with Only of You. This was surreal. It would not sink in. The lady beside us, obviously an innocent theatregoer, was very confused and slightly concerned as everyone around her leapt to their feet.
Their second song was Murder City, then Holiday. The cast were on the stage. John was crowd surfing. Billie later told him to ‘go back to Jerusalem’ (the musical he left American Idiot for). He then made a speech which later appeared, slightly modified, in the deluxe version of ¡Uno!: ‘Keep your fucking heart young, goddammit. Keep it fucking all comfy all the time. Don’t fucking stop, there’s a reason why that hand is holding the heart. It just keeps squeezing that motherfucker ’til it still bleeds, every goddamn day.’
After a random cover of the Spiderman theme, Billie Joe announced ‘we’re gonna play a cover song. Very significant right now. Every time someone’s left alone, we play this song.’ Because of course, they couldn’t end the show without Walking Out On Love (which they played several times in a row at a party later).
They closed with Jesus of Suburbia. It was perhaps appropriate that this show ended how Johnny’s journey begins: you’re leaving, you’re leaving home. I’m not sure many Broadway shows can claim they sent an entire theatre into singing, dancing, crowd surfing hysteria.
The St. James Theatre being redecorated, the day after American Idiot closed
And that was that. Or so it seemed. Is this the end or the beginning? All I know is, she was right. I am an idiot. It’s even on my birth certificate, in so many words.
This is my rage.
This is my love.
This is my town.
This is my city.
This is my life.
I got on stage, appeared on TV in Iowa, nearly got arrested in Vegas and finally made it to Oakland. This is the story of a dream I've had since I was 12 years old.
My Rage, My Love, My Life #4: Champaign to Vegas
Flight DY7015 touched down in New York on March 25, 2017.
It had been six years, but the airport still looked exactly the same. There were still only three people manning passport control. My mum, Joy, still got dragged off into a side room for no apparent reason.
We waited an hour in the cold for a shuttle bus that never came; ended up getting in someone else’s bus and paying the driver to take a detour. Police were arresting someone in the motel reception as we arrived, and the air was thick with the smell of weed. This was a quick stop before we headed to Champaign, because it was cheaper that way, but I’ll take any excuse to see my favourite city again.
So the next day we took the subway into Manhattan, where someone had done two huge turds that sent everyone running out and into the next carriage. We followed, only to end up opposite the culprit. My rage, my love, some faeces.
Google Maps had sent us miles out of the way. We didn’t want to pay for the subway again, so we decided to walk and saw the 9/11 memorials, then accidentally found Brooklyn Bridge before walking back and on to Times Square.
As I looked out over the skyline that evening, my feet already aching, I had a feeling these were going to be the best three weeks ever.
The foggy skyline
I wanted to take this photo since I was a kid with a cheap camera, looking at pretty night shots and wondering if I’d ever see that view with my own eyes
The St. James Theatre, six years after Green Day’s American Idiot closed on Broadway there
My imagination runs away, on this 8th Avenue Serenade 🎶
New York streets
A bus dropped us on a curb in Champaign, Illinois. Dim streetlights were reflected on the damp pavements as it began to rain. The transport Google Maps brought up in the warmth of my home was absent now. Apparently it was a two mile walk. We walked five times that in New York, so we began dragging my mum’s suitcase through blocks of telegraph poles, neon fast food signs, gas stations and not much else.
Rainy streets in Champaign, Illinois
When we arrived at our hotel I unpacked my camping gear, ready to head to the State Farm Center. Before I could even use the toilet it flooded the room. I frantically grabbed my belongings, shoving them back in, then escaped with my underwear on a luggage trolley. By the time I unpacked it in the new room, it was clear I had food poisoning and wouldn’t be camping any time soon. Reluctantly I went to bed, hoping to sleep it off and setting my alarm for 5am.
Not feeling much better when I woke up, I skipped breakfast and hurried to the venue, where I was #34 in line.
Champaign line, late morning: the first tent had apparently been there since noon the previous day
I met old friends I’d made on the 2013 tour and new friends too. Caitlin from Indiana offered heart grenade cookies she baked for the show. I’m still sad I couldn’t try one, because the two of us ended that night being connected in a way neither of us could ever have imagined.
From left to right: Traci, Caitlin and Jen from Indiana, Nikki from Chicago, me, Nikki’s sister Jena (behind the pillar) and Fran from England. Lisa from Missouri is wrapped in the duvet.
Caitlin, who I first met at a show in Rosemont, IL in 2013, with the cookies she painstakingly bakes for every show she attends
My mum joined me later in the day. It was her birthday and I’d done something I swore I wouldn’t do: I’d bought the VIP package for her. Believe it or not, she’d seen Green Day, in Illinois, on her birthday once before and it went horribly wrong. Since then she’d become disabled and this may well have been her last tour in the pit. So I swallowed my hatred of the VIP concept and shelled out purely for the early entry, barely eating for a month afterwards as my bank balance recovered. She was led inside an hour or so before us. I texted her to ask if she’d got her spot, but I didn’t hear anything back.
When doors opened for us, the line turned to chaos. People who’d just arrived rushed the doors. There were elbows in my back and arms. As soon as security let me go I sprinted off into the stampede that led down the steps and onto the floor. I spotted my mum’s leopard print scarf in her favourite spot and crashed into her with such relief I could have cried. $400 well spent; even more so when the VIP next to her told me with a smile that she was going to find her son and offered me her spot. Others led me to expect the VIPs to be rude, entitled and unreasonably rich, but none were. I’m forever grateful to that lady and I wish I’d got her name so I could thank her properly.
We made friends with Scott, the security guy manning our area of the barrier, who was both confused and amused by these English girls who’d come to Champaign, Illinois to see a band.
It was another dream of mine to see one of my ‘second favourite’ bands open for Green Day, but I’d always figured it’d never happen. Now I was there, in America, watching Against Me! open for them. I’d partially lost my voice before Green Day even took the stage.
When the Drunk Bunny stumbles offstage and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is playing, and I know I am about to see Green Day again, it’s like the butterflies of first love. I feel sick and giddy and my heart is pounding all at once. Billie Joe ran onstage first, running to and fro, then Tré pirouetting by his kit, then Mike Dirnt. Billie stood atop the amps, drawing roars from the crowd with flicks of his wrists. Then he was yelling ‘Champaign, Illinois!’ and Tré began playing Know Your Enemy.
‘I need some help! Who knows the lyrics to the song? Who knows the lyrics? Who knows it?’
I don’t know what made me raise my hand. I’d never wanted to go up and lose my spot in the first song, and Billie wouldn’t pick me anyway – he’d tried several times in the past and I’d chickened out and changed my mind. He glanced at me, pointed and walked off again. When he came back, he pointed at Lindsey, a lady my mum queued with, then me.
‘She knows it?’
Maybe I was overtired, or maybe it was just time.
‘Alright, get your ass up here! C’mon!’
Video by David Hardy
I heard my mum shouting ‘oh my God!’ and Billie was grinning as Scott and Arturo, one of Green Day’s crew, hauled me over the barrier. Arturo lifted me onto the catwalk. I thought Billie was on the main stage. I stepped up and my legs immediately gave way. Only I could get on stage and fall over. I’d figured by then that Billie was actually on the catwalk. When I was back on my feet he beckoned. His face lit up with a grin as I ran and he held out his arms to hug me. It was one of the warmest hugs anyone has given me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
Videos by David Hardy / lindsaybunny
Then I was standing in front of 16,000 people in Champaign, Illinois, barely noticing the pyros exploding as I screamed ‘gimme gimme REVOLUTION!’ in an incredibly English accent; wearing a shirt from a Manchester show in 2009 with my coat still tied around my waist.
I walked back up the catwalk, knowing I had to stage dive. Billie was gesturing to the crowd to make sure they caught me. I could see Eddie and Arturo holding out their arms in case I didn’t jump far enough. Fear paralysed me and it crossed my mind to tell Billie I couldn’t do it… but I ran. I jumped.
Photo by Kelly Griglione
Illinois caught me. It wasn’t scary. Crowd surfing was fun. I told my mum afterwards ‘I could sleep well in that position.’People high-fived and congratulated me as my feet hit the floor. It was packed and I didn’t want to be push after I’d been on stage, so I went to the side. Someone took a selfie with me and another guy bought me a beer.
I must have relived it a hundred times over in my head as I sang along and Billie yelled ‘Thank God for Champaign, Illinois!’ over and over and I thought, yes, thank God for Champaign, Illinois. Then in Knowledge, he pulled Caitlin up to play guitar! I was screaming so loud for her! Some guy was telling me ‘that sure beats what you did!’ and I was just shouting ‘that’s my friend Caitlin!’ She was amazing and now we’re forever stage sisters.
Once the show was over I rushed to find my mum and my friends again. As we walked out, several people grabbed me to ask what Billie smelled like. Then my mum realised she’d forgotten to pick up the crap that came with her VIP ticket and ran off in a panic to find it. In the meantime I bumped into Scott and he hugged and congratulated me. Outside, we said goodbye to Fran before going our separate ways to sleep before our journey to Green Bay tomorrow.
Putting my hand up to sing with Green Day that night was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have ever made. Over the last seven years Billie has made me feel so welcome as he’s smiled with me, laughed with (or at) me and always remembered me, and I have no doubt that he knew what it meant to me. For that, for everything, I cannot thank him, Mike and Tré enough.
I once was scared to death to live. Now I am afraid of nothing.
Being candid in Champaign-Urbana Bus Station, though the guy behind us wins the candid award
On the Greyhound to Chicago
Chicago from the Greyhound
If you want an authentic Greyhound experience, Chicago Greyhound Station is the place to go. All Greyhound stations are a bit weird, but none of them are quite like Chicago. When we got off the bus, a lady was struggling to carry a large stereo and wasn’t sure if she could even take it on the next bus. I ended up helping her carry it into a back room. The staff said she’d have to pay $40 to have it on the next bus, so she told them they could just keep it and they eventually let her off. We really bonded over the experience. She met my mum and we agreed we’d go to Haiti together one day.
Searching for Mexican food during our next layover in Milwaukee, WI
‘Let’s take a photo with the skyline to remember that time we went looking for Mexican food in Wisconsin’
Our next transfer was in Milwaukee, where we had a while to wait for our last bus to Green Bay. None of us had eaten, so Fran and I went in search of cheap Mexican food. Google Maps directed us to Conejito’s. We hoped it would be a cheap takeaway, but it was a proper restaurant. What a let down Conejito was. We wandered down increasingly dodgy streets until we came to Food Mart. A sign on the door told us only three students were allowed inside at one time. There were only two of us, so we went in. Fran bought their last loaf of bread and I stocked up on their three for 50¢ honey buns. Mission complete.
Celebrating the acquisition of Pan o Gold bread in Milwaukee Bus Station
We arrived to another damp night in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The venue was down the road from Lambeau Field. Green Bay Packers signs were everywhere. Our Uber driver told us that earlier he’d given rides to the ladies who prepared Green Day’s hotel rooms. My mum asked him if Green Bay has a city centre or anything else to see and he said no, there’s just the Green Bay Packers. I was really getting into the Packers. Partly to annoy my fiancée, since they’re a huge Oakland Las Vegas Raiders fan and hate the Pack. Also partly because when I was looking for cheap accommodation in Green Bay, all I got were photos of people in cheese hats. Now I was also in Green Bay to see Green Day, so why not? It was contagious. Fran was getting into them too. Go Pack Go.
First in line was Josh from Chicago, who’d also been to Champaign. He was 100% prepared with a huge tent and camping gear, but he didn’t want to set it all up just for himself, so our arrival was perfect. He definitely saved us from freezing to death, because it continued to rain and eventually snowed. Instead of dying we just chilled out in The Tent.
In The Tent with Josh from Chicago, who we’d just met (note the Packers sign in the top right corner)
In my bivvy bag in The Tent
Tents in Green Bay, WI
The snow was falling at full force in the morning. Our tent appeared on TV while we stayed inside as long as we could, before taking a brief trip to Taco Bell and Walmart. Neither me nor Fran had ever been to a Walmart before. What an experience.
Walmart in Green Bay: full of glorious Packers merchandise
I picked up my tickets when we got back. This was the first time I’d done will call and when I passed the lady my burgundy passport, her jaw dropped and with a grin she asked if I’d really come from the UK just for a band. I said yes and she grabbed at her colleagues, shouting ‘she’s come all the way from the UK just for this show!’ before she laughed and wished me a wonderful night.
The tent was stowed away, thermals were removed and we were lined up inside shortly before doors. It was a reasonably short run to the pit. GO! YOU PACKERS! GO! We made front row in the spots we wanted, in front of Mike. Seeing Against Me! open for Green Day was perhaps even more exciting and emotional than it was in Champaign. It was surreal – I was there, one of my favourite bands was opening for Green Day and at that moment, nothing could have made me any happier.
The novelty of Green Day in Green Bay wasn’t lost on the band. Billie repeatedly announced that this was Green Day’s first time in Green Bay. They registered with wide eyes, as surprised as us, that this was one of their loudest crowds yet. The roar of the 7,797 fans in attendance rivalled a stadium and it fed back to the band, who played even more passionately than usual.
‘Rise up, Wisconsin! Wisconsin! America! America!’ Billie yelled, clutching the American flag as the lights cut out. I should have been at uni in England. Instead I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin, watching Billie Joe hold up the stars and stripes, alight under the spotlight. I don’t know what that meant to American fans, but to me, it was the realisation of a dream I’d had since I was 12 years old.
The lack of cameras pleased him – a rare occurrence – as he exclaimed he couldn’t see any, and ‘we all need to rub up against each other and throw up in the taxi home.’ As we yelled approval for ‘she’s the cedar in the trees of WISCONSIN!’ we were all the same, from Wisconsin or England. I’d been smiling like a twat since Champaign, but Billie just smiled back with the same enthusiasm. In Still Breathing, he took a studded denim jacket from the crowd and wore it for the rest of the show.
From that crowd to the editing of the Green Day sign so it said Green Bay, this was one of my favourite shows ever. The only disappointment was that no-one threw a Cheesehead on stage.
Green Bay the next day
We couldn’t get tickets to the St. Paul show, so my mum and I had two days in Green Bay. Fran and Josh asked what the hell we were going to do. I wasn’t entirely sure. My mum knew there was a river somewhere and thought that would be a good destination, so we embarked upon a mission to find that and pasta, walking through endless streets that looked like the one above. Lots of Packers flags – beautiful. Of course, the snow had disappeared completely now we weren’t lining up for Green Day.
We accidentally found the National Railroad Museum, which made me think of my grandpa who was a train driver and passed away the previous year. I was too cheap to go in, of course, but I hoped he was nodding appreciatively at this museum in Wisconsin. Eventually we found the river by walking into someone’s backyard without realising, but it wasn’t much of a view…
Phone pic ft. distant river, because this was apparently the only one I took
Having truly experienced the height of tourism, we set a new course to Target, where we could find pasta. We’d walked past the same guy, enjoying beers in the sun for what was apparently his birthday, twice and the third time, he invited us to join him. Sadly, we were tired and hungry so we left our new friend behind. I hope he enjoyed his birthday.
A few miles, a hill and lots more Packers flags later, we located Target and acquired pasta. More importantly, though, I was sure there must be Packers merch somewhere in this store. After wandering for a while and getting lost in the kids’ section, we found a small selection. I weighed up the prices and how awful it was, planning to take the ugliest shirt imaginable back to England, but alas, I was swayed by the lower price of a glittery NFL Teens shirt. Who cares? I had a Packers shirt! From Green Bay!
Walking back via Lambeau Field
Green Day confetti outside Lambeau Field, two days after the show
Before we left the next day we went to Lambeau Field, where everyone thought we’d come from England just to see Lambeau Field. We had our photo taken with cheese, got certificates commemorating our first visit and overall, experienced true Packers bliss. No, seriously – I could not have been any happier than I was wandering the streets of Green Bay with my best friend and accidentally getting into an American football team, having slept in the snow and seen my favourite band.
This is my town, this is my city, this is my life?
Waiting at Green Bay Bus Station, where there was a huge argument in the office, for our Indian Trailways bus back to Milwaukee
It was about 15 hours to Des Moines, with transfers in Milwaukee and Chicago. The last bus, an overnight Burlington Trailways one, was going to Omaha. We had an interesting driver, who kept shouting ‘thaaaaank you for travelling with Buuuuurlington Traaaaaailways’ and gave out free water. On the way we passed the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, which is apparently the biggest in the world. People think I’m seeing the sights they’ve always dreamed of. I’m not quite sure they understand.
