Our very own International Correspondent, Justin Nelson, had a wonderful experience at his last Green Day concert. Besides getting into sound check and having Green Day play ¡Viva La Gloria!, he got up on stage and sang his heart out.
Green Day Concert Experience
By: Justin Nelson
After returning from my awesome experiences at the Fonda show and Hot Topic, I started looking toward my next Green Day encounter, their show at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. When I first heard that they were going to pull people on stage, I knew that I really wanted to do that! Since I didn’t know the guitar well enough to play all of Jesus of Suburbia, I decided to try for singing Longview. For the last month and a half, I practiced singing and dancing around to it, memorizing the lyrics and timing so that I would not forget them if the big moment came. Seriously, I would sometimes listen to it on repeat for hours, just bouncing around in my room.
I also was determined to make it in to the sound check since I had heard that they played many songs during them that they don’t play in concert and I would be able to get a spot on the floor before people who waited in line (which I would need if wanted any chance of being pulled up for Longview). Since Verizon was in charge of giving them out, and wasn’t a Verizon customer, this was going to be tricky. However, I had heard that people who were near the front of the waiting line had been able to get a hold of left over passes. This was good for me since I had been planning to go early anyways so that I could get a spot on the rail (I had already booked a hotel near the venue so that I could get in line early in the morning).
A few days before the concert I got a bit of a cold, but thankfully I was able to get rid of it thanks to a lot of cough drops and Dayquil. I headed up to SLC the day before the concert to check in to my hotel. After getting settled, I spent a few hours searching all around downtown for supplies to make signs that draw Billie’s attention. I was able to find some white cotton cloth, a black sharpie, and scissors at Wal-Mart. I decided to make the signs out of cloth so that they would be really easy to hide if the venue did not allow people to bring them in. After I had found this, I headed to a double-feature laser show of Pink Floyd’s albums Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall at the nearby planetarium. When this got out at around midnight I headed back to my hotel room. Before finally heading to bed, I made my first sign which read “I know ALL the words to Longview.”
A few hours later, I checked out of my room, and went to go get in line. When I got there at around 5:30, I was the only one there. After about 15 minutes there, two more fans showed up, and followed by another one an hour later. We all talked for a while about Green Day and Salt Lake City. At about 9:00 a.m. the Verizon promotional bus pulled up along with the numerous tour buses and semi’s containing the band, crew, and set. When I first asked one of them if they would be giving away passes to people with Verizon phones, they told me that all the winners for the sound check were already selected, and that no one else would be getting in. However, from all the posts online, I knew this was not true.
After a few more hours of waiting, I was able to locate Chris, a member of the Verizon team that had been able to get many of the GDC members in. When I first approached him, I said “Hello Sir…” (since I wasn’t completely sure it was him). “That’s not my name!” he comically responded. “OK, Chris then?” After that he smiled and began to chat with another GDC member and myself. He told us that he could not guarantee there would be any extra passes, and that we should check back with him around 4:00 PM.
Around noon, my fellow GDC friend Garin arrived with a couple of his pals to wait with me at the front of the line. Garin, who was a Verizon customer, had just found out that he had actually won two passes to the sound check. That was a bit of a problem since he did not want to have to abandon one of his friends in the line while he and the other enjoyed the sound check, so he was also hopeful that Chris would be able to produce extra passes. We played cards for a while, and then took turns holding our spot at the front of the line so that the others could get food or look around the nearby mall. At some point while I was in line, I made a second cloth sign that said “Play ¡Viva La Gloria!”
4:00 PM finally came around, so Garin and I went over by the Verizon bus to see whether or not I would be getting in. To my great surprise, Chris said that all four of us would be able to go in. We then lined up into two lines and proceeded into the building after security had checked us. Then we headed upstairs to wait to be let in the arena. While we waited, I got to talk to Chris and some of the other fans about their Green Day experiences. Chris it seems has been going on tour with them since the Warning tour, and had been to over 140 concerts. He also told us some amusing stories about some of the pranks that Green Day had pulled on the other bands that had been touring with them.
When we finally started heading into the arena, we could see Billie Joe, Mike, Tre, both Jasons, and the rest of the crew all on stage. We ended up sitting on the left side of the stage in the seated section closest to the band. Shortly after we had taken our seats, the band began playing American Eulogy. It was very smooth with very few hiccups. While they were playing the song, I unfurled my “Play ¡Viva La Gloria!” sign over the edge of the railing. Billie must have seen it, because after finishing American Eulogy, he switched guitars, and then Jason Freese launched into that sweet piano intro. Now for those of you who don’t know, ¡Viva La Gloria! is my favorite song on the whole 21st Century Breakdown album, and so far they had not played it in any of the concerts or sound checks (They did play it at four small shows that they’d done before the album was released, but not at any of the shows after that). Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear them play this. After this they played a little teaser of Peacemaker, and then launched into 21st Century Breakdown.
