Green Day @ Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, IL. October 23, 2016.
Sometimes I come up with crazy ideas. This one seemed like a crazy-not-so-responsible-idea, but I just couldn’t let it go so I pulled the trigger. I knew I wouldn’t regret it in the end.
Green Day’s new album Revolution Radio came out on October 7th and they’ve been playing a few club shows in the United States to warm up before they start their official world tour. The closest show they were going to play was Chicago on Wednesday, September 21 but a few of the band members got sick so they ended up rescheduling the show for Sunday, October 23. In a meant-to-be-sort-of-way this worked out perfectly with my days off from work.
Of course the tickets sold out within seconds of going on sale, so I had been looking on Stubhub for a few weeks. The prices were insane so I just kind of forgot about it for a while. Who’s crazy enough to drive to Chicago alone, anyways? Green Day ended up announcing their spring tour and I bought tickets for their Green Bay and St. Paul show. I thought this would suffice but when I thought about how long 170 days is, I just HAD to go to this Chicago show. Green Day is the one band people would EXPECT me to drive 10 hours to see.
On Friday, October 21 I logged onto Stubhub and clicked purchase. NO BACKING OUT NOW! I couldn’t believe what I just did but I was feeling crazy so I got home from work and researched hotels in the area of the venue. I was on my way! I packed and left Fargo at 2:00AM. I’m a night owl so it wasn’t a big deal for me. I jammed Green Day music the entire drive and pulled into Chicago just before noon.
The drive into the city wasn’t that bad. I even had to go downtown to pick up my concert ticket from the Stubhub office. After that, I had a couple hours to kill before I could check in to my hotel so I decided to check out the “free” Lincoln Park Zoo. My GPS lead me the way I really didn’t want to go -- down the Magnificent Mile. But I made it!
When I arrived at Lincoln Park Zoo, I realized I was in Chicago because parking for 0-2 hours was $25. But I’ve been to the city a few times now and you just have to expect crazy prices wherever you go. I was at the zoo for an hour or so but I was exhausted from driving all night so I headed to my hotel at 3:00PM.
I slept for a couple hours, and then I made myself wake up to watch the Cubs game. I knew it was going to be a historic night. I became a Cubs fan after I spent the day in Wrigleyville back in May. To see the Cubs advance to the World Series was unforgettable.
On Sunday I checked out of the hotel at 10:00AM and headed to the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown. I was kind of confused when I got there -- because no one was lined up in front of the venue. But after I looked around for a bit -- I went to the far side of the building and saw about 70 kids with Green Day shirts lined up in an alley. Sigh of relief! I was #79 in line.
I spent the next seven hours listening to other people geek out over Green Day and talk about their favorite albums and songs. It seemed like such a crazy world, because no one has ever liked the same music as me. Green Day has always just been my thing, which I’m fine with, but this felt pretty cool. I stayed in line the entire day, and only left once to find a bathroom before doors opened. Other fans offered me their leftover food throughout the day so I wasn’t completely starving.
Venue security was there the entire day supervising and telling people who showed up where to stand. We were in an alley that was maybe 15 feet wide, and maybe 300 yards long. I was in the first line about halfway down -- but as soon as kids were lined up all the way to the end of the alley -- they started another line right by us, and then another as more people got there. This kind of worried me because were people REALLY going to stay in their line once doors opened? Somehow it all worked out and I was one of the first 100 people into the venue.
They started moving the lines at 5:30PM and as soon as I rounded the corner and saw the Marquee, I started shaking! This was really happening! I was about to see Green Day! First they checked our ID’s at the door and then we went inside where they very thoroughly went through ours bags/purses and patted us down. After they scanned my ticket I walked further into the venue and saw that we actually had to go up some stairs.
The problem was, they weren’t letting anyone upstairs yet because the band was finishing soundcheck, so a mob of people were collecting at the bottom of the stairs. After approximately 5-10 minutes, security said, “go.” And a mad rush up the stairs ensued. It was terrifying but I made it to the top and quickly ran around the corner trying to see where to go. A kid in front of me fell flat on his face which warned me that there was a step down. Venue security was yelling at everyone, “No running!” but of course, we all ran! I could see the stage now and there was only people on the barricade so I booked it and made it to the second row!
By this time it was about 6:00PM and we still had to wait another hour before the opening band Dog Party came out. It was an all girl band -- two sisters from Sacramento. Billie Joe’s sons actually introduced him to the band and he invited them on tour. To be honest, I could care less about opening bands so I was happy when they were finished. Dog Party came on at 7:00PM and were done around 7:30PM.
Now it was time to start getting excited! At 8:00PM Bohemian Rhapsody started playing over the speakers. This has been a long time staple of a Green Day show. Everyone goes crazy singing along. To be honest, I didn’t grow up listening to that song and I don’t know any of the lyrics. I’m obviously in the minority there. The song finished and another long time Green Day concert staple came out on stage. The drunk bunny.
The drunk bunny warms up crowd before Green Day comes out on stage
Finally the lights went out! The moment I waited all day (and more like 4 years for) was finally here!
I’m really almost speechless about the concert itself. It was everything I could have ever imagined and more. I was right in front of the stage; I made eye contact with Billie and Mike; I sang along to every word. It was so surreal.
My favorite songs from the setlist included Letterbomb, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Youngblood, 2000 Light Years Away, Christie Road, Hitchin’ a Ride, Are We The Waiting, and Jesus of Suburbia. BUT my absolute favorite part of the show was when Billie Joe pulled a fan up on stage to play guitar for my all-time favorite Green Day song -- When I Come Around. The entire crowd gasped as Billie slung his beloved guitar Blue over the kid’s shoulder. When he played the first note, you could tell Billie was impressed. As was everyone in the room. The kid had unbelievable stage presence. I think Billie enjoyed it just as much as the kid did. It was hard not to have a smile on your face. Super cool moment.
Green Day invites fan on stage to play When I Come Around on guitar
I only recorded one full song -- Still Breathing. It’s my favorite song from the new record. It’s about Billie Joe being sober for the past four years. The lyrics are relatable to everyone.
“As I walked out on the ledge
Are you scared to death to live?
I’ve been running all my life
Just to find a home that’s for the restless”
And it’s just unbelievable when the entire crowd is singing, “I’m still alive.”
Green Day performs Still Breathing
“The great thing about survival mode, is that you survive. This song’s for you.” - Billie Joe Armstrong
The last song was Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). They can play this song for all of eternity for all I care. It’s the perfect last song for a Green Day concert. It’s something unpredictable but in the end it’s right...I did have the time of my life. A Green Day show would feel so incomplete without this song to send you home.
After a 31 song/two-and-a-half hour set the show ended around 10:30PM. I noticed how sore my legs were as I tried to take my first steps since getting into the venue at 6:00PM. I limped out of the building and got into my car. I sat there for a while and watched my videos and went through my pictures. Asking myself, did that really just happen?
I left Chicago around midnight and pulled into Fargo around noon -- after many MANY pit stops and cups of caffeine. But for Green Day, it was more than worth it. They’re MY band. They’re my heroes. They are the one thing that feels like home.
156 days til I get to see them again...
March 30 - Green Bay
April 1 - St. Paul
"This is a place where every weirdo, every anxiety-prone, awkward human being can come and feel at home. - Billie Joe Armstrong