It was about 6am when we arrived at Des Moines Bus Station, which was basically a hut in a parking lot. Neither of us had slept and our Airbnb was miles away, so we called an Uber. The parking lot emptied as we waited. Eventually a pickup truck pulled up and I realised that was the Uber. Wow, now we were getting in a pickup truck. The driver asked where we were going to check we weren’t ‘going to Ames or anything, because people pull that all the time.’ I had no idea what he was talking about, and was thinking that I once took an Uber from Kraków to Prague… but I was pretty sure we weren’t going to Ames, so I went with it.
This was my first Airbnb. The street was still dark when we tried to go in the wrong door and then got in at the back. I felt like an inefficient burglar. Everything was silent inside. I wasn’t sure which room was ours, and after almost walking in on someone snoring, we decided to sit on the sofa and wait for our host to let us know.
One of my favourite tour photos: trying to sleep on a couch in Iowa
He woke up quite soon and honestly, I had no idea what to expect from an Airbnb, but Tony was the best. He made us feel so welcome. After getting 89¢ pasta in the store he recommended, I went for a nap because I wasn’t feeling great. I woke up with a dog on top of me at one point, which really improves the story, then my mum came to get me because Tony’s girlfriend was cooking and invited us to join them. I’m sad I still felt ill so I never got to try any of it, but at least my mum was having fun down there.
Later Tony drove us to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, so we could see that and then walk to the Wells Fargo Arena. We passed Green Day’s buses on the way. Didn’t bother them, obviously, but maybe I should have poked my head in and said ‘hi guys, just about to go and sleep on the street for you.’
A Packers hat, Sonic leggings, the Des Moines skyline and the venue Green Day played in one photo. What more could you want?
The Wells Fargo Arena
Outside the arena
#3 in line, Des Moines, Iowa
We were 3 and 4 in line, behind Shannon from Iowa City and her son Levi. An hour or so later Fran arrived with Sara from Spain, who’d come on the Greyhound from Chicago with pizza. She offered me a slice so I took it. Of course, I’m lactose intolerant, so that really wasn’t a good idea. Me and Fran eventually decided to go in search of toilets. We were heading for the Holiday Inn we could see in the distance, but ended up at the Mercy Hospital instead. What would happen if we went into a hospital at midnight to use the toilet? We were about to try it when we saw a sign on the door saying only patients could enter after visiting hours. SAD. Next up was McDonald’s, which was closed. We considered another entrance to Mercy and then we saw it – a gas station called Quiktrip! Outside a policeman was clicking his gun and staring at us as we approached. Our experience became ever more American. The toilets were just open! I love Quiktrip. I recommend a visit if you’re ever in Des Moines.
We got lost on our way back, walking into a dead end that we realised afterwards said ‘NO ENTRY’ but we eventually made it. Rain was beginning to fall, so we arranged umbrellas donated by Tony to cover us. The pizza was still tormenting me, but I was so tired I pretty much passed out and I actually slept nice and cosy in my bivvy bag.
Despite the bivvy bag, though, I was still soaked when I woke up. Me and Fran made another Quiktrip to our favourite gas station to get food and use the best toilets, then went to get our tickets. In the line we met J’net from Oklahoma, who I first met in Costa Rica in 2010. We found out she was the original owner of my Brussels ticket and Fran’s Amsterdam ticket, and there we were meeting in Iowa.
When we got back to the line a TV crew was freaking out over my mum, trying to attach a mic to her coat so they could interview her. A 58 year-old English lady who’d come to Iowa to see Green Day! They took a photo and filmed us too, so now I can say I’ve been on TV in Costa Rica and Iowa. Life goals = achieved?
A rainy afternoon in Des Moines, ft. Tony’s umbrella, a bivvy bag, camping chair and English people
Before doors, Shannon kindly let us dry off, get changed and store Tony’s umbrella’s in her room at the Holiday Inn we couldn’t find before. When they opened the doors and held us at the turnstiles, the staff were – as usual – confused by why we were so nervous. The way to the pit was unclear and they’d opened multiple entrances. Once I was on the floor, though, I spotted Sara in front of Mike and crashed onto the barrier next to her. J’net was nice enough to let my mum in later and I swapped with Fran so I could be next to her. Sleeping in the rain = success.
I stole this photo from Sara
Des Moines was probably where Against Me! got the best reception. One of the VIPs was actually singing every word along with me. I was so thrilled they were playing Dead Friend every night and that I got to scream along to I Was A Teenage Anarchist before Green Day. I never got bored of hearing Laura Jane Grace tell her story about how Green Day had influenced her as a child. It was the most sincere and real speech I’d ever heard from a support band.
I ached a bit, had snuffles, was still calming down from the entry process and my socks were most likely wet again. The only thing that mattered, though, was singing my heart out, raising my arms up ‘to testify’ in Revolution Radio, beside my best friend with a passionate crowd behind me.
I remember having both arms in the air, singing ‘are we, we are, the waiting unknown / this dirty town is burning down in my dreams / the lost and found city bound in my dreams.’ The first time that line really resonated with me was when I saw American Idiot on Broadway – I felt like Johnny, Will and Tunny, a life I wanted to escape burning down in my dreams, searching for the city of my dreams. I could still recall that but it was different now. That city could have been Des Moines, it could have been Kraków, but I had found it: it existed for two and a half hours in a packed room, the phone screens and lighters that illuminated the arena were as bright and beautiful as any city lights. I opened my eyes and saw Billie and Mike laughing. It’s OK, guys, I knew I looked like the woman at that Jesse Malin show who pushed to the front just to dramatically sing two lines of Lucinda.
In King for a Day Billie announced ‘oh, I need a cigarette.’ Then in Still Breathing he reappeared in a personalised version of the jacket he took (and had to give back) in Green Bay. I am quite honoured to have witnessed the rise of the Forever Now Jacket.
I found this compilation video from Des Moines and it really hits me like a punch in the gut, seeing myself on the front row, singing all night with the 16,000 people behind me. It’s still hard to believe any of this actually happened, but I guess that lost and found city really isn’t just in my dreams, not anymore.
After the show, my phone had died so we couldn’t call an Uber, but we didn’t know the way back to Tony’s house. I tried waving at approaching cars and eventually one stopped. When the lady heard our accents, she launched into a rant about how there are too many Muslims in London. She had never been to London. I’m still quite surprised we got back to Tony’s alive. At 4am, Fran messaged me to let me know my mum was on TV in Des Moines Bus Station.
The ultimate in life goals achieved: Joy on TV in Des Moines Bus Station (iconic photo by Fran)
Me and Sara at Des Moines Airport
The next day, Tony kindly drove us to Des Moines Airport and we said goodbye. I felt like I had a home to return to in Iowa. If you’re ever in Des Moines, you need to stay with Tony.
Sara was also on our Frontier flight to Denver, which was a few hours delayed. Some people said it was bad weather, others said it’s always delayed. When we finally arrived in Denver, we got so lost looking for the airport bus that we considered an Uber. Eventually a guy from Idaho (I think?) saved us. Snow was falling, in piles all around us and the ground was icy when we got off the bus in Broomfield. We were planning to camp, but we didn’t know if there was room for us in the tents, and it was unlikely many people would show up until the morning. We decided to sit this one out and just went to our Airbnb.
At 7am we headed back out. The line was a little longer; I think we were 11, 12 and 13. We met a couple we’d met before, at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in 2010. Sara tried to sleep on her air mattress while I chatted to George from Colorado, about video games and what songs we’d like to see most. Soon the staff put up barriers and moved us into four lines.
Fan art on the pavement before the show in Broomfield, CO
The line in Colorado
The 1stBank Center, Broomfield, CO
I made it to the barrier on Jason’s side and managed to save spots for my mum and George (that was my best barrier spread of all time, actually). It wasn’t long until the whole room reeked of weed. We were getting the full Colorado experience.
2000 Light Years Away was one of my favourite songs to see on this tour. I’d been in a long distance relationship for six years (seven now) and not going to lie, every time I would sing ‘I hold her malachite so tight, I’ll never let go, ‘cause she’s 6000 light years away.’ Billie often caught my eye, smiled and sang with me. Of course he had no clue about my thoughts, nor me of his, but it was wonderful to share that regardless. He is not just talking crap in his speeches about how music brings people together. I remember singing along to Waiting and it occurring to me that I, and hundreds of others there I’m sure, had waited a long time for this moment to come; and Billie singing those lyrics back at me too. I had woken up and thanked my lucky stars and I was living my dream.
Being an English kid singing American Idiot in America is a strange feeling. Like I don’t really belong there, but also like I’m part of something completely alien to me at the same time. Green Day have that effect.
George loved the show too and was glad we went for the front row rather than the catwalk. We said goodbye and went back to our Airbnb, before our flight to Vegas for our final show.
The bus stop in Broomfield
Las Vegas from the plane
It was dark when we took off from Denver. The Las Vegas strip was a ribbon of light below as the plane descended. I had never wanted to go to Vegas, so of course I ended up there for Green Day. There was a long walk through a casino and food court to reach the MGM Grand Garden Arena. So far, Vegas was very strange. When we finally found it, we met Cheryl from Australia who we’d previously met in Costa Rica and New York, and we were back with Sara and Fran.
The casino we had to walk through to find the line
A security guy soon told us we had to leave. He insisted we had no idea what shows in Vegas were like and that people came from all around the world (apparently he didn’t notice that we had, but I’m not sure what the relevance was anyway), then eventually that we could gather in the food court and line up outside at 7:30am. First we wandered outside and I don’t remember this, but Sara says she went to speak to some prostitutes thinking they were homeless and might know where we could sleep, and I tried to stop her but it was Too Late. It looked like the food court was the only option. I considered sleeping in a toilet cubicle and Sara went for it, but I didn’t want to risk the guy finding me and throwing me out for good, so the rest of us went to the food court.
Me and Fran in the food court
I was exhausted and fell asleep without even realising. I woke to screaming in my ear that I was going to be arrested. A woman claiming to be a manager was yelling and waving her arms. Apparently we’d all be arrested if we didn’t move. Sara’s pillow was on the table and she was pointing at me and screaming ‘that girl even has a pillow!’ We tried to explain that the other guy told us it was the only place we could line up, and eventually she agreed we could stay as long as we were awake. If we fell asleep, the cops were coming. Sara eventually reappeared, having had a mediocre nap in the cubicle. Katy Perry’s Roar was playing over and over on the speakers. This was bad. The others remember a constant stream of Johnny B. Goode but all I remember is Roar. I have nothing against you, Katy, but please never roar within a 10 mile radius of me, ever again. In the end I must have fallen asleep for another 15 minutes and when I woke up, Yaz and Becky from England had arrived. A while later, Traci who we’d met in Champaign joined us, too. At 7am we decided to live on the edge and go outside 30 minutes early.
The line in Vegas, 8am
The road back to the venue when I went to find (reasonably priced) food
Green Day poster in the MGM Grand, where we first tried to line up and got kicked out
After going to find food that wasn’t $30 for a small portion, my mum and I were taking photos of the Green Day posters on our way back when we found lizziebix and her husband. We first met her at a show in Rosemont in 2013 after knowing her for a while on GDC, and were reunited in Vegas with big hugs.
Back at the line, the British crew was joined by GDC's Second Favourite Son. There were now six of us and a flag. I guess it’s not untrue that people come to Vegas from around the world for shows…
The British Crew from left to right: Becky, Yaz, Fran, Second Favourite Son, me and Joy (photo by Second Favourite Son’s dad)
The line in Vegas: getting longer
Joy and Fran in the line
Everyone, as known on GDC: Lauren, lizziebix, sara_gd, BeachBum, Dirty Rotten Bastard, Yaz., basketcase4933, solongfromthestars, Second Favourite Son and finally, Taylor and Becky who I don't believe are on GDC (photo also by Second Favourite Son’s dad)
Last photo of the line before I took my camera back
We were lined up beside the VIPs an hour before doors. VIP was sold out here, which meant 100 people in front of us. We weren’t sure how this would work out and watched them running in nervously. Our security friend from the previous night said hello, then a guy called Bill made a speech about how he understood how long we’d been there, and would be making sure we were let in fairly. Doors opened and I expected a stampede, but Bill really did stop it as best as he could. I was in and ran for my life. I ducked and dodged security and other fans and ran and ran until I was spread over the barrier in front of Mike. My fellow Europeans followed in a row. Maybe some of the VIPs didn’t show up, but who cares, we got amazing spots. Despite the food court experience, I was genuinely impressed with the staff at doors.
On the barrier
This was the last time I’d see Against Me! with Green Day – probably the last time I’d ever see one of my second favourite bands open for them. I was so tired I felt like I might melt into the metal of the barrier, but it didn’t stop me screaming I Was A Teenage Anarchist until I could barely breathe. Then they were gone, the Drunk Bunny was on, we were all singing Blitzkrieg Bop; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was playing, Tré was on, then Mike – wearing the Otis jacket – then Billie. I felt like I was still asleep in the food court, dreaming when Billie yelled ‘Las Vegas, Nevada!’ and we all raised our arms in response. My voice was hoarse and my arms ached as I sang along to Revolution Radio. Billie began the Holiday bridge with ‘Nevada, Nevada, place your bets!’ After Youngblood, he reluctantly announced ‘I’m kind of getting used to this Las Vegas Raiders thing’ before adding ‘fuck you I’m from Oakland.’ A permanent smile was plastered on my face at this point, even when he attacked us all with his stupid water hose in 2000 Light Years Away.
I don’t know if it’s inappropriate to bring this up – or to say this at all – but seeing Still Breathing here was incredibly moving, because this was the very same arena where the iHeartRadio meltdown happened. I avoid saying I’m proud of Green Day because I’m not sure if it’s even a fan’s place to be, but I was. It was a metaphor to me even about myself, that I made it through against the odds to experience this wonderful tour and so did my band. We were all the same. If that’s what Billie wanted when he wrote the song – for it to be an anthem that brings us all, from every walk of life, together – he achieved it in my eyes more than I can even explain.
I screamed my heart out to Forever Now with all the love and happiness my heart could hold. It was a thing at this point that no matter where I stood, Billie would sing ‘I want a new conspiracy and the silence of a thousand cries’ at me, and I would scream it back.
Ordinary World resonated with me in a way it hadn’t before. People assume I have it all, because I’ve travelled, as they assume the lines ‘baby I don’t have much / but what we have is more than enough’ are insincere coming from Billie Joe, because he has money and fame. In reality, I have my mother, my fiancée, the adventures I’ve had through Green Day and very little else. None of it is even as perfect as it seems. I don’t know what the future holds, and there will be times I struggle to carry on again. But one thing I knew, then, is that those dreams of a better life – I didn’t need them anymore. Because what I have, these memories that will be with me forever, is more than enough.
As Billie played the first chords of Good Riddance, there were tears streaming down my face. When I stood atop of New York, thinking these would be the best three weeks ever; still that child looking off on the horizon, the son raised without a father aside the mother barely keeping it together, who dreamed an impossible dream of following Green Day across the United States… I had no idea that the realisation of that dream would be as absolutely wonderful and dare I say, life changing, as it was. I can never thank Green Day enough for what they have given me, from inspiration to adventure to happiness I never imagined possible. I love this band and all they have enabled me to do and feel with all my heart. I am not a sappy person and do not express my emotions lightly (believe it or not), and this is the raw truth.
I’m still alive
After the show. Photo stolen from Yaz. I don’t remember who took it (sorry)
Many of our friends were carrying on to the last show in San Diego while we stayed in Vegas. I would have loved to join them, but it just wasn’t financially possible. We said our goodbyes outside and headed back to America’s Best Value Inn for some well-earned rest.
Tour was over, but the adventure wasn’t. To get the cheapest flight home, we were staying in Vegas a few days and then flying to Oakland. Perhaps Vegas and its overpriced food courts were not my dream destination, but I learned to enjoy this place Green Day brought me to as we wandered the streets, into shops where we couldn’t afford anything; found the Vegas sign; discovered ABC Stores, the cheapest place on the strip and most importantly, I may have been too cheap to go inside the Shark Reef Aquarium, but I managed to draw out my bank balance twice (at a store called Super Liquor) in order to buy Vegas the Shark from the gift shop.
Palm trees ft. Super Liquor
Sunset in Vegas
In the Vegas lights, swimming with the SHARKS until we drown (soz that isn’t even Green Day)
On our last day, we escaped Vegas on a bus for $4 and set out on a search for Clark County Wetlands Park. We couldn’t afford any exciting day trips, but I was determined we would see something. It was quite a good idea, actually.
Clark County Wetlands Park
Walking back to the bus stop
We left Vegas early in the morning. Even the airport was Vegassy. What a bizarre place. Anyway, even though Annabelle, my fiancée, is from Oakland I had never been (we met at a Green Day show in Birmingham, apparently thanks to my hair, which was a luminous red frizzball at the time). After six years it was finally my turn to be looking around as I walked out of arrivals before running into their arms.