After they were through playing, we were herded into an elevator that took us up to the VIP room on the top floor of the arena. Here we were treated to a variety of snacks, drinks and games. Chris was nice enough to let us steal the Green Day posters that had been setup on the wall, and I was able to snag one featuring the 21st Century Breakdown Skull logo. I also had to disappear for a little bit to grab my will call tickets and pass them on to my roommate Gabe. After a few songs on Rockband, it was finally time to head down to the floor.
Once released onto the floor, I was able to squeeze a spot on the rail. The security guys told us that they had been instructed to confiscate all signs because they did not want other people unable to see because of them. I decided that I would continue to wear my red Green Day hoodie throughout the show (despite the fact I knew it would make me WAY too warm) so that I would be able to hide my cloth sign in my sleeve. I also was personally delivered a photo pass that I had won by the tour manager. Unfortunately, I did not end up taking very many photos because of the difficulty I had in getting a shot that was not blurry (it’s quite a task when you have a lower end camera and a sea of people constantly jostling you around).
Soon enough, Franz Ferdinand came out to begin their set. I really only knew one song of theirs, Take Me Out, but they were still a solid band to listen to. I was especially impressed when all the band members began playing the drum set simultaneously, that was pretty bad ass. Once they had finished playing, we were then treated to a variety of recorded rock music played over the speakers. After 20 minutes or so, Green Day’s drunken pink bunny made its appearance, which as any Green Day fan knows means that it’s only a very short wait until the band comes on stage. After amusing the audience for several minutes, the bunny then returned backstage and we had only to wait for one more thing: Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio? (Green Day always has this Ramones song played over the speakers before they take the stage). Finally the song began to play, and an odd buzz of excitement spread among those around me.
As the song finished, the lights went dim again, and a recorded version of Song of the Century began to echo through the arena, mixed with the cheers of thousands of fans. Soon enough, the band rushed on stage, Tre with his usual haphazard run out on the catwalk before finding his drums and tossing his unused drum sticks in the air. Then just like that, they launched into the opening song 21st Century Breakdown, and the jumping and fist pumping began.
One of the most wonderful things about a Green Day concert has to be the sheer amount of energy that is preset there. You feel this not only in the band (as you see Billie running and jumping on stage), but also in the music and the crowd. There is an excitement there that feels barely contained by the walls of the room. The near constant barrage of explosive light from the pyrotechnics only accentuates this energy. What is amazing to me is that they can consistently do this night after night, and yet make you feel like you’re seeing the tour’s first show every single time. This night was no exception. From the get go, Billie is right there in your face, connecting with you, making you a part of the show. During the first song, he tells the seated crowd to stand up, because as he so eloquently puts it, “This isn’t fucking television!” By the second song, Know Your Enemy, he’s already pulling folks out of the crowd to sing with him, and regardless of how well they actually perform this task, he leaves with a beaming grin.
When they started playing East Jesus Nowhere, I couldn’t help but feel extreme satisfaction at how fitting this song was for the current setting. They were after all playing this on a Sunday, in Utah, less than a mile away from one of the biggest headquarters of “missionary politicians” in this country (i.e. Representative Buttars). Now during this song, Billie will pick a younger member of the audience (between about 7 and 10 years old) to join in him on stage to be “saved.” These kids usually react in one of two ways: They are either psyched out of their minds to be up on stage with Green Day, or they are scared stiff to see the thousands of people that they are standing in front of. At this show, the “little shit” that Billie picked fell into the latter category. This innocent little squirt was trembling from head to foot, and despite all the kind words from Billie telling him he was alright, I don’t think you could have paid that kid to stay on stage a moment longer than he did.
Now I have not been to a lot of concerts, but from what I hear, the security guys that are on the other side of the rail are not usually very nice. So I was pleasantly surprised at this show to find that our local Utah guards we actually pretty cool. About five or six songs in, a lot of us were already very warm and sweaty from all of the jumping, fist pumping, and arm waving. This also meant that most of us were incredibly thirsty. In fact, at one point the guy right behind me started slumping over and resting his head on my right shoulder at one point. When I asked him if he was OK, he was so dehydrated and tired that he could barely speak, but he managed to convey that he needed to get out of there immediately. Thankfully I was able to catch the attention of one of the guards, and they were able to quickly pull him out of there (let that be a lesson to always be hydrated BEFORE you go into the show). From that point on, the guards also help us stay hydrated by pouring water from their bottles into the mouth of anyone who needed a drink.
