Field Trip: Green Day in Philly

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Green Day released Dookie in 1994. I was a freshman at Portland High School in sunny Portland, Maine. Nirvana was gone, but Pearl Jam was still cool. They weren’t as exciting by ’94, though. Green Day was exciting. First was “Longview” and then the two big dogs- “Basket Case” and “When I Come Around.” Green Day didn’t change everything like Nirvana did, but they were a breath of fresh air everyone needed after Kurt Cobain died and they were a hell of a lot of fun.

Fast forward to April of 2013 and I’m thirty three now. Wednesday night is not a night for going out, but last night it was. I went back down to Philly, grabbed a couple beers and bite to eat at the Bishop’s Collar with my sister and off we went- Green Day playing at the Liacouras Center, the basketball arena for Temple University. I saw then-senator Barack Obama speak there in 2007. You might have heard of him. He’s president now. Of the United States. Of America.

The weather was windy, not quite spring yet and the line to get in snaked around the block. Parking was a hot mess. The closest garage was full. We parked on the street and as anyone else would reasonably do, hoped we wouldn’t die after the show when walking back to the car. I’m not saying it’s a bad area, but I am saying it’s not a good area. And I would have said that before I moved to my quiet beachfront community in New Jersey. You don’t park in good areas and then look around to see if there any cars nicer than yours because then hopefully theirs we’ll get broken into and not yours.

Moving on. By the time we reached the venue, the line was gone and we skated right in, picking up $11 beers on the way. $11. For that much I don’t wanna just feel pretty. I wanna feel Beyonce hot.

I hadn’t been to a big old rock show like this in a while- specifically one indoors. Maybe the last one was Pearl Jam at the old Spectrum. I love walking in to an arena and hearing the muffled sound of the opening band playing as you walk through the concourse. I love how the drums sound like a thunderstorm in a nearby town and the vocals sound haunting. The opener was Beach House. The room seemed a little too big for them. Erin kept asking- what do you think Billie Joe (Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day) was doing at that moment.

Hopefully not drinking, I said. Hopefully.

The crowd was an interesting one. I didn’t feel as old as I thought I would. Granted I didn’t feel young, either. I just felt in the middle. Little punks & old punks. Jocks. Normals. Nerds. Old heads. Youngsters. Their parents. No parents. Someone’s parents. Skeezers and wheezers. College kids. High School kids. Middle School kids. Someone’s kids.

Final verdict: kind of an eclectic smattering of enthusiastic white people.

Sitting next to us were two young bucks. It was probably their first concert and they wore ill-fitting jeans. One of them (his name was probably Nate or Neal Erin and I decided) pulled on a brand new Green Day t-shirt- too young and inexperienced to know that dude, you just don’t do that.


We sat patiently, waiting for the show to start. Every time the music stopped, you hoped it was go time; that the lights would go down. That’s another moment I love- when the lights go down. It’s the Giddy Up Moment.

While waiting, Erin dropped this little bit of knowledge- Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt’s real last name is not Dirnt. I had no idea. I knew drummer Tre Cool’s name was not Tre Cool, but didn’t know Dirnt was an alias. According to Erin he got the nickname back in the day. He was so obsessed with playing bass, he walked around making the sound plucking a bass makes- dirnt, dirnt, dirnt, dirnt. Thus his name, Mike Dirnt.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” and then the lights go down. The band bounds on stage and Tre starts bashing the beat to “99 Revolutions,” a song off of one of their new albums, Tre. It’s a rock ‘n roll show. The lights behind the stage flash “Green Day” and Billie Joe is on fire (his words, although I agree completely.) That little dude is a punk rock preacher and he looks like he’s playing with the manic energy of some0ne with something to prove. From the jump things are looser than they appeared on the American Idiot tour. The band looks to be having fun. How could you not when ripping one three minute barn burner after another?

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It’s not until the band plays “Holiday,” off of American Idiot, that things really pick up. Up until that point the energy was there, but it was energy, not ENERGY. Big difference. But during “Holiday,” shit got real. Shit got so real Billie Joe forgot a few lyrics, something he admitted to in the middle of the song, while flashing a spot light at the crowd.

“Philadelphia, you’re under my spell. All of you are under my trance. Repeat after me: Billie Joe did not forget the lyrics to “Holiday” tonight.”

No one seemed to care. It was now ENERGY. All was forgiven.

Then we went back. We went back so long that the young bucks standing next to us most likely hadn’t been born yet. It was the golden oldies part of the set and while yes, I could have thought about how effin’ old it could have made me feel, I didn’t. It was just fun. They played “Burnout” and they played “Longview,” “Basket Case” and boom, they played “When I Come Around.” I started thinking about videos and playing in bands in high school down in my parents’ basement. I thought about how much fun playing music is and playing for people- there are few things better in life. I thought about how Tre tucks his shirt in and that seemed weird. I thought I smelled weed. I dug the oldies set. Billie Joe was spraying people with a hose. Then he was shooting toilet paper into the audience.

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During “Longview,” Billie Joe asked for someone from the crowd to come up and sing. He had brought up a dude dressed like Santa Claus up earlier, during “American Idiot.” For “Longview,” he brought a young fella in a yellow shirt who seemed to crowd surf from a few miles away to the stage.

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But that kid had actually been on stage with them once before, which Billie Joe was not cool with. The kid was relegated to cowbell duties and a girl was brought on stage, who in addition to singing fairly decently, hugged nearly everyone on stage, including the roadies. Oh, and speaking of the roadies- props to those dudes. They were on their shit last night.

And while I don’t have an exact total, I estimate Tre Cool went through roughly 2,137 drum sticks last night. After each song, he’d chuck them high in the air behind him. That’s someone’s job to pick them all up. Be happy it’s not yours.

The encore’s highlight was “Jesus of Suburbia” off of American Idiot and it was effin’ wonderful. It was epic. It was real. It was rock ‘n roll. I have no idea what the future holds for Green Day, but with songs like “Jesus of Suburbia,” I at least know they have their own notch on rock ‘n roll’s belt.

So then we thought it was over. Why wouldn’t we? The lights had gone up. People started for the exits and talking about how great the show was. It was over. Good night.

But it wasn’t.

Amidst the exodus, Billie Joe walked to center stage and on a black acoustic guitar, ripped through “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. They didn’t even turn the lights down. It all just happened.

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And then it was over.

Then we went for the exits. Then we wrestled the crowds in the bathrooms. Then we didn’t die walking back to the car. Then we laughed about old man soreness and the funny looking odd balls at the show.

Then we were happy- we had seen Green Day.

Good fun, good night.

Photos: This guy.

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