They took us first to Lake Merritt, while they gave us directions on what to do if someone pushed us in, before a tour of the best places to get shot. A city council guy pulled up on a tractor to ask my mum for a cigarette, we passed a man saying to himself ‘gonna round all the girls like in World War II, then kill ’em all, boom!’ and another passionately singing as he wandered around. Not so different to Nottingham, I guess.
You wouldn’t even know Oakland is a shithole!
Next up was Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café at the Fox Theater. This was completely surreal. I was in Oakland. Eating at Mike Dirnt’s café.
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café
The Fox Theater is not just a historic building in Oakland, but a stop on my dream Green Day tour too: it’s where they played the iconic third show of the 21st Century Breakdown Tour, one of the only times they played the album in full. 21st Century Breakdown is my favourite album of all time, containing my favourite song of all time (¡Viva La Gloria!), and the only album I will ever claim changed my life. It was also where February 19th was declared ‘Official Green Day Day’ in Oakland, during a celebration of Dookie in 2016.
The Fox Theater
We walked on up Telegraph Avenue (the Avenue in Stuart & the Ave.) until we came to 40th Street. Broken Guitars, the guitar store Billie Joe co-owns with Bill Schneider is here, along with 1-2-3-4 GO! Records; where Billie Joe built the stage with his son Joey and Green Day played an early show for ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré!. It was later where the pop-up shop for their Oakland Coliseum show was. They had Insomniac on cassette and I was tempted to buy it, but I eventually went for a 1-2-3-4 GO! Records shirt instead.
1-2-3-4 GO! Records
We briefly went to see Lake Merritt at night before getting back. Annabelle was pretty sure we were going to get killed. Very romantic. We planned to order pizza, but ended up eating Tostitos instead.
Nightfall in Oakland
Fuck you I’m from Oakland England. Photo stolen from Annabelle.
West Oakland Station, the station in Welcome to Paradise (‘a gunshot rings out at the station’), from the BART
On our final full day we took the BART to San Francisco. I wanted to see Golden Gate Bridge again and take my Tails action figure to Mission Street before we left. The Bay (80) Bridge is a Green Day sight too – it’s where Billie Joe’s nickname for his wife, 80, comes from and the band have talked about knowing they were home after grueling tours once they saw the bridge.
San Francisco Port Authority
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
San Francisco skyline
Golden Gate Bridge as night fell
Oakland lights from San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge at night, another photo I’ve wanted to take since I first picked up a camera
San Francisco at night
Annabelle insisted we had to see their bridge at night too, because it’s prettier than Golden Gate, so we did. I will admit they were right just this once.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at night
We ended up at Lake Merritt one last time before our flight home. It was a beautiful day and we made it even better by stopping off at the dodgiest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen. Annabelle bought me an Oakland A’s shirt and my mum a mug at the airport, before we accidentally got into another baseball team.
Adding Oakland to our trip was pretty much an accident, when flights from Vegas disappeared, but I am so happy we did. Not only did we see a few of the Green Day sights, but there was a time I thought I would never walk those streets with Annabelle. Long story short, they were diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2013 and at one point told they had three weeks to live. I cried until I could no longer feel my hands or head the first time I heard Still Breathing; because hearing ‘my head’s above the rain and roses / making my way to you’ was when it finally sunk in that I was not going to lose my fiancée, that one day we would walk the streets of Oakland together. Without Green Day we would never even have met. Now that dream has come true.
Maybe Oakland is a shithole and I’ll eventually get shot, but it felt like my second home and I can’t wait to go back and see Christie Road, Gilman St. and the other Green Day sights.
Lake Merritt before our flight home
I arrived back in Falmouth from Gatwick Airport in the evening. Nothing had changed; the same broken train still made a stupid noise that kept me awake. The dock horn still went off at exactly 7:30am. The same runners passed me on the pavement. But something was different.
The next day, I sat on a bench on the seafront, overlooking the gentle waves. The sun was shining, and birds were skimming the water below. It was beautiful, tranquil and probably more than I deserved. Because I still found myself longing for those dingy Greyhounds, a tent in Wisconsin, the puddles in my bivvy bag in Des Moines, the streets of Oakland. I knew later I would struggle to sleep in my own bed and, for a few minutes, I genuinely pondered sleeping on the cold metal of that bench.
I didn’t, and I walked away. All my life I’d had this voice in the back of my mind, telling me I want to go home and it was then that I realised it was absent. Because I have found my home in those tightly packed rooms, on those cold streets, wandering Oakland with someone I met through this band, from England to Poland to Champaign to Vegas.
I know I’m irresponsible. I know I’m not normal. I know that the consequences I faced because really, I couldn’t afford this at all and shouldn’t have taken the time off, are my own choices.
But this is my city of shining light in my ordinary world. It is where that I’ll live until I die, and I’ll walk to the end of the earth and afar before I leave this buried treasure behind.
This is my rage.
This is my love.
This is my life.
Oslo on January 25th was supposed to be my last show until Manchester on February 6th. So when I got back from Oslo, of course I sold a few things on eBay and bought a Paris ticket. I’d go, camp out, then come straight home.
Then a couple of days before the Brussels show, I saw my friend Anja selling a ticket for it. It was the day before Paris and would just work with my uni schedule… but I’d already booked my Ouibus to Paris. Did I abandon it? It was 12€ which is approximately 55 bowls of pasta… yeah, alright, another Green Day show was more important than 55 bowls of pasta.
I had a crit that morning – a group where tutors and students critique each other’s work on their project so far – and I’d been showing this work. They already thought I was insane, then someone asked if I was going to more shows and I was like ‘well, I’m getting the night bus to go to Brussels tonight, I just booked it.’
My mum Joy was absolutely not meant to be coming to these shows. I was meant to be going alone and not staying anywhere. She was still in a lot of pain after people pushed her over in Oslo, too. So what did we do? Booked her a bus to London and a seat on my bus to Brussels, obviously. She used to live in Brussels – it would be like a hometown show. That was my excuse for talking her into it, anyway.
Ah, so here I was: hurriedly shoving all my camping gear into a big suitcase (I don’t remember why I took that instead of The Backpack) and dragging it through Truro to catch the night bus. It was about a 12 hour journey. I might have slept half an hour until it filled up in Exeter. When I arrived in London at 6am I was 99% convinced I had become a zombie.
Two hours later, with about 15 minutes until our Megabus, my mum’s bus was still stuck in traffic. It pulled in with a few minutes to spare, but I could have left without that metaphorically soiled underwear.
You know, boarding these buses is kind of like doors at a Green Day show. Some people take the queue very seriously and stand there for ages, others just clump around the queue to rush it when doors open and everyone is desperate to get in first. Anyway, I’d been sitting there for a good two hours, so I was not moving from the front of the line and got us the back seat. After the anticlimactic Eurotunnel (I didn’t even meet the Dark Bladers?! Do they know I’m a champion Beyblader?), we tried to spread out and sleep but we didn’t have much luck. Maybe it was the thought of those strip searches the driver told us were popular at that border.
My mum says it rained for at least five minutes every single day she lived in Brussels, and to welcome her back it was a typical grey, rainy day. As the bus approached the station, the driver announced that he was parking around the corner to deter luggage thieves. He urged us all to collect our luggage immediately and to hang onto it tightly. We rushed off the bus to grab it and despite the rain, my mum commented ‘Brussels has changed.’
When we finally figured out the Metro system and got to the venue, it was deserted and unclear where the line should start. The area looked pretty dodgy (well, Brussels seemed dodgy). I was beyond exhausted and didn’t want to sleep on the wet ground and/or get stabbed to find a proper line elsewhere when I woke up. We went to get pizza in the Belgian equivalent of Pizza Kebap and got a few hours sleep before heading back in the early morning.
Fans from Spain, Finland, the Netherlands and England lining up at Forest National, Brussels, 7am
Me (trying and failing to sleep) and Tamsin, also from England
As the sun rose the day proved to be the warmest of the tour. We were actually able to take the blankets back early! Seriously! We weren’t wrapped in tin foil all day!
From left to right: Magnus from Denmark, Sara from Spain and me, Yaz and Becky from England
The line: getting longer
Brussels line, midday, ft. the ‘she’s coming to the show?’ look my mum gets every time
It was early afternoon when the staff yelled that they were moving us and we needed to dump our rubbish immediately. Everyone began clearing up in a panic. I couldn’t throw everything away – I had my camera and camping stuff. Our hotel was a good ten minutes away. Sara rescued me by running all our stuff to her Airbnb nearby. When we got back they were locking us into barriers where we apparently weren’t allowed to bring any food or drink. I still needed to get my ticket from Anja and pay her for it, but she wasn’t there yet and I’d had to leave my purse in the Airbnb. Fortunately she arrived just in time and we agreed I’d PayPal her later.
Something incredible happened when they transferred us to the new line: they honoured our number system. It’s never done because we expect venues to care – it’s just to help prevent line cutting and if venues do get it, that’s an added bonus. I’d never seen it happen before, though, until we joined this new line in numbered order. The line was kept in order by Magnus and a local lady who was super helpful explaining how the venue worked. My mum also sent back two line cutters in French. #proud
When they let us in later they were still reasonably organised – I definitely remember it as one of the less stressful entries of the tour. Thanks to the local lady’s directions, I ran and got our favourite spot: Mike’s corner. My mum of course got pushed aside by kids who saw she was vulnerable, but I was saving her a spot so it didn’t do them any good.
The traditional barrier selfie: Brussels
We knew most of the lyrics to The Interrupters’ set and they knew us at this point, which was both cute and hilarious. They never got boring – they were just so much fun. When Green Day came on, Magnus was the first fan on stage. Billie snatched his Danish flag and displayed a Belgian one instead (all in good fun, of course).
I’m not someone who really cares about the setlist – I wouldn’t go to so many shows if I found it dull – but when Billie began playing the intro to Troubled Times, the crowd clapping along, I must have deafened the people around me. They’d played it at the previous show in Amsterdam, but I didn’t think they’d ever play it again. It was so powerful live and I will never forget hearing it in a foreign country after impulsively making a 24 hour bus journey from Cornwall.
In Longview, the girl Billie pulled up to sing attached herself to Tré and he had to tell her ‘you’re here to sing, not make out with Tré Cool!’
Before playing Scattered, Billie announced ‘it’s Aimee from The Interrupters’ birthday today!’ before beginning to play something it took me a few seconds to recognise. Then I turned to my mum and screamed ‘it’s Amy!’ and she registered it with wide eyes. It was such an incredible coincidence, because it was there in Brussels of all places, that hearing that meant the world to her. Her story in the We Are Revolution Radio book of fan stories sums up the show, really.
My mum’s story in the We Are Revolution Radio book of fan stories
After the show we headed to the bus station with Tamsin and Anita from Ireland for our Megabus to Paris. The luggage thieves business had unsettled us quite a bit, but the piss-scented street was deserted. I slept for an hour or so on the bus but my mum didn’t. We tumbled off the bus and into the line with our luggage at 6am.
The line in Paris, 6am
Soon they moved us closer to the entrance and we (understandably) weren’t allowed to take our suitcases into the barriers. So I went into the line alone and held places while the others decided what to do with all our luggage. I laid on the cold ground and tried to sleep but it was freezing and my camping gear was in the suitcase. A while later my mum was able to dump our luggage in our hotel early and everyone joined me to begin the long wait.
Paris line, late morning, ft. my Milan blanket
At some point in the afternoon, my mum and I went to get food and when we came back, the security guy who knew us had disappeared and the new one refused to let us back in. We were told to make our way to the barrier separating our line from a later one, where Anita soon joined us when they wouldn’t let her back in either. It had begun to rain and anxiety was setting in. We’d been there for an hour or two when our security guy finally returned from lunch, laughed and let us back in.
We’d seen Green Day in Paris in 2010 but we had seated tickets, so everything I’d heard about Parisian crowds being the worst had kind of gone over my head – it just felt like a fun, energetic atmosphere up in the seats. As doors grew closer the line became a tight squeeze, I got into an argument with a line cutter and people were beginning to lose their footing. Drunk people from behind were pushing and begging us to just let them past. When security called us forward, my mum was splayed over a barrier that was toppling over in the surge, with a half-eaten camembert in her face. I don’t think anything could be more French than being shoved almost to the ground with a drunk guy’s camembert invading your personal space.
I was held up when my phone set the scanners off and then it was forever until they searched me. When I finally got in, Anita was saving me a spot on the catwalk which I was incredibly grateful for. We managed to squeeze my mum in later. The crowd was certainly the most aggressive yet, which was an experience in itself. Every few minutes I was fighting someone new out of my spot. I couldn’t breathe, but I was having fun. My favourite moment was probably Scattered. It was still surreal that I was hearing that song not once, but multiple times. I was also thrilled to actually see all of Still Breathing since because I preferred front row to the catwalk, it was the first time I’d seen it from that angle. Being able to see all these songs from different points of view was a luxury I was grateful for throughout the tour.
Paris, the day after the show
It was raining the next day as we got lost trying to find the Ouibus stop and missed our bus in the process. We ended up sitting in a café where I tried to dry my socks over a radiator, and very nearly got lost again when looking for our new bus. Eventually we made it and I must say, I quite liked Ouibus. I mean, I don’t really like any coaches, but some are better than others, you know? I could write a coach comparison blog.
The most exciting view of Paris we got, via Ouibus: turned sepia to make it look like an old postcard? Or something?
The British border from the Ouibus
I joined my mum on the overnight bus to Nottingham. I would have had to leave as soon as I arrived if I’d gone back to Cornwall, and I appreciated the few hours of sleep in my own bed before we headed to Manchester. Neither of us were going to Leeds, until Tamsin messaged me to let me know someone was selling a ticket. Being the complete twat I am, I left my stuff with my mum in our Manchester hotel and got back on the train. On the 99 Revolutions Tour she went to Leeds Festival while I stayed home, so we were swapping places, in a way. I arrived in Leeds an hour or so before doors, legging it up and down the escalators in the station (I had a legit phobia of escalators for years and it ended there), accidentally going the wrong way and then finally making it to the arena.
My mum wasn’t there for a traditional barrier selfie, so I selfie’d me and my flag instead
I ran for my life when doors open and managed to get the end of the barrier on Jason’s side. In all honesty, I hadn’t slept for days and I was exhausted, my ribs were bruised from a crowd surfer in Paris and I was panicking way too much about the Manchester queue. The crowd initially seemed unresponsive too, until Billie roared ‘I want to hear your loud English voices!’ and it was as if we all woke up. I was no longer tired and it was a surreal experience, being back where it all began for me, in arenas in England. Because there is no experience like Green Day in England. There’s no energy like this, no atmosphere like this, anywhere else. To be one of those voices, a collective voice so loud it feels like it could shake the bowels of the earth – it’s surreal. I’m really not at all patriotic, but Billie screaming ‘fuck you I’m from ENGLAND!’ at the top of his lungs in Youngblood, then thanking us for welcoming him home was something else. They also played Armatage Shanks and I may have temporarily died (of happiness, obviously).
I watched the fire raining down in Still Breathing, and in my head I could still see that similar scene during 21 Guns, back at Birmingham’s (formerly) LG Arena in 2009. I couldn’t stop myself crying as I recalled how then, the lyrics about giving up resonated with me so. Now, there I stood, as strong, happy and confident as I could ever have wished to be. I’d been so close to giving up, but I never did. I was still breathing. Partially because of this band. I have no doubt that thousands of others in that arena, screaming the words at the top of their lungs, were feeling the same way.
Couldn’t resist a phone pic of my home country confetti
After the show I met up with Neeraja from India who I knew through Green Day. It was her first show and I was so happy she’d finally had the chance to see them. We got lost on our way to the bus station and managed to find it after asking a nightclub’s security guy for directions.
Before I unintentionally fell asleep on the bus, I wrote with the last of my phone’s battery: ‘I am exhausted. My head hurts and my eyes don’t want to stay open. But I’m so ready for my last show.’
Want to submit your story, photos or fan art to be part of the next We Are Revolution Radio book? You can, and totally should, do that here!
I was sitting in Burger King when I realised my flight to Kraków was two hours earlier than I thought. Maybe it was the journey: I’d spent 24 hours getting back to uni from Italy, handed in an assignment, then got straight back on the bus for 12 hours. Whatever my excuse was, I ended up sprinting through Stansted Airport with a backpack far too big for running.
I skidded to a stop at the gate – the furthest gate possible, because Ryanair – as it was closing. My mum Joy was far behind, unable to run and I begged them to wait another minute for her. The lady at the gate said I was lucky and advised me to go through, so I did. After crashing down the plane to my seat with a lot of confused people staring at me, I got into an argument about my backpack (it was far too big, I admit) and checked my phone to find my mum had been sent to returning passengers. The flight took off before I could get another response.
This was not good. The next flight wasn’t until the following morning, she wasn’t well enough to stay in the airport all night and she had all our Polish money. It felt like the longest flight ever until I could text her again and find out that she’d had no choice but to go to an airport hotel and pay for a new flight. I drew out my bank balance in zlotys and went to the hotel in Kraków alone.
The Tauron Arena, the day before the show
While I waited the next morning, I trudged through snow to the arena to check there was no one camping. The show wasn’t until the next day – we’d come a day early for a day trip we could no longer afford – so fortunately, the arena was completely deserted. I was momentarily tempted to sit there already, but I had no idea where the line was supposed to start, so I just headed back to the hotel to meet my mum.
We decided we’d go into Kraków to at least see something, so we got on a tram we thought was headed to the centre. After an hour of watching the landscape become more and more barren, we figured we were going the wrong way.
Lost in Kraków
Going the right way… eventually
Night had fallen by the time we made it to the centre. We were just in time to meet up with Eleonora from Milan at the Green Day bar. It was warm and cosy in there after that freezing cold outside, and I was very glad I was not pointlessly sitting outside the Tauron Arena. Our luck, though – Tré Cool came in about 10 minutes after we left.
I mean, it was called Green Day!
We couldn’t afford our day trip, but at least we made it into the centre
Armed with thermals, heat packs and foot warmers, we arrived at 6am to a line of about 15 people. One fan was from Finland, another from Ukraine and others from all over Poland. A girl from Warsaw told us how the ticket and travel costs were an entire month’s wages to her, but that it was her first chance to see Green Day and she knew it would be worth it. Fran joined us soon and we later went to the nearby supermarket to buy our tour staple, dry bread and also Pizzerina.
I hope Green Day Bread is proud of us
This week in The Things We Eat For Green Day: Pizzerina, which cost about 20p
The line, before noon
The line was gradually becoming hostile. Soon after we arrived people began pushing and by the afternoon, many were too scared to sit down or to leave for a few minutes, in case they couldn’t get back in. A few hours before doors opened, it was almost impossible to move and some people were stumbling from the pushing. ‘Aggressive sardines’ is an accurate description.
It was predictable chaos when the staff opened the gates to let us closer to the entrance. People were screaming while others used the opportunity to push further forward. When we were finally lined up outside the huge door that led to the pit, the girl from Warsaw was in tears because she’d been there so long only to lose her spot. I don’t know what happened to her or if she even made it to the barrier but I hope she somehow did.
Traditional barrier selfie: Poland
Me, Fran and Eleonora made it there in front of Mike, but my mum had been sent to a cloakroom for no reason and in the time it took her to argue her way out, a man had forced his way in next to us. I remember thinking this was one of my most ridiculous experiences yet – which I suppose it was – but I don’t want to give Poland a bad rep because trust me, England and the US can be just as bad.
The Interrupters were still as energetic and entertaining as they had been in Italy. Rather than growing tired of them, as I got to know their songs and speeches I enjoyed their sets even more. I’d soon forgotten the pushing, the cold, the ridiculous venue. The arena, one of the biggest in Europe, was far from sold out but when Green Day ran on stage, the crowd made it sound like it was. The band played like it was. In Bang Bang, Billie filmed the crowd holding up ‘Bang’ signs, though security had snatched many away.
We even made it in to the video. I get irrationally excited when I see myself in crowd shots, OK?
Every time I see Green Day, there’s a different song that resonates with me most. It was obviously Scattered that night. I remember locking eyes with Billie and for a moment we were singing at each other, sharing whatever it was that resonated with us about those words and he pointed at me before he turned away. Maybe that’s another reason fans will go to these lengths to see them live. They aren’t inaccessible, emotionless rock stars. Even when you’re miles out in a seat, their energy fills the room. They are sharing their souls with everyone in those crowds when they perform. Awestruck kids leave knowing their heroes are human just like them. Billie’s ‘freaks, weirdos and strangers’ leave knowing they are understood and not alone. Whether it’s the travelling fans who’ve seen them twenty times before, the kid from Kraków who’s been waiting their entire life for that moment, or the parents who tag along out of duty to find they love the band – our experiences are all so different yet at the shows we are all the same.
It always gets me too when I see Billie holding the country’s flag, both because I know then I’m really having that experience, and also because I know what it means to so many people there. It was a predictably rough crowd, but once I’m in I don’t care, because it reminds me that I’m alive. Dziękuję Poland for another night I won’t ever forget.
Our Polskibus to Prague was at 7am the next day. My mum set an alarm, but I guess her phone died in the night. When I woke up and checked my phone I was confused for a moment before shouting ‘IT’S 9AM! OUR POLSKIBUS LEFT TWO HOURS AGO!’
I heard from Fran that the bus before was five hours delayed and left at 5am instead of midnight. We could have legged it to the bus station in the hope ours would be the same, but I didn’t want to risk spending the money in case it wasn’t. The next one, leaving at midday, would barely get us to Prague in time and if it was delayed even an hour, we’d miss Green Day. Trains were expensive and with all the transfers they entailed, I didn’t trust them. A taxi transfer was 300€, which was cheaper than flying, but we just didn’t have it. I’d heard that Uber was meant to be cheaper, but I didn’t even really know what it was. When I found out it was an app, I frantically deleted music and photos on my phone to make room for it. It gave me an estimate of 600zł-800zł, about £130-£170. We had that. It was obviously more than we’d usually spend considering the Polskibus was £11, but it was insanely cheap for what it was (I just checked Uber’s calculator and I guess they got wise to people stupid enough to call an Uber for that, because it told me almost double). So I did it: I called an Uber to take me from Kraków to Prague.
He arrived within a few minutes, a polite and well-spoken young man called Michał, and asked with a smile where we wanted to go. My mum glanced at me and took a deep breath.
‘Well, we need to get to Prague.’
He apologised for his English – which was perfect, I’m sure he just thought we couldn’t possibly be that stupid – and asked her to repeat it. Now he understood, stared at us blankly for a moment and laughed.
My mum tried to explain what had happened and he listened patiently as it sunk in that we were seriously asking him this.
‘Wait. How far is it? 500 kilometres? How much will it cost? Maybe we can do it.’
All three of us struggled to get an Internet connection out there, but I told him what the Uber app had estimated and he said that would be fine. He just had to go to his dad’s house to get money for petrol. He reckoned we could get there by 5pm and we told him it didn’t matter as long as we were in time for Green Day.
Seriously considering my life choices as I waited for our Uber driver to get his petrol money
So, here we were: heading out in an Uber to Prague. It turned out Michał had lived and worked less than ten miles from us in England and his mum still lived there. This was his second day working for Uber after moving back. Yes, you read that right, it was his second day working for Uber and two English girls had asked him to take them 539km/335 miles to Prague. He was extremely professional and nice about the whole thing, though.
My mum having a cigarette at a gas station somewhere in the Czech Republic
Oh, don’t wanna think about my bank account tomorrow
Snowy wilderness. Lots of snowy wilderness to make me consider my life choices. Again.
The road signs are starting to tell us how many miles to Praha!
What would you wish if you saw a shooting star? Probably that I’ll get to Prague in time for Green Day
The Interrupters were finishing as we arrived. As much as I’d loved all their sets, I was not going to complain that we’d missed them. Thanks to Michał, the best and most patient Uber driver ever, we’d made it in time for Green Day.
This was the furthest back we’d ever been at a Green Day show, and it only confirmed all I’ve been saying about how it doesn’t matter. Of course front row is awesome and I love being able to see so well, but my mum and I had so much fun dancing together at the back. I still felt that same connection to the band and every word Billie sang. Seeing the full stage with the crowd all around us took me back to my first seated shows that had changed my life so. Scattered around us were people who didn’t know the band well but still watched in awe, and others who knew everything and sang and danced like we did. It was 100% worth getting an Uber all the way from Kraków. I regret nothing.
We got a taxi to Prague Airport the next morning, because it only cost the equivalent of £5 and we did not want to risk getting lost and somehow missing our flight. Our journey to Oslo was surprisingly – and refreshingly – uneventful.
Morning in Prague
Arriving in Oslo
We bought a loaf of bread to eat and just wandered around Oslo. Despite how cold and expensive it was (though I did get a Pokémon backpack for the equivalent of £15), I liked those modern streets a lot and I hope I can go back one day when I haven’t been wiped out by an Uber.
The fjord was almost entirely frozen over
This photo accurately reflects how cold it was
We didn’t make it up the hill to take photos, but this view of the skyline was pretty good
Pretty Oslo streets
I decided not to camp that night. I’d heard that people didn’t queue in Norway and though it was technically 14°C warmer than Kraków’s -15°C, it was a different cold that seeped into the bones and froze you from inside. I sometimes wonder if I should have done just to add ‘then I camped out in Oslo’ to ‘I got an Uber from Kraków to Prague’ but it would have been pointless, because when I arrived in the early morning there were only three people at our gate (and Fran at the other one). We were all foreigners – three Finnish girls and us three English. The first locals arrived around 10am.
7am, Oslo, Norway: my mum standing away from the line for a cigarette
Finland and England represents: Rosamari, Jenna, Maria and Meri (and Joy pressing the shutter)
The first five
Me and my mum wrapped in foil blankets as the sun rose
The line, midday
Phone pic of the line when I got back from putting my camera away
I can feel the nerves in that photo – knowing the line had finally been moved from the steps to its ‘proper’ place and that doors were getting closer. And the cold. That cold was definitely worse than Kraków or Prague, or at least it was by the time I’d been standing there all day.
Traditional barrier selfie, cut off because my mum hates it
Security lined up by the door and one stood in front of us, confused that none of us spoke Norwegian. Still, he laughed and told us to go in English. Everyone ran. The security who’d lined up were mobbed, but I slipped around to one at the side with no line. I was in, down some steps, and saw – for the first time ever – a completely empty barrier. Our door was Jason’s side and I think we all considered running to Mike’s, but we could hear the mob coming that side and chose to play it safe. I spread my arms to save a spot for my mum at the corner of the catwalk, next to Jenna and Rosamari. Fran had got the corner on the other side and waved to us. I couldn’t see my mum anywhere though and as more people flooded the barrier, I was struggling to keep the spot. She did make it and we ended up in number order – the first time I’d ever seen that, too – but she was in a lot of pain. People had pushed her to get in front and she’d gone flying into a turnstile and seriously hurt her ankle. She was worried she wouldn’t last the show, but when The Interrupters came on and we sang all the words we knew, she was dealing with it well.
Phone pic: Billie playing his harmonica during Scattered in Oslo
Once the bunny was off the stage and Green Day ran on, it was as it usually is: we forgot the cold, the idiots who’d pushed her, even the pain became bearable. After Prague – as much fun as that was – our great spot felt especially close. The band were on fire. I don’t know how receptive the crowd were, because I was just in my own world with my favourite band.
‘SHE knows it!’ Billie laughed as he walked past, looking for someone to sing Longview. He picked a guy we’d lined up with though, which was great.
I remember having that almost spiritual experience I’d had with Scattered in Kraków, screaming along with Billie to 2000 Light Years Away, Waiting, Forever Now and some others I’ve forgotten. He told us ‘tusen takk’ (thank you very much) and ‘jeg elsker deg’ (‘I love you’) and I felt like such a part of it all. Possibly because I have a Norwegian friend and actually understood, possibly just because shit, guys, this is my life – I was in Norway seeing Green Day.
Phone pics: Billie during King For A Day and Jason trying out the local attire
For the first time I caught a pick Billie threw me and I’m so glad it’s from Oslo, one of my favourite shows of all time and a memory of all the songs I sang along to with my favourite person I’ve never met.
Waiting at Oslo Airport on our way home
We’d originally planned to carry on to Stockholm after Oslo, but we just couldn’t afford it and all the travel disasters on this trip had now wiped us out completely. I was OK with that. Oslo was tied with Florence as my favourite show on this tour so far, we’d made it to Prague, Kraków was great too. This was our last show until Manchester two weeks later… or so we thought.
Next up: going to Brussels and Paris on a bus, with about 24 hours notice.
It tells you a lot about me that I remember the date: I’ve been a Green Day fan since April 7th, 2007.
When reclusive, 12 year-old me saw the lyrics to Boulevard of Broken Dreams on a Piczo site, quickly becoming obsessed as I stumbled into this world of music that resonated with me so deeply… I had no idea that one day I would be uploading this project to my professional website, a successful photography graduate making a documentary about seeing Green Day 42 times.
I was unwell back then, with what I now know was bipolar II and borderline personality disorder. When I turned 14 I’d barely left the house for three years. The music allowed me to feel understood, to cling on to some kind of hope, but alone it wasn’t going to save me. Only conquering the issues that kept me trapped in the house was going to save me, and I needed a big push.
When Green Day’s 2009 UK tour was announced, my mum Joy – being a huge fan herself – bought us tickets to four shows. It was questionable whether or not I’d be able to go, because just the short train ride to Birmingham was a huge deal for me back then, but I made it.
I left not only blown away by the experience, but having learned a lot about both the world and myself. There was a place I felt at home. After years of struggles, my mum and I were free, even if it was just for three hours. Something about Green Day’s show makes everyone in those sweaty rooms feel like they’re understood, they matter, they’re part of this huge, loving throng with a place they can escape. There was hope. If those guys who’d grown up with nothing and faced so many challenges could inspire us all so, I could recover.
The following year, I went back to school as we sold all our possessions and made some questionable – but entirely worthwhile – sacrifices to go to five more shows on the European tour, two in the US and eventually, one in Costa Rica. I remember standing there in San José, Costa Rica, having been attacked and had my passport stolen; and feeling safer than I ever had in my life when Billie Joe came to check I was alright. Maybe I’m completely insane – in fact I’m sure I am – but it empowered and inspired me to grow from a kid who couldn’t leave the house into a confident, successful and hopeful young adult.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of things I never imagined I could do, including going to college and on to university. We went on tour again in 2013, going to five shows in Europe and three in America this time. I was grateful for every second of every show – you can imagine I’d pay to see three hours of King for a Day if it was on offer – but my dream was to see even more.
Over the years I saved my meagre wages, my student loan, eating nothing but Asda Smart Price pasta for month after month; going without heating; spending 13 hours on the bus every time I came home from uni, and missing out on the uni experience as I refused to pay to do anything. One trip to the cinema was too much. One alcoholic drink was too much. Eventually, a fiver for a society membership was too much. In the summer that preceded the tour, I left our village – which has no more than a corner shop and kebab joint – a total of four times. One of those was for my grandpa’s funeral and the other three to visit his grave. I wasn’t going to cough up the £4.60 train fare or risk spending money otherwise for anything else.
So when the Revolution Radio Tour was announced, I was ready.
Armed with a £19.99 flight to Turin, Italy, I logged on to TicketOne irrationally early, shaking and silently praying the temperamental rural connection wouldn’t let me down. It didn’t. The first tickets I bought were for four shows in Italy. Gradually we added whichever shows I could fit around my uni schedule: Kraków, Prague, Oslo and Manchester.
It felt like years then until I’d finally see them again, but it approached suddenly. Every time I got on a National Express – which was often, because I’m too cheap for the train – I had to remind myself I wasn’t heading to the airport to see Green Day. Yet when I finally was on the bus to Stansted Airport, everything had been so focused on saving money, not actually seeing Green Day, that I’d forgotten exactly why I was sitting on a coach for 10 hours. It wasn’t until I was there, in Turin, in front of the venue, that I realised it was real.
I was there. I would see Green Day tomorrow. I wasn’t dreaming.
This was the first time I met Fran, and the first time I met someone else who had eaten a lot more than their body weight in pasta to fund a Green Day adventure. Within three hours we were planning trips to Oakland and Japan while I was on the toilet.
We only meant to scope out the venue, but when we arrived it was surprisingly empty. Two staff guys took a selfie with us and we walked around, expecting to find campers lurking somewhere, because it was Italy after all. No one was there. Being first in line and feeling closer to the show was far too exciting to leave. We marked our hands with one, two and three, left a note and went to get food before setting up for the night.
We walked around in circles trying to find food, but the only place open was Turkish Pizza Kebap. It’d have to do, since we were nervous about getting back to the line. While we waited we looked at the photos of Turkey on the wall and my mum commented ‘I don’t know anything about Turkey, Green Day don’t play there,’ which remains my favourite quote from tour.
The venue was still deserted when we got back, silent until we heard the rumble of Green Day rehearsing King for a Day. Later they played Still Breathing, Are We the Waiting, St. Jimmy and repeatedly, Forever Now. It remained hard to process that I wasn’t still watching videos from previous tours, that this was the performance I’d see live tomorrow, that it was actually Billie Joe, Mike and Tré in there.
As night fell the temperature dropped to -5°C. The park around the venue had been littered with runners and dog walkers in the day, but now it was completely deserted. A van eventually pulled up opposite and a man got out to ask if we were cold. We said we were fine and he left, coming back later with two packets of crisps. How sweet, we thought, then he came back again with some Coke. That was sweet, too. Then he came back again with warm food and we began to feel wary, probably with good reason, since he soon asked if we wanted to sleep in his van. We told him no and tried to sleep, but every time we laid down he came back, insisting it was raining and that we should go to his van. Fortunately the next two fans arrived around 2am and we were saved from Weird Man.
It was, of course, much colder than we thought when we arrived. We must have slept at some point, because I never heard Fran speak to me and she didn’t remember me walking around to keep warm. Around 4am, as I desperately pulled my £3 blanket closer, I wondered if I was going to die. I longed to return to the warmth of the hotel, but I forced myself to picture the front row spot I was camping for, to recall the rumble of the soundcheck and that it was real. It was easy to forget; but when the sun rose I was still alive and I felt both relieved and satisfied that I hadn’t given in.
By noon it had begun to snow and the queue stretched out of the park as people arrived from all over the country. Groups of us huddled and walked around to keep warm. No-one seemed to know when the box office would open and Fran still needed to collect her ticket. We were getting nervous.
My £3 blanket, frozen after camping
A few hours before doors, we made our last trip to the hotel to dump our camping gear and warm our hands. My mum texted to say we had half an hour until we’d be ‘locked into the cage’ so we headed back, but even though we’d made that journey several times we somehow got completely lost. We walked around for a while but nothing looked familiar. There was an hour until doors, the ‘cage’ would be locked and we were lost in an Italian snowstorm. In desperation we asked someone for directions (well, stammered ‘Pala Alpitour?’ at him with confused expressions) and got back on track. Thanks to Maddy from Turin talking to the staff for us, we were allowed in.
The bad news was that the box office was still shut. There was half an hour until doors, we’d been there nearly 30 hours at this point and Fran had no ticket. My mum gave hers to Fran and went to the box office with Fran’s passport and email confirmation. We began to get scared it’d never open and that she wouldn’t get in at all, but about ten minutes later there was a huge cheer and she was lifted back into the cage with the ticket. Hero of the hour, always.
When the gates finally opened we were let through in pairs and then left outside another door, in the snow, for what felt like forever. As I’d saved for years I’d started running, specifically so I couldn’t be outrun for the barrier, and the struggles up and down Cornish hills paid off as my arms slammed onto the metal between Mike and Billie. It was the best I could have asked for after having to get back into the ‘cage.’
The opening act The Interrupters were so much fun, and even after all that time spent in the cold we were clapping; but when their set was done, I was not looking back. All those hours spent in the snow were about to pay off. I remember feeling like I was watching through a glass screen, from another world somewhere far from earth, when Tré first ran on stage, then Mike, then Billie. I remember welcoming the rib-crushing surge because it made me feel present. I remember Mike pointing and saluting my mum, recognising her after all that time and the lovely girls we’d queued with squealing with happiness for her; and even though I have never gone to Green Day shows for their attention, it meant the world to me when Billie remembered me too. I had grown so much, changed so much since last time I saw them, and yet it was like no time had passed at all. I remember throwing my arms up to Revolution Radio, clapping like my life depended on it; I remember losing my voice because I screamed Still Breathing so loud, and I remember knowing I was home with all Billie’s freaks, weirdos and strangers once more.
After the show I shelled out 10€ for the poster, certain I would never top camping for 30 hours in a -5°C snowstorm, or deafening everyone around me with that rendition of Still Breathing. But this was only the beginning, and it was only going to get better from here.
We arrived in Florence at midday to find 20+ people had camped, wondering if it was our fault for arriving so early in Turin. Staff soon barricaded us in so we couldn’t use the toilet or get food or drink. At least it was warm.
Time crawled on, the mob gradually becoming more packed as doors approached. When security finally opened the gates we had a long way to run. The ground was slippery and people were falling over in heaps of sleeping bags and winter coats. I didn’t know where my mum was or even where I was going. I just kept running, slipping and recomposing myself until my feet hit the solid ground of the arena floor. I made it to the barrier, holding out my arms to save a spot for my mum who joined me a minute later.
Having conquered any first-show nerves, both The Interrupters and Green Day were on fire. It had finally sunk in that it was all real and I watched it with my own eyes now, not through the glass screen feeling the shock of Turin had left me with. It was Minority I lost my voice to that night, screaming a free for all, fuck ’em all, you’re on your own side! Florence remains one of my favourite shows of the entire tour, and wandering the beautiful city the following day while we waited for our train – the whole experience of this new adventure truly beginning was just so magical.
We arrived late to a dark and deserted industrial estate in Bologna, where the ground was icy and the air bitterly cold. Having accidentally left my blanket in Turin (RIP) and with no other camping gear, I decided I couldn’t sleep there. I reluctantly remained in the hotel, where I should mention that I also ate the best pumpkin soup ever. It made up for all those months of pasta.
The temperature hadn’t risen much when we headed out in the morning, and the streets now were solid ice. I wondered again if I was going to die as we picked our way up a hill to the Unipol Arena, but of course I didn’t and we joined the line as 88 and 89.
As the day went on it began to rain. My mum, having become disabled with chronic arthritis since the last tour, couldn’t sit down and was stuck in the line. The only way out was to climb over the barriers, and she was suffering just standing there in the cold.
Someone told me there was a Carrefour nearby, so I climbed out and went looking for an umbrella and a cheap stool for her to sit on. The only umbrella I could find was a Milano FC one, so I returned to the line with a fold-up stool and a football umbrella for a team I didn’t know existed.
We met Eleonora, a Milano FC fan who had also been in Turin and Florence, and later she saved me from the Carrefour staff who thought I’d stolen a slice of pizza. I’m still grateful for her storing the umbrella in her car for me too, since 12€ is approximately 42 bowls of pasta.
That excruciating wait came to an end with another long and messy run. Even more people were slipping and falling here. The frozen steps that led down to the arena looked like a death trap. Still, I managed not to fall and ended the run in a great spot to say we arrived at 9am. I had never been happier to be sweaty and crushed before Green Day even took the stage.
Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was me, but either way the emotion had hit me and I spent a lot of the show in tears. They were truly on fire again, one of the most energised I’d ever seen them. I was living my dream, and it was everything – more – I’d hoped it would be. The band looked genuinely worried about me, probably thinking something bad had happened or that I’d just gone mad, but nah. Just love Green Day, sorry.
Holding the stool we’d retrieved from Eleonora’s car, we braved the two mile walk along the icy streets back to the hotel, passing lots of men having a wee. We got a few hours’ sleep before heading back to Bologna station for our train to Milan, the final Italian show.
As with a lot of these venues, the Mediolanum Forum was way out of the city. People think I’m seeing all these great sights – which OK, I do sometimes – but I’m really spending most of the time on streets in weird, usually deserted areas.
We arrived there to take number 288 and 289, having got into a… difficult situation trying to get from our hotel to the venue, which turned out to be separated by busy highways and fields. As soon as we joined the line, the friends we’d made in Turin dashed up to hug us and welcome us, especially my mum (she was very popular in Italy). Gianluca, who was her hero after helping her down the stairs in Turin, bought her a warm tea and they all accompanied her to the cash machine. Sure, we met a few rude people in Italy – like the Trenitalia woman who spat ‘ugh, inglese’ at my mum at Bologna station – but also some of the kindest and most welcoming people we’d ever met on tour.
My mum proved later that disability wasn’t going to take Green Day away from her just yet. When doors opened she ran, all the way up the steps she was worried about and got to security before me. She’s 58 and can’t walk sometimes. Far more of a rock star than I am.
I didn’t expect front row at this show, seeing as we’d showed up at nearly 4pm, but we still got good spots at the end of the barrier. This was it: the whirlwind end of this crazy Italian adventure. The two of us sang our hearts out like it was the last time we’d see them, ever. It struck me then how not speaking Italian well might have been a barrier elsewhere, but here we were all the same, united by our love for the band, screaming all the same words regardless of what language we spoke.
At the end of the show Tré held up a fan’s Italian flag and it felt like a fitting ending – standing there, in a shower of confetti in this arena in the middle of nowhere in Italy, revelling in all the love I had for these nights that I’d never forget.
It took me about 24 hours to get back to Falmouth, and on the National Express I used up all my data watching bad quality videos, trying to convince myself it all actually happened. I could have just kept going, sleeping on Italian streets to sprint over ice into arenas, forever. A new adventure was coming soon, though: I’d hand in the first project of my third year, attend a class and then 48 hours later, spend another 12 hours getting back to the airport to fly to Poland.
Just realised I never posted the last video from my trilogy-inspired series in my blog, so here it is. It follows on from the previous two (Angel Blue and See You Tonight).
Initially the viewer is introduced to the (hypothetical) girl from Angel Blue and what it's like to be her, receiving the song. See You Tonight shows her going out to meet the narrator, against her better judgement, and implies it'll have negative consequences. Here in the final video, X-Kid, the characters are now in a relationship but facing the consequences of their actions. Eventually it all gets too much - the girl leaves and the man tries to kill himself. I won't spoil it by telling you how it ends.
As with the others, it was part of a project based on themes - this one was "a journey". The journey is the emotional journey of the couple. Enjoy!
This follows on from my Angel Blue inspired video. It's the next part in her story, when she finally gives in and goes out to meet the narrator from her song.
These are part of a bigger video project I'm doing, and this was to fit the theme "word and image".
Her overdressed appearance represents how she's unwittingly taking everything out with her, and the ominious feeling hints at how destructive this could become. I tried to mirror the metaphorical "party" theme on the trilogy, with "before the party", "party from hell" and the "morning after". There's no literal party, obviously, but it's a good metaphor to describe what's going on.
The next and last of this little series will be X-Kid, the "morning after".
I'm studying photography and my current project is a video challenge. For the "Point of View" and "Mini Music Video" challenges, I recorded a video based on and inspired by Angel Blue. I relate to the song a lot and was inspired to explore how it might feel to be the (hypothetical) girl. So this video shows it from her point of view - being the "other woman" to a famous man, receiving the song and watching the chaos unfold.
This is an entirely personal take on a fictional scenario. It's not intended to imply anything about Billie or anyone else's life - just an idea I found interesting that was inspired by a Green Day song (hence why I made up song titles and a band name for the short scene where they're visible).
It's up to the viewer how to interpret the video, but if you're interested in how I intended it to be, here's more on the storyline:
Her different outfits represent the passing of time - when the song begins, she rejects the narrator and causes him a lot of pain and frustration, but as time passes she develops feeling for him. Her different expressions throughout the video represent the many emotions she must be feeling - anger, despair, confusion, apathy and maybe a bit of arrogance. The blood on her hands the second time he asks her to be his "bloody valentine" implies that he eventually gets what he wants, and the handcuffs she's wearing then represent being trapped by an ugly mess of fame and love.
Again, this is just something I was inspired by and not an implication of what the song actually means or what's going on in Billie's life. Sorry the song is edited, they're supposed to be a certain length and I already went over so yeah.
My next video based on See You Tonight follows on from this one, which I'll post soon.
People always ask why I'd want to see a band more than once. "Don't you get bored? Isn't it just the same thing over and over?"
It's not, somehow. It's different every time. You won't find it anywhere else. Why is that, though? Now it seems like the 99 Revolutions Tour is over, maybe it's time to rewind through the memories and try to explain.
This was an unusual tour, with no real European leg, a strange US leg and no other dates at all. Then there were the cancellations, and the trilogy disappeared as soon as it happened. It was a strange time for me as well, with my partner's health problems blacking everything out... but none of those things made this tour less special.
When the US dates were rescheduled, the Chicago show happened to be on Joy's (basketcase4933 on GDC) birthday. We decided we had to go, so I bought her the tickets as a present. How we were going to find money for flights we had no idea, but after a lot of eBay, we got there in the end.
We landed in Chicago the day before the show, and did some sightseeing. It was all surreal and looking out over Illinois from the top of the Willis Tower, I felt like I was dreaming. Even when we got up at 4am the next day, ready to get to the arena for six, it still hadn't sunk in. This was the first arena show since the cancelled tour and Billie's time off. Was I nervous, excited? I don't know. I was still in a daze. The line at the arena was short, consisting of about ten people. The first ones had been there since four.
As the sun began to rise, a school bus stopped by us. Thoroughly confused, we stared blankly at the driver who got out. He asked us what we were waiting for; we told him Green Day. He leapt back into the bus and sped off, whooping and hammering his horn. Nice to see some appreciation, I guess.
It was a very different experience to lining up in England, with everyone chatty, excited and friendly. One line cutter had the best excuse - "I'm a doctor so it doesn't matter!"
6:30pm. Doors were opening at any minute. This still hadn't sunk in... then doors were open and the line became a stampede. People were leaping over the barriers and mowing down the staff. I have to admit, I've been to a lot of Green Day shows and this was the worst I've seen.
This was the first time I'd heard Bohemian Rhapsody played before the show, and my emotions were a confused mess of sadness, excitement and nerves. It was beautiful, but I was glad the bunny came along to Blitzkrieg Bop and got us all cheered up again. At the time, I didn't think 99 Revolutions would be a good opener, but it sure as hell was! I was happier than ever to see my favourite band burst into their set.
I was hoping they'd play Stray Heart, since it's quickly become one of my all-time favourite songs... so I completely freaked out when I first heard that bassline. I squealed like a little girl and Billie laughed at me. They played Disappearing Boy, which was amazing. This was the first time I'd seen X-Kid and Brutal Love, too, and they had me snuffling. Billie was so emotional singing both of them and it was beautiful.
If you watch videos of this show, there's a lot of comments whining that Billie's not as good sober, the crowd was dead, the new songs don't sound good live... that's all bullshit. Billie seemed a bit nervous, but he was amazing - he's better sober. The band were all amazing, and seemed so happy to be back on the big stage. And believe me, that crowd wasn't dead! One of the most violent and crazy shows I've been to.
We said goodbye to new and old friends, then went back to our hotel to get some sleep. The next day we tried to get some more sightseeing done, but we ended up walking up and down the same street, which is apparently the most boring place in Chicago. Great work, ladies. Eventually we found the Greyhound station, anyway, and a ten hour ride later: Pittsburgh. We'd got a super cheap deal on a posh hotel, and Joy ended up bumping into Tre in reception. He was actually quite rude, bit mean considering that it was an accident and she wasn't stalking him, but never mind.
We got the venue the next day around 7:30, and were about 10th in line. The sky spotted the Brits and started raining. We ended up sitting on bin bags for the day, and took turns to dry off in the hotel.
It was worth it. The venue was very organised - which was one hell of a relief after Chicago - and other than someone slipping under the barriers and people running forward from behind, checking tickets and getting wristbanded was actually fair. We got on the barrier almost right in front of Billie, but enough to the side for him not to block the view of everyone else. Probably the best spot possible! Waiting was exciting and I really enjoyed Best Coast, despite not liking them so much in Chicago.
The drunk bunny came along with Easter eggs, then it was time for Green Day and they sounded so fucking good. The new songs were great and it was so much fun rocking out to them all! Letterbomb is one of my favourite songs so it's always awesome to see that. Then they played Only of You and Christie Road! I have to admit that Christie Road is one of my least favourite GD songs but it was great at this show. I really didn't mind that they hardly played any new songs despite how much I love the trilogy, because all of them were so good, exciting and like new. I could live without ever seeing Brain Stew or BOBD again but I really enjoyed both of them. The band had so much energy and seemed stronger than ever, both musically and in general. Billie and Mike remembered us which was lovely.
When Billie told the girl in Longview to stage dive, I could see that she was going to land right on top of me if she didn't jump far enough. Security were trying to get me to put my hands up so I ended up half protecting my head and half trying to catch her... and she didn't jump far enough. My head took her entire body weight, then her boots hit me in the face.
Blood everywhere. Security were fussing around me with ice and water, telling me my nose might be broken. My glasses were certainly broken. Everything was lopsided. One of the security guys gave me Mike's pick and a drumstick, saying they'd cheer me up.
I felt really dizzy, then about a minute into She everything went black. I thought I was asleep in my bed at home and couldn't understand why the dream I was having was so painful. I was hallucinating for a while, then I finally woke up and found myself being carried off. At first I thought I was dreaming again. Yeah, a dream about Green Day's US tour, that's months away... then I realised. No, I'm at the Green Day show in Pittsburgh and I just got knocked out. I still had the drumstick but I'd dropped Mike's pick.
My nose wasn't broken but I felt like shit. My head was throbbing and I never really stopped feeling faint. A paramedic asked if I was alright, and I told them I was more upset about losing my spot. Apparently the last one had said the exact same thing. Ah, Green Day fans. I always wondered if anyone ever got knocked out by stage divers... now I know.
I decided there was no point being upset or bitter, and watched the rest of the show in a daze from first aid, singing out of tune. Brutal Love is always incredible, but fortunately I was too dazed to cry this time. It was nice to see Good Riddance again even though I couldn't really appreciate it.
At the end of the show Eddie (the band's security guy) walked up to me. With a little smile he handed me something.
"Mike wanted me to give you this."
It was the vest he'd been wearing at the last few shows. I couldn't believe it. My friends said the band looked really worried when I got carried off. They are such lovely people. Mike replied to me on Instagram when I thanked him for the vest which was also super cool of him. Their security/crew are lovely people too. Definitely worth getting knocked out for that!
The scar on my nose has faded, and I've managed to force my glasses back into a less lopsided shape. It's strange how it was so real at the time but feels like it never happened now.
I'd been to the Chicago show before this one, and I'd seen them a couple of other times since 21CB, at Shepherd's Bush and Rock am See. This was the first time I really thought "now that was a Green Day show."
Don't get me wrong, all of those shows were amazing, but this time they were truly Green Day again. They'd got all their confidence back, they were back in their element and it showed. I remembered why I sold all my posessions and lost everything to follow the tour in 2010. All the songs I was sick of were exciting and different again. Not that I really saw KFAD because I was half unconscious but I even enjoyed what I saw of that, and didn't wish they'd cut it out of the set at all. I can't believe anyone would complain about the setlist because every song sounded new and amazing. It beat Costa Rica which was one of the greatest shows in GD history. I definitely had the time of my life.
The fans were also lovely at this show. The people around us were actually concerned when I got knocked out, instead of trying to get in my place. Other than one woman behind us, no-one was trying to get into our spots and it was so great to just be able to dance and have fun without constantly trying to protect our spots. I don't know if it was a fluke but still, you were awesome, Pittsburgh!
Next up, Philadelphia. We didn't have a cheap deal on a good hotel this time, and ended up in a shithole next to a homeless shelter. Everyone told us to be wary of the area. I was slightly worried when I had to get on the subway alone, but I didn't get stabbed.
Some freak weather condition was affecting the eastern US, and it was freezing. The line for the show was in the worst place for it, too. The cold wind buffeted us all day while we huddled under a blanket. At times we tried to jump or run across the pavement to stay warm. We were probably known as the crazy Europeans by the end of the day. When the venue were late opening the doors, and half the queue pushed forwards for wristbands, I think we'd forgotten we were seeing Green Day and thought we'd signed up for suicide instead. Some people were saying the show was cancelled... the lateness turned out to be because security had forgotten to set up some barriers inside. Great.
There was another stampede when the doors finally opened, but it was nothing after Chicago! We got front row and at least it was warmer in there. I still felt ill after Pittsburgh, and lining up in the wind tunnel really hadn't done me any good. I was beginning to feel faint again... but the bunny stumbled onstage and finally, my Green Day energy came back.
They were amazing, just like Pittsburgh. They truly did have all their confidence and strength back. Everything sounded good. Billie forgot the words to Holiday, and while holding the torch he told us we were all in a trance and to repeat after him: "Billie Joe did not forget the words to Holiday tonight". Letterbomb was great as usual and really touched me because it seems to mean so much to Billie. And oh God, they played J.A.R. It was incredible. The crowd was so tightly packed that you couldn't really dance, but I lost my shit as much as I physically could! I saw King for a Day properly this time, and I can honestly say that despite being one of those "PLEASE NO MORE KFAD" people, it was great and I really enjoyed it. The band were just that good. Billie grabbed a giant banana from the crowd and soon put it in the appropriate place. We caught the feather boa he put on too!
I keep going on about Brutal Love, but it's just so beautiful every time. Every word Billie sang was directly from the heart. I was thinking about how the tour was over for me, and how I'd have to go back to England and leave my fiance again. I wanted to cry but I couldn't. They switched the lights off, and it seemed like it was over then; but Billie came back, looking confused and gesturing for his guitar. He played Good Riddance and for some reason that did make me cry. Then that was it.
I was dead by then. Well, not literally, but I could hardly walk, felt sick and faint; and the guy next to me had been gradually beating me up throughout the gig, which didn't help. Still, we stumbled back to the subway and finally crashed at our shithole. It was over.
Our flight home was the next day, and we left the US behind again. I'd been on a location photography assignment while I was there, so at least I had that to keep me occupied when I got home. I thought I'd really messed it up, so it was a nice surprise when I got a high grade for it.
The European leg was next, but we didn't really have anything planned. We considered Montreux when it was announced, but weren't going to bother with Emirates, since it was such a big show. But when more tickets were released, Joy decided to buy some on an impulse; and I'm so glad she did.
We arrived at the stadium the evening before the gig. It was dark and freezing cold; we were nervous, wondering how long the queue at our gate would be. It actually turned out to be mostly deserted - there were a few people scattered around some turnstiles, but none at others. When we found ours, there were some people who'd been here since the day before, and ironically, some other people from Nottingham! We pulled all our camping out gear - well, a few blankets and a camping chair - out of our suitcase and tried to get some sleep, but none of us had much luck. No thanks to Like a Rat Does Cheese suddenly blasting out and waking the few who were nodding off...
Security promised golden circle wristbands at 8:30am for the first 2500 people, so we anxiously waited, nobody daring to leave even for a few minutes. It was about 10am when they finally gave them out, and I'm sure we were all relieved to be able to get off our (numb) asses again. It was a fun day meeting lots of people and chatting with our new friends from Nottingham. One of us went to drop our bags off at our hostel and finally, it was getting close to doors opening.
We managed to get a spot at the end of the barrier on Jason's side. Doors on the East Side were opened at least ten minutes later than the others, and the stadium were ignoring the wristbands and just letting anyone in. I wasn't impressed, but never mind! It turned out to be a good spot in the end, anyway, since we were able to dance and have fun without worrying about protecting our spots.
All Time Low were average and their sex jokes definitely fell flat! The Kaiser Chiefs were great, though. They were full of energy and pumped up the crowd like an opening act should. Then eventually, 60000 people were echoing Bohemian Rhapsody and the stadium truly came to life. Green Day tore open the set with 99 Revolutions and they were happier than I've ever seen them. The crowd was louder than I've ever heard it. The atmosphere was more amazing than I've ever known it before. From where I was stood it sounded like the whole stadium was singing. They sang the words of Boulevard of Broken Dreams back at Billie unfalteringly. I was glad to see the usual trilogy songs again and even happier to see Stray Heart! I expected Burnout next, but no. Nice Guys Finish Last and Waiting. The lyrics to Waiting seemed so appropriate and Billie was full of emotion.
And then... then Missing You happened. I couldn't believe it. I love this song so much and I thought we'd never hear it live. I completely lost my mind and it's a good thing no-one was trying to steal my spot because I stopped caring. The way the crowd echoed "first time" and "over" in the second verse gave me chills. It was amazing.
The surprises didn't stop there. After Burnout they burst into Sassafras Roots, for the first time since 1997, excluding the twice they played Dookie in full. That's my favourite song from Dookie and I lost my mind all over again. It was all unreal. They were playing every song I wanted to see, and they were better than ever. They were loving it more than ever.
It was great to hear Welcome to Paradise and Going to Pasalacqua; it was great to hear anything in this stadium where 60000 people were screaming and the band were smiling so much. Billie dedicated Longview to "all the cowboys in the house" and wandered the stage in a cowboy hat, throwing in the occasional "yee-haw!" and of course, grabbing his genitals for good measure. At the end of St. Jimmy he finally gave up on years of waiting to scream "don't you fucking wear it out" and threw the mic down, grumbling "you know my fucking name" instead.
Then there were the usuals like King for a Day, Minority, American Idiot, JOS, etc. X-Kid was pretty heart-wrenching with Billie so emotional.
Eventually the show had to come to a close, with the beautiful Brutal Love (sorry). It was halfway through the song when I looked up and saw all the seats bright with people holding their lighters. The whole stadium was alive. Billie had his eyes closed and I was willing him to open them and see it, before the song was over. Eventually, he did and he smiled, looking awestruck. The cameramen realised and started to film it; then they showed it on the screens, too. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I turned away with tears in my eyes as Billie thanked the crowd one last time and the lights finally dimmed. It was over.
I hate my country, I really do. But when I hear the crowd screaming the words, see the seats alive with lighters, I remember why Green Day love this place. There's something about seeing them in your home country, too, hearing Billie scream "London!" and praise us all. For one night I'm proud to be English and I hold my flag high in the air.
Billie Joe Armstrong said it pretty well: #bestnightEVER
(Though for me, I should probably add #otherthanpittsburgh)
Fortunately, we did decide to go to Montreux, so the tour wasn't quite over yet. We stayed in Geneva for a while before the show, since Joy had lived there for ten years; then eventually got the train out to Montreux. It was the height of summer, and the heat was stifling. This was a weird show, too, with hardly anyone arriving until midday and no proper queue. Gradually the venue began to fill up, and the staff were looking worried. They'd clearly underestimated Green Day fans, and the lack of proper queue was going to be a problem.
For the last couple of hours, everyone stood up to stop line cutters and we were all crammed in. When they eventually opened the gates, nobody could breathe or move. People were screaming, falling, passing out; security were overwhelmed. A girl dug her elbows into my chest to get rid of any breath I had left, and I lost my friends fighting her off. There were about four long flights of stairs then, and more doors at the top. A frightened young girl we'd lined up with asked me to hold her hand, but when they opened the next set of doors, the surge was so bad that I lost her. I still don't know if she ended up okay or not. It was the worst I've experienced along with Chicago.
After all that, a hundred VIPs had been let in first. At this point we'd all gone insane, and even the friendliest people were shouting and pushing. We ended up in front of the amps by Jason, thanks to some lovely Finnish ladies who moved to let me in next to Joy. When the mystery support act appeared, we finally all began to forget. It turned out to be Twin Atlantic, who said they'd travelled for two days to get there. I didn't know any of their stuff but they were pretty good, I enjoyed them. It was all worth it when it was finally time for Green Day.
"Welcome to the Montreux Jazz Festival! I have no idea what we're doing here, Green Day isn't jazzy shit!" - Billie.
In Letterbomb he talked about the plane crash at San Francisco airport, and how lucky we all were to be alive. I know his speeches can seem forced and insincere sometimes, but he was genuinely emotional and meant what he was saying then. They played Let Yourself Go for the first time on this tour, and Billie threw everything into it like his life depended on it. It was intense, he was just lost in the song. The whole band were bursting with energy, but Billie especially - lots of the songs seemed even more intense than usual. Instead of "I don't wanna say goodbye" in Stay the Night, he screamed "and I'm in love with you", giving a subtle emotional charge to a song that was becoming standard.
Later they played Who Wrote Holden Caulfield as a request, which was great! The guy they pulled onstage for Longview played guitar as well as singing. Billie pulled a face at me in When I Come Around, and their two security guys remembered us from Pittsburgh which was really nice.
The venue only allowed a few of Green Day's crew to work, but those few were heroes and did a great job. It was an amazing show despite everything, and the band were at their best.
We really did think it was over, then. But one morning I woke up at 6am to an explosion on Twitter. They'd announced a secret show in London, and tickets were onsale in three hours.
I ran to wake Joy up, praying that we somehow had the money. We didn't, but we did have a phone bill about to go out, so we ditched it. They'd have to wait.
I expected tickets to sell out in two minutes like Shepherd's Bush, and getting them was a horrible mess of anxiety and panic. It turned out that there were plenty left hours later. Oh. But we were seeing Green Day in nine days. Everything turned surreal all over again.
After Shepherd's Bush we slept on the street, so we decided to get a cheap hotel this time. We got a bit of sleep there, before we left for Brixton at 3:30am. There were rats and creepy hobos everywhere. I feared for my life until the sun rose.
It was another strange day, spent tutting at line cutters - queuing is a matter of life and death in England - catching up with a few friends, and being confused about the infamous O2 Priority line. We ended up taking out a contact for an O2 phone to make sure we were safe. The staff did their best and tried to make sure the campers got in first, but it didn't really work. Still, we managed to get the end of the barrier on Mike's side, which was good for when we arrived. I really enjoyed Frank Turner.
When I listen to Blitzkrieg Bop I still see the bunny staggering onstage and feel the excitement all over again. No matter how many times you see them, that feeling doesn't go away.
Mike proudly displayed his Brixton tattoo when Billie roared "Brixton!" and introduced him as "Brixton's dad". He told us they were playing Reading and Leeds soon, but that he liked this better. Let Yourself Go was intense again, just like Montreux. Of course, at this point nobody knew they were going to play Dookie. They'd hinted, but I still didn't expect it. It was amazing to actually hear it in full and I especially enjoyed Sassafras Roots, Emenius Sleepus and In the End. Some bands sound shit when they play their old stuff but every song sounded great. Billie "forgot" the order of the songs, and asked the crowd for help. He also commented that "everyone is still masturbating after 20 years" before Longview, raising a mumble of laughter from the crowd. He stuck his tongue out and smiled at Joy too.
Before the encore, they were gone so long that people were beginning to think they wouldn't come back. It turned out that Billie had been randomly getting changed. Ah, Billie.
On the day of Leeds Festival, we were sighing and cursing ourselves for not going, when we realised that I had the money for one person... so I paid for Joy to go. I felt like I was going myself! It was so exciting. I waited anxiously for her text updates, worrying that she'd slipped and died in the mud when she didn't reply. She hadn't, though; she texted me saying that she'd just got there in time for Know Your Enemy, and was about ten rows back on Mike's side. I knew she wouldn't text again after that, so I impatiently attacked the refresh button, watching the thread on GDC. I still kept worrying that she'd died in the mud, and hoped for her sake that they wouldn't repeat Woodstock.
People were saying they'd played all kinds of stuff, which was bullshit, but I was excited (and relieved) to get Joy's text confirming that they did cover A Quick One, and Billie played Walk Away acoustic. The show was amazing, and she eventually got home safe the next morning, covered in mud almost up to her waist. I really did feel like I'd been there myself. But that really was it. The 99 Revolutions Tour was over.
Maybe the answer to that question - "why would you want to see a band more than once?" - is that it's not just a bunch of great rock shows. It's even more than that. These experiences have made me who I am today. I have Green Day to thank for finding my way. It's trendy now to say a band saved your life... but they saved mine before it was cool.
That's why I love this band.
We arrived at Emirates Stadium the evening before the gig. It was dark and freezing cold; we were nervous, wondering how long the queue at our gate would be. It actually turned out to be mostly deserted - there were a few people scattered around some turnstiles, but none at others. When we found ours, there were some people who'd been here since the day before, and ironically, some other people from Nottingham! We pulled all our camping out gear - well, a few blankets and a camping chair - out of our suitcase and tried to get some sleep, but none of us had much luck. No thanks to Like a Rat Does Cheese suddenly blasting out and waking the few who were nodding off...
Security promised golden circle wristbands at 8:30am for the first 2500 people, so we anxiously waited, nobody daring to leave even for a few minutes. It was about 10am when they finally gave them out, and I'm sure we were all relieved to be able to get off our (numb) asses again. It was a fun day meeting lots of people and chatting with our new friends from Nottingham. One of us went to drop our bags off at our hostel and finally, it was getting close to doors opening.
We managed to get a spot at the end of the barrier on Jason's side. Apparently doors on the East Side were opened at least ten minutes later than the others, and the stadium were ignoring the wristbands and just letting anyone in. I wasn't impressed, but never mind! It turned out to be a good spot in the end, anyway, since we were able to dance and have fun without worrying about protecting our spots.
All Time Low were average and their sex jokes definitely fell flat! The Kaiser Chiefs were great, though. They were full of energy and pumped up the crowd like an opening act should. Then eventually, 60000 people were echoing Bohemian Rhapsody and the stadium truly came to life. Green Day tore open the set with 99 Revolutions and they were happier than I've ever seen them. The crowd was louder than I've ever heard it. The atmosphere was more amazing than I've ever known it before. From where I was stood, it sounded like the whole stadium was singing. I was glad to see the usual trilogy songs again and even happier to see Stray Heart! I expected Burnout next, but no. Nice Guys Finish Last and Waiting. The lyrics to Waiting seemed so appropriate and Billie was full of emotion.
And then... then Missing You happened. I couldn't believe it. I love this song so much and I thought we'd never hear it live. I completely lost my mind and it's a good thing no-one was trying to steal my spot because I stopped caring. The way the crowd echoed "first time" and "over" in the second verse gave me chills. It was amazing.
The surprises didn't stop there. After Burnout they burst into Sassafras Roots, for the first time since 1997, excluding the twice they played Dookie in full. That's my favourite song from Dookie and I lost my mind all over again. It was all unreal. They were playing every song I wanted to see, and they were better than ever.
It was great to hear Welcome to Paradise and Going to Pasalacqua; it was great to hear anything in this stadium where 60000 people were screaming and the band were smiling so much. Billie dedicated Longview to "all the cowboys in the house" and wandered the stage in a cowboy hat, throwing in the occasional "yee-haw!" and of course, grabbing his dick for good measure. At the end of St. Jimmy he finally gave up on years of waiting to scream "don't you fucking wear it out" and threw the mic down, grumbling "you know my fucking name" instead.
Then there were the usuals like King for a Day, Minority, American Idiot, JOS, etc. X-Kid was pretty heart-wrenching when Billie's voice nearly cracked at the end. It's beautiful that his heart is really in his writing like that.
Eventually the show had to come to a close, with the beautiful Brutal Love. It was halfway through the song when I looked up and saw all the seats bright with people holding their lighters. The whole stadium was alive. Billie had his eyes closed and I was willing him to open them and see it, before the song was over. Eventually, he did and he smiled, looking awestruck. The cameramen realised and started to film it; then they showed it on the screens, too. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I turned away with tears in my eyes as Billie thanked the crowd one last time and the lights finally dimmed. It was over.
We snapped back to reality and began to make our way back to our hostel, with Liam who we were staying with. Eventually, after a lot of wandering around we found out that Arsenal underground station was open after all, and got a free trip, which was nice. We were glad to crash but the hostel was rubbish, don't stay at the Generator.
Then the next morning it really was over; we said our goodbyes and headed back to the bus station. I'd rather be back at Emirates Stadium in the freezing cold now, but I know I was bloody glad to see my own bed that night!
I hate my country, I really do. But when I hear the crowd screaming the words, see the seats alive with lighters, I remember why Green Day love this place. There's something about seeing them in your home country, too, hearing Billie scream "London!" and praise us all. For one night I'm proud to be English and I hold my flag high in the air.
Billie Joe Armstrong said it pretty well: #bestnightEVER
I'm late but here's my recap of the Pittsburgh show. I already posted it in the thread but it was pretty much the best Green Day show ever so may as well post it here too!
We got to the venue around 7:30-8 and and were about 10th in line. It rained nearly all day and we had to go and dry off in the hotel a few times, but it was so worth it. The venue was super organized (which was a massive relief after Chicago) and we got on the barrier right in front of Billie. Waiting was exciting and I really enjoyed Best Coast. I recommend The Only Place and When I'm With You if you want to check them out.
The drunk bunny came along with Easter eggs, then it was time for Green Day and they sounded so fucking good. I'd seen the guy who got onstage in KYE in line, so it was nice to see him get up there even though I didn't speak to him. The new songs were great and it was so much fun rocking out to them all! Letterbomb is one of my favourite songs so it's always awesome to see that. Then they played Only of You and Christie Road! I have to admit that Christie Road is one of my least favourite GD songs but it was so good at this show. I really didn't mind that they hardly played any new songs despite how much I love the trilogy, because all of them were so good, exciting and like new. I could live without ever seeing Brain Stew or BOBD again but I really enjoyed both of them. Some people thought St. Jimmy would be no fun now Billie's sober, but not at all - it's probably even better. The band had so much energy and seemed stronger than ever, both musically and in general. Billie and Mike remembered us which was awesome too.
When Billie told the girl in Longview to stage dive, I could see that she was going to land right on top of me if she didn't jump far enough. Security were trying to get me to put my hands up so I ended up half protecting my head and half trying to catch her... and she didn't jump far enough. My head took her entire body weight, then her feet hit me in the face.
Blood everywhere. Security were fussing around me with ice and water, telling me my nose might be broken. My glasses were certainly broken. Everything was lopsided. One of the security guys gave me Mike's pick and a drumstick, saying they'd cheer me up.
I felt really dizzy, then about a minute into She everything went black. I thought I was asleep in my bed at home and couldn't understand why the dream I was having was so painful. After hallucinating for a while I finally woke up and found myself being carried off. At first I thought I was dreaming again and then I realised, um no I'm at a Green Day show in Pittsburgh and I just got knocked out. I still had the drumstick but I'd dropped Mike's pick.
My nose wasn't broken but I felt seriously shitty. My head was throbbing and I never really stopped feeling faint. I always wondered if anyone ever got knocked out by stage divers... now I know.
I watched the rest of the show in a daze, singing out of tune. It was nice to see Good Riddance again even though I couldn't really appreciate it. Brutal Love was incredible too! Then at the end of the show the band's security guy walked up to me with something and said "Mike wanted me to give you this."
It was the vest he'd been wearing at the last few shows. I couldn't believe it. They're such lovely people. Best souvenir ever!
This show really reminded me why I sold all my posessions and lost everything to follow the tour in 2010. All the songs I was sick of were exciting and different again. Not that I really saw KFAD because I was half unconscious but I even enjoyed what I saw of that, and didn't wish they'd cut it out of the set at all. I can't believe anyone would complain about the setlist because every song sounded fresh and amazing. I definitely had the time of my life.
Here's my ¡Dos! "visual review" like the ¡Uno! one I made, basically just my interpretation of each song as a picture.
See You Tonight
Stop When the Red Lights Flash
Wow! That's Loud
Again I wanted to use all my own work but had to use Billie for Lazy Bones and Baby Eyes as I didn't have a male model (willing to show his face). The razor blades on Wild One and bullet holes on Baby Eyes came off Google. Thanks Google.
Sorry for the totally hideous watermarks, there's always someone out there who reposts them without credit otherwise.
All interpretation is personal of course. Here's my written review if you're interested in that: http://www.greendaycommunity.org/blog/127/entry-1083-uno-and-dos-reviews/
Here's my Tré review/commentary. You can find my Uno and Dos ones here, if you want to follow my interpretation of the "story". As usual I'm not trying to imply anything about Billie himself, unless I mention him - these interpretations are all personal.
Tré opens with Brutal Love. The song is everything the title promises; it's brutal, it tears your heart out like you're feeling what Billie's feeling. I love it.
In context of the story, the metaphorical "party" of Dos is over and the couple are left with the wreckage; the consequences of their lust-driven actions, and the uninvited evolution of their relationship. The narrator doesn't seem to have had much luck with love in the past, and he's almost scared to continue chasing the one he still "can't have"; but he accepts that he's brutally in love with this new woman, despite the pain it's causing him.
He stresses that again in Missing You, realising that something is missing now she's gone and he's not complete without her. He's remembering, and asking her to remember too, the first time he said he loved her at the bus station; and promising her that it's not over yet. Although it might seem a little average on a first listen, with a killer bass solo and some simple but sweet lyrics, there's not much to dislike about this song.
8th Avenue Serenade is one of my two favourite songs from the album. The lyrics are beautiful and there's something so sweet about it. It's called a serenade and it really feels like one.
It seems that the narrator and his new love are reunited again. There's something that almost feels frantic and desperate about it, too, as if there's something to prove by meeting at the bathroom stall or Whispering Wall (which is a space at Grand Central Terminal where two people can stand at opposite sides of the room, and still hear what they're whispering). Maybe this is the stepping stone to the next stage of their relationship, evolving into far more than the lust of Dos.
Drama Queen has evolved from a simple song that was meant for 21st Century Breakdown, into a beautiful ballad with piano and electric guitar. They suit it perfectly. Billie has mentioned it's about celebrity life, but it could also fit into the story here, as a simple reference to the female character; stressing her young age again.
The album swerves away from love and into other aspects of life in X-Kid. Billie has explained this one too, as being about a friend who committed suicide. This is a brilliant song that wouldn't have been out of place on an older Green Day album. A song doesn't have to be slow and emotional to pull at your heartstrings; this one is proof of that.
Sex, Drugs & Violence and Little Boy Named Train see the narrator looking at himself, seeming insistent that he's lost and a mess; regretting his life choices; musing over the hard lessons he's learned and how he feels he did it all wrong. This is the doorway to the rash of "leaving the past behind" songs that litter this album. Little Boy Named Train also has a very deep story behind it, but musically it's my least favourite song on the album.
In Amanda, Billie has finally decided to "name the girl" who's haunted him for so many years; he seems to have answered the question of Is this the kind of love that hate would understand? that has nagged at him for so long. It's a great addition to the story, stressing the theme of leaving the past behind even more. This one had to grow on me, but it's a decent song that you could dance to.
Walk Away is another song that grew on me after a few listens, with its haunting vocals and questioning lyrics. The narrator decides that it's not too late to finally stand up to the memories, and truly walk away from his life for the new love he's found. Now he's faced with the confusion and mess of that, and back to battles with his inner demons in Dirty Rotten Bastards. This definitely comes across as a unique and great song after a few listens, and it portrays perfectly the confusion and self-loathing that the narrator is feeling.
99 Revolutions turns the focus away from the narrator's personal life and into the streets, an echo of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown's politics; but more lighthearted, despite the seriousness of the lyrics. My favourite song from Tré! A great closer for a live show and a brilliant, uplifting song that sparks an urge to dance.
The Forgotten is another beautiful ballad, and just like Uno and Dos, they've chosen the perfect closer to end the album... except this one ends the entire trilogy. It's the perfect closer for that too.
The narrator is finally able to embrace his past as what it was, saying that he hasn't forgotten it despite starting a new life now. He doesn't know what the future will hold, and he knows they're living in a bad dream now, but assures his new love not to look away from the arms of tomorrow... or the arms of love.
Here's my written reviews/commentaries of Uno and Dos. They're just interpretations and comments on each song, really. Everything about the vague "story" is totally personal, I just want to stress that I'm not implying anything about Billie himself at any point unless I say that. Enjoy!
Gonna ride the world like a merry-go round...
The perfect opener, Nuclear Family sets the scene for the entire trilogy. Although I know none of them are deliberately concept albums, I do see a vague story, so that's what my interpretation is. The narrator is a man stuck in his stagnant nuclear family life, realising that he's sick of it; he needs something new. A nuclear bomb about to detonate.
I've probably heard Stay the Night too many times since we first got that live version from Dublin, but it's still an anthem. It's a song about not being able to forget someone, needing to know if they're the one that got away; even though it feels like it was never meant to be. With lines like I wanna break your heart until it makes your stomach churn you could wonder if the narrator wants to hurt the person he's speaking to, but in the second verse you realise that all he really wants is to watch the stars until the sun begins to rise; he's just trying to hide his tender feelings because maybe he's afraid of getting hurt.
Does the future have enough time to live in the moment?
That's the note on Carpe Diem in the Uno book, and I think it describes the song perfectly. The narrator, still stuck in his miserable everyday life, is trying to decide whether to turn his back on it and seize the day while he still can.
I do like this song, but it seems more average than some of the other songs on Uno. It has a great message, though.
I remember being so excited to hear the studio version of Let Yourself Go because it sounded so damn good live... and one of the things that makes Uno so special is that as much as it's possible in the studio, the songs still have a live feel. It works so well with this one, I love it. The perfect fuck you song, the narrator has found the courage to tell the people around him what he really thinks, and is finally trying to let it all go. I'm sick to death of your every last breath and I don't give a fuck anyway...
The last thing you'd expect from Green Day, Kill the DJ is probably the most adventurous song on Uno. It works, too. It makes you want to dance, it's sexy, it's interesting.
A lot of DJs probably expected Billie to show up and stab them in the night, but the DJ is just a metaphor. It's the noise, the shit we're fed from so many different places in the first world. It's about drinking yourself into oblivion, the voices in your head. I couldn't work out whether I loved or disliked this song, but I decided that I love it.
Fell for You is my favourite song on Uno. It captures perfectly that moment of "oh shit" when you realise that you've fallen head over heels in love; trying to be "big" and deny it, but you can't. The girl the narrator's fallen for might be out of sight now but she's not out of mind. He's dreaming of only her; he's not supposed to be in love with her, it's almost frightening, but he is. It's beautiful, and it shows that brutally honest side of love that has nothing to do with sex... which is probably why it's so touching and easy to relate to.
Filled with anger, Loss of Control is the harsh realisation that you hate everyone around you; they've all changed and you start to think you never liked them in the first place. It might be well hidden, but there's a real sadness in there too. Life's a cruel crushing bastard crime probably translates to "life's not fair". It's not, and maybe that sparks the narrator's decision to turn his back on it and pursue the girl in Fell for You.
It took me a while to appreciate Troublemaker properly, but I got there eventually. It's as brutally honest as Fell for You but completely different. The narrator wants more than the dream of kissing her lips now. It's a song about being a guy, lusting after the girl he wants so much that thinking of her is giving me a cardiac arrest when I'm sitting at the traffic light.
I say Fell for You is my favourite, but it's a really hard decision between that and Angel Blue. They're both totally outstanding songs for me, and this one is full of energy with some seriously awesome guitar riffs.
Now the narrator has truly decided to pursue this girl, but she obviously hasn't committed to it yet. I can't help hearing won't you be my bloody Valentine? as we'd say it in England, but it's probably a metaphor for wanting to take the girl's virginity. The lust is as evident as it is in Troublemaker, but there's still hints that it's more than that; Stab my heart like a stick in the mud / Cut my chest just to see the blood / Now I'm singing out the alphabet / As the tears are putting out my cigarette. It's filled with desperation, knowing that she wants to but she won't, and wanting to hurt her in return because she's tearing him apart. There's also the battle with commitment, knowing that this is "wrong" not just because he's married, but a lot of the phrases in the song stress her young age; bloody Valentine / senorita / you're just a fucking kid / teenage traces.
Sweet 16 is the only song I found disappointing. It's probably my fault for listening to a bad live recording where it sounded better, but it's dull and just doesn't have the energy that the rest of Uno has. The emotion in Billie's voice is beautiful, though, and it does perfectly represent the nostalgia of being in love with a memory, despite the bittersweet haze that surrounds the present. Definitely my least favourite trilogy song so far.
Billie has pretty much explained Rusty James perfectly. It's a "fuck you" to the old scene that the band were once a part of, filled with bitterness. The title is a reference to the book Rumble Fish. In the context of the "story", I think it adds to the general "goodbye to the past" vibe that's lurking in the latter songs of Uno.
I did overplay Oh Love when it was released, and I wasn't a fan of Sam Bayer's video (not because of the content, but because it was so badly done), but that doesn't stop it from being the perfect closer.
It finally moves solely onto the new love - and sexual tension - that's been haunting the narrator since Stay the Night. Everything else has been left behind. After the, er, Sam Bayer incident, a lot of people saw this song as being about cheap one night stands and sex with no strings attatched. I still don't see it that way. It's full of lust and desire, but love is a part of it too. Oh love, won't you rain on me tonight? / Won't you take me close to you? - please, can he finally have this girl? I'm wearing my heart on a noose / Talk myself out of feeling / Talk myself out of falling in love; he's still trying to hold himself back, but in the end he gives in. Tonight my heart's on the loose...
After getting over how much I overplayed this song, it's actually one of my favourites from Uno. It's an anthem that's exactly what it's supposed to be. Love it.
Favourite songs: Fell For You, Angel Blue, Kill the DJ and Oh Love.
Dos opens with the sweet and simple See You Tonight, with the narrator innocently musing over whether he'll see someone tonight or not. He evidently does, because the hazy innocence is suddenly interrupted by the thud of Fuck Time. The title speaks for itself, but although this song's just simple fun, the silliness has been muted enough for it to not sound completely ridiculous.
It doesn't stop there. If we're talking about this in terms of a story, let's go back to Uno for a moment; it closes with Oh Love, promising that tonight my heart's on the loose. The narrator is finally getting the girl from Angel Blue to surrender. You don't have to analyze anything to realise what's going on here.
After Stop When the Red Lights Flash, Dos suddenly lurches away from sex into the darkness of Lazy Bones. When this new girl isn't there, the narrator's life and his underlying sadness comes back to haunt him. A lot of people are linking this song to Billie's recent problems, but there's no reason why it has to relate to that at all. It's a song about desperation, sadness, frustration; being drunk is only one of the many symptoms that comes with all of the above. Musically, this song is literally breathtaking. The only problem is that it's so ridiculously good, it's probably easy to overplay.
In Wild One, the relationship the narrator sought is flowering now. Despite the lust and desire that overshadow most of this album, he's obviously falling more in love with this girl the more he gets to know her; even though he's not supposed to and it's putting his heart in danger. I don't think She gave up on Jesus / For living on Venus is literal, but more of a metaphor for the girl abandoning her "normal" life for love and lust. They both know it's wrong but they don't care. I jumped on the grenade... but ...Now that my mind's gonna blow, hello anyway.
This song is beautiful. I love the heavy guitars, the backing vocals, the lyrics.
There's not much to say about Makeout Party. It's dirty, open, with the same fun vibe as Fuck Time and an awesome bass solo. I think the lyrics speak for themselves! Afterwards comes the beautiful, catchy Stray Heart. This is my favourite song from the trilogy. It's so sweet and innocent, with the bittersweet happiness of being in love clashing with the fact that this girl's forbidden. There's a sad desperation too, masked by the happy bassline and fun vibe. We'll never part yet I just can't have you is a contradiction that confused a lot of people, but I see that as they'll never part, yet he can't really have her because he already belongs to someone else. The heart which is now stray went to another a long time ago... but she's the only one he's dreaming of. This relationship has torn her precious heart apart.
Slightly reminiscent of The Jam's Town Called Malice (which is in turn another rip off of another song) or not, this song is perfect.
Ashley is an anger-filled fuck you to the narrator's past, maybe a metaphor for all of his previous relationships. He's finally grown up and realised what they really were; and now with this new love, he's able to move on and let go. Are you crying on my cold shoulder? is one of my favourite lines from Dos, and proof that Billie is still capable of writing incredible metaphors. With an intro that seems slightly clumsy after Stray Heart, I warmed up to this song after a few listens. It seems very strange now that I felt it was filler at first!
Baby Eyes sees the out-of-control narrator insistently spitting out all his faults, warning the girl how he really is; maybe going back to that line Your precious heart was torn apart by me and you, aware of how he's now tearing apart her life. This is another one that's appreciated more after a few listens, and is probably my favourite song on Dos after Stray Heart. It has so much energy and is lyrically my favourite trilogy song so far. Some of the lines/metaphors are just incredible - Year of the rat, last of the litter / Somebody shot the babysitter / ... / I pull the trigger from the shooting stars / I am the motor in your crashing car / ... / I am the bullet in your magazine. Billie's songwriting is truly at its best in this song.
The album takes another turn with Lady Cobra. A great song, not repetitive at all; openly dark and dirty. It talks about seduction and inner demons, implying a romantic attachment, but I don't think it actually means that at all. The seduction probably refers to encouraging the narrator into things like alcohol, drugs, self-harm, etc; and even daring him to do crazy things. The note on the song in the boxset edition is "Drive up this road, hang a left, then go down, down, down, blackout & take your hands off the wheel" - that's a perfect example of one of those crazy things. Maybe she even encourages him to go further with this forbidden girl... either way, she seems the perfect companion for the narrator in his current state.
Lady Cobra almost like an introduction to what comes next... the dreaded Nightlife. Green Day and rap? Disaster? I don't think so, actually. On my first listen I thought they could really have left Lady Cobra out at her second part, but with each listen it grew on me more and more. It's inevitable that many fans are going to hate it, but if you can get past your dislike for rap, it's actually a really great song. The sleazy beat fits the lyrics perfectly, digging further into the dark and dirty theme of Dos. Lady Cobra gives it the sexy feel that it needed. Never thought I'd be listening to rap on the train, but there you go.
Back to the relationship that's plagued this album, Wow! That's Loud lives up to its name. The title and the line Wow! That dirty dress is so loud are slightly cringey, but when it's lost in great lines like You're such a beautiful mess tonight you hardly notice it. This song has some amazing guitar riffs and harmonies, and sees the narrator obsessed even with this girl's bright clothing; it could be literal and it could also be considered a metaphor that reflects her personality, or their chaotic relationship. The (metaphorical) party's coming to an end.
I know that there's no literal party happening anywhere in the trilogy, but I think that's a reasonably good metaphor for what's going on; giving in to temptation, getting involved in shit you shouldn't, just losing control... and then it's over. Amy, the beautiful and tender tribute to Amy Winehouse, is the perfect closer. Maybe it fits into the story; maybe the couple are coming to terms with reality, realising that life's not a party... what have they done? Tre will apparently be the self-reflection and (metaphorical) morning after.
Favourite songs: Stray Heart, Baby Eyes and Wild One. Although I do love Lazy Bones and Ashley... this picking favourites shit is too hard.
Overall, both of these albums exceeded my expectations completely. I'm not the kind of person who loves something just because it's Green Day, so I'm seriously impressed that I love almost every one of these songs. There's probably more that I'm not as bothered about on Uno, but I still don't prefer Dos. They're both completely different and equally amazing. There's some songs where Billie is as much at his best lyrically as he was with 21st Century Breakdown. If Tre is better than these two then I have no idea what to expect.
Edit - here's Tre: http://www.greendaycommunity.org/blog/127/entry-1192-tr-reviewcommentary/
So because I was finding it difficult to review Uno in words, I decided to do it in art instead. I wanted to use all my own work but I didn't have a male model so ended up using photos of Billie. It's basically just my interpretation of each song as a picture. Enjoy!
Stay the Night
Let Yourself Go
Kill the DJ
Fell for You
Loss of Control
Sorry for the obnoxious watermarks, there's some assholes out there. Thanks to Joy for the photo used on Carpe Diem!
The first time I ever heard a crappy live recording of this song, just half of it from the Tiki Bar, I knew it was going to be one of my favourites (or even favourite, non-plural, actually). When an even worse quality recording of the full thing surfaced from the Austin show, I loved it even more. I hurt my ears playing that awful recording over and over. I could have got sick of it... but somehow I'm not. Even though I've apparently played the studio version 204 times already.
That's enough fangirling about how much I love it. A lot of people see this song as an apology, or being about cheating, but I've never really felt that. To me - and I'm in no way implying anything about Billie, this is just me and my personal analysis - it's simply about having a stray heart. It's about being in love with someone you're not supposed to be in love with. "I just can't have you" yet "we'll never part" is a contradiction, but to me that translates to "I'm not supposed to have you" or, in simpler terms, "I can't have you because I already belong to sombody else". The heart which is now stray went to another a long time ago, but you're dreaming of the person you can't have... without a home, because your heart's strayed from the home you have.
The upbeat tempo and awesome bassline masks a sort of sadness somewhere in the lyrics, the desperation that goes with needing someone and needing them to accept you; but a lovestruck happiness is mixed in at the same time. It's beautiful, it's open, it's not trying to hide anything. And I can relate to it so damn much, even if that's not what Billie had in mind when he wrote it.
Yeah, I can go on about one song for that long. Sorry if you were expecting something more exciting. I just wanted to write something about this beautiful song, and what it means to me.
I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who voted for me as Best Writer. I'm honestly really honoured, I never thought that I'd win. It's so easy to feel insignificant and invisible as a writer, especially when you don't feel like anyone's interested and you're turned away by agents. This is what I want to do with my life and the one thing I have confidence in, so it's awesome that you guys appreciate it.
I know it's just a banner on a forum, but it really means something to me. You never know with GDC anyway, I'm sure the banner has magic qualities or something dirty behind it. Or that I just have some awesome people reading my work. I mean that.
I've got a few songs to post and hopefully the next part of Andy & Angel will be done soon. I've nearly got a second chapter of Fame Stained Love too, but I'm a bit stuck with it so I'm not sure when that'll happen. There's a few other novels I could start posting, but I don't know how you guys feel about reading loads all at once.
This felt like it was months away... then suddenly we were leaving home with our suitcases. It took us about 16 hours to get there in the end. I got food poisoning and passed out on the way. When we got to Konstanz, border protection dragged us off to a room where we were ordered to put our bags on the counter and empty our pockets. A guy grabbed our passports and got on the phone to someone. Then the woman put some latex gloves on, stretching her fingers and staring straight at me. Oh my God.
Well, I think the drug smuggler in there was the only thing that saved me just there. They all had to run over to pin him down and one hurried back over to tell us we could leave, have a nice stay in Konstanz. Phew. This was all for no apparent reason, of course. I got a rash from being searched with the latex gloves but that could have been much worse...
We got to the festival about an hour before the doors opened and managed to get a good view on the second barrier. This was my first festival so I wasn't sure what it'd be like, but it wasn't as bad as I expected at all. Itchy Poopzkid were the first band and they were actually alright. I probably liked Jupiter Jones better but nobody really seemed interested in them.
They were certainly both better than Angels and Airwaves. No offence if you like them, but why is it necessary to have some sort of space noise in every song? They sounded like a cat whining to a bad sci-fi soundtrack. I was glad when they finished.
Kraft Klub were next. I knew they have some issue with Green Day, but I'm ashamed to say I don't speak a word of German, so I didn't know whether they were yelling "fuck you Green Day, Billy Jo is gay!" or not. So... yeah, I couldn't really enjoy their set, although they were alright too and definitely got the crowd going.
I was looking forward to Flogging Molly, I'm just a casual fan who doesn't know all the songs or anything like that but I do like them. They were great, they had loads of energy and got the crowd going too. I never thought they'd play Drunken Lullabies which is the song that got me into them, but they did! That was awesome, the first time I was actually able to sing along and felt like dancing. A while later the singer dedicated a song to Billie. He said Green Day are a bunch of jackasses that never fail to surprise you or something like that, haha. Seems like they were glad to see each other, anyway.
I'm not a fan but I felt bad for Social Distortion. They were definitely the least appreciated band, hardly anybody was getting into their set. I wasn't really into them either though, maybe I'd have liked them better if I knew their songs.
And then, after standing all day long, it was finally time for what we'd all been waiting for. Green Day ran onstage and opened with Welcome to Paradise. It was amazing to finally feel like really dancing and singing.
Let Yourself Go was awesome! Loads of energy, a great live song. People seemed to think I was weird for singing along, but I didn't care. Most people knew Oh Love already. It's a real anthem live.
You probably all already know how I feel about Letterbomb and how the people around me get deafened/knocked out so I'll just leave you with that. I really hoped they'd play Knowledge and get people onstage, so I screamed and screamed when Billie asked for a drummer even though I knew I was too far away. Of course I didn't end up playing, but still cool to see that they're doing that again.
They seemed really into the Wall of Death thing here, I think they did it three times in Green Day's set, including at the beginning of She which was... different. I remember shouting "no thank you, Billie!"
I videoed King for a Day since that was the first time I wasn't so bothered about watching, but the sound on my phone sucks unfortunately. I'll upload it if anyone wants to see it though. Mike sang in Shout again, which was cool.
Minority was great, but I knew that indicated the last part of the show so it was kind of sad, too. I really enjoyed 99 Revolutions that night, it didn't seem as repetitive at all. Every time I thought they'd finished, Billie yelled "one more time!" and they played the last chorus again. Awesome.
I still think Good Riddance is the perfect closer, I wasn't sure when I saw Billie came back but once he started playing I remembered what a special moment it is. I think I'd just started crying when a woman in front of me climbed on someone's shoulders and directly obscured my view. Spoiled the moment a bit, but still, it was really special to see that again.
I don't know why you always hope that they'll come back, even though you know they've finished. Well, they hadn't quite finished. I looked up and saw Billie - nude except for black panties - running offstage. I missed the bum-viewing, but yeah, he'd just put his ass away and was running off again. Priceless.
It was an awesome show, worth all the waiting and the crazy journey. Billie did seem tired but he still put everything into playing. I'm so glad I went... but sad that it's over now.
So that was that. I wanted to write more but the setlist was quite similar to London and I don't want to just repeat what I said in that recap. The next day we went sightseeing with some other GDCers which was awesome, too. It's amazing how Green Day brings people together - people who understand each other - who'd never normally meet.
Photos from Konstanz (the town, not the show) are here in my art thread.
Posted this in the London thread, but here it is in case you missed it. Recap of the awesome London show as I promised!
We got up at 3am to make sure we caught the bus. It was about 7am when it finally left and we didn't really get any more sleep. We met up with Liam at the bus station and managed to find our way to Shepherd's Bush on the tube, then joined the queue. I was number 56. It just wouldn't sink in that we were going to see Green Day later.
It was awesome to hang out with other GD fans, it really makes lining up so much more fun. Although it was a shame the big meet-up couldn't really happen because of how the queue was.
The Green Day cars arrived, the Jasons and Jeff all piled out and Tre waved to everyone. It seemed like forever until the doors eventually opened and a few people were pushing into the queue who'd only just arrived. But finally we got in... and me, Joy and Liam all got the barrier on Jason's side. The microphones and Tre's kit were sitting expectantly on the small stage, the lights low and so fucking close. I'd been on the barrier before but not at a show like this. It was unreal to think that in a couple of hours, Green Day were going to stroll onto that stage.
The wait for that seemed like forever, too. We watched techs test the drums and the guitars, put the missing mic neatly in Billie's stand. The crowd clapped and chanted but still nothing happened. Song after song played on the speakers.
Then suddenly the music just stopped. The lights dimmed completely and there was Tre, walking onstage to Billie's place. And announcing that Billie has laryngitis but no worries, he's here... playing All By Myself. But Billie (who of course was perfectly healthy) followed with a cheeky look on his face and went to play the drum kit. What a crazy and awesome opener.
The rest of the band joined them and they started with Welcome to Paradise. Burnout. Everyone was screaming, but it was only just beginning. Know Your Enemy started to really get everyone going, jumping up and down and moshing. In the solo Billie ran over to our side and locked eyes with me for a few seconds. He really smiled and it was so awesome to see that he still remembered me.
Nuclear Family is fucking incredible - definitely one of my favourites from the new songs. I know we've already heard HQ recordings of it, but you can't really get the full experience until you've seen it live. I really hope they open with it on the full tour... it'd be one of their most amazing openers yet. It has so much energy, the line "gonna ride the world like a merry-go round" is perfect to describe the whole song. Or maybe that doesn't make any sense at all if you haven't seen it yourself.
That was what really set the crowd off too. I was rammed into the barrier and drenched in sweat (my own and everyone else's) but in a way, it's not a gig without that. I think that was when it really started to get going.
Stay the Night is obviously an amazing one too, I feel like I already know the song so well but it was the first time I actually saw it live. Billie's definitely right in joking that everyone already knows all the words for an album that isn't out yet!
I really loved Stop When the Red Lights Flash, I couldn't believe they played it. I can't always get into a song without knowing the lyrics, but this one was definitely awesome even though the crowd only seemed to know "I'll make you surrender" from the chorus.
Oh Love is brilliant live with everyone singing their hearts out, I can see why people who weren't into the album version feel differently about the live one. Lady Cobra is good although not one of my favourites, it has a great (and not repetitive) chorus. You've all already heard it courtesy of DJ Armstrong on Radio One so I'll leave it at that.
Holiday is always an anthem, no matter how many times you see it. I never get any less excited about hearing "the representative of (place name here) has the floor". Which in this case was England. Awesome.
Oh my God, Letterbomb. It was creepy because when Holiday ended I was thinking "they should follow this up with Letterbomb, that'd be the best thing ever" and a few seconds later, Billie started playing it. I couldn't believe it. But anyway, this is one of my top three favourite songs, ever. I was stood here at this tiny secret show in London and fuck, they were playing fucking Letterbomb. It was just as special as the first time I saw it. I'm sorry if any of you guys were the people surrounding me who had to deal with my enthusiastic singing and dancing. I probably knocked several people out. Just kidding of course.
In Hitchin' a Ride Billie did his "new dance" which I'll direct you to in video format at the end of this recap, then complained that he'd tired himself out. He seemed so happy and excited, though.
2000 Light Years Away never gets old. That song has become so special to me because of personal stuff, I was so happy that they played it. They played mostly older songs after that, like Going to Pasalacqua, Brain Stew, St. Jimmy, She, When I Come Around...
The crowd did get quite violent although I don't think it was anywhere near as bad on our side. The guy next to me was trying shove me out of my place and kept elbowing me/shouting at me when I tried to stop him, and there was one behind who just kept throwing himself into people. I was really squashed at this point and hadn't been able to breathe properly for a while, but the great view was worth it. It's so easy to let those people ruin the night for you, but I knew better this time. I just ignored them, firmly protected my place and kept enjoying the show.
I must admit that I'm beginning to agree with the people who say King for a Day should be dropped, I'd much rather have seen other songs that night. It was great to see Mike and Jason dancing again though, haha. Minority has never been one of my favourite songs, but it's always amazing live and was no different last night.
The encore was American Idiot and 99 Revolutions, which sounds so much better in reality than it does on the live Summer Sonic version. I thought it was a bit dull there, but although the chorus just says "99 revolutions tonight" over and over, it's really catchy and has loads of energy. A weird closer, but an enjoyable one; and a great anthem for everyone to sing along to.
Then suddenly it was over, at exactly 11pm. It's somehow easier to take in when there's an acoustic song like Good Riddance as a closer... but I think with it being 99 Revolutions we were all somehow waiting for them to come back. Of course they didn't though, so we went to buy merch, all feeling half-dead, and eventually had an adventure trying to find somewhere to sleep until the bus station opened. It ended up being a cold bus stop. We do things for this band that we'd never normally do in reality...