As they began the seventh song, Before the Lobotomy, Billie began talking about his mom. To our surprise, she happened to be attending the show that night in the seated area opposite from where I was. After saying some very touching things about her, he invited her to come up on the stage and give him a hug, noting that she had never been on stage with them at one of their performances before. After hugging her son, Mrs. Armstrong also got some very energetic hugs from Mike and Tre. Then Billie playfully shooed her off the stage and began singing the ballad-like beginning of Before the Lobotomy.
It’s very interesting to watch Billie when he’s up on stage. His face always seems to be lit up with a happiness you never really see in pictures or photos of him else where. He’s stated in several interviews that his favorite part of the job is doing the big arena gigs, and it definitely shows. He is always doing fun and quirky things up on stage. For instance, during the last verse of St. Jimmy, right before he shouts “And don’t you fucking wear it out!”, he decided to climb up one of the monitors and just stand there, with his head cocked to one side and a big grin, and just stare at the audience for about three minutes. At another point, Billie decides to fake being put out by the audience’s lack of enthusiasm, and just sits down on the catwalk pouting.
However, I think the songs he had the most fun with were Brainstew and Jaded. During this song, he started off his fun by throwing down his microphone with so much force that it broke. When a tech on stage handed him a new microphone, he immediately threw that one down as well. Four microphones later, he stopped and continued to sing. His destruction was not over yet. Later in the song he decided that his guitar was also going to suffer the same fate. After several throws in the air, he abandoned the broken instrument and went to the side of the stage to retrieve his SuperSoaker water gun, which he promptly began spraying the audience with. After several sprays, he had someone pulled on stage to finish the job for him. While the fan cooled off the sweaty audience, Billie pulled out yet another toy to dry us off with, a leaf-blower that had been converted into “toilet-paper gun”. Once the roll of toilet-paper was depleted, he fetched the last gun in his arsenal, a t-shirt gun named Peacemaker.
Now while Billie was doing all of this, I had slowly been slipping my Longview sign out of my sleeve, so that I would be ready to flash it (since I knew that it was the song that would come right after Jaded). Soon enough, Mike began plucking that familiar bass riff, and Billie walked out on the catwalk. “Who wants to come up and sing?” I waited till he was looking my way to raise my sign, since I knew security would take it away the moment that they saw it. To my dismay, his glance in my direction was very brief, and instead he turned his back to my side of the cat walk and picked another fan, one of the girls that had been waiting for a long time in line (I think she had been the sixth to arrive, but became first in line after we left for the sound check). As expected, the security guys in front of me had yanked the sign out of my hands, and threw it underneath the catwalk so that I couldn’t grab it back.
Well, even without my sign, I was still determined to get up on that stage. After the first verse was over, Billie came back to the catwalk, and the girl on stage went off to the side to rejoin the crowd (I found out later her name was Janell). “Alight, whose next?” At this point, I was jumping and waving my arms as much as I could. Initially Billie looked for someone from the other side of the catwalk, but by some chance, he had stopped right in front of me. Finally, he turned around, saw me (probably a fairly comical sight) and pointed to me asking “Do you know it?” I of course nodded my head vigorously, and by some miracle, he decided to give me a shot and said “Alright, get your ass up here!”
Next thing I know, I was frantically attempting to jump over the barricade, and was about half way over when Billie’s body guard came over to pull me the rest of the way. I think he even told me something along the lines that I needed to calm down, but I was in no mood to oblige this request. Moments later, I was on stage standing next to Billie with a microphone in hand, in too much shock to give him a hug or even say anything to him. While getting to be on stage with Billie, Mike, and Tre is an opportunity that most fans would die for, the thought of being on a stage in front of thousands of people is often daunting. Thankfully my experiences of being in four years of high-school theater had prepared me for moments like this. From watching videos of previous people that were pulled up I noticed that once on stage, most people would just stand there or pace while they were singing, and I found that incredibly boring. I had already decided that if I made it up on stage, this would not be how I did it. Instead, I tried to move or change my pose as much as possible. I jumped in place, I ran out on the cat walk, I went up to Billie to sing together, I ran up on to Tre’s drum stand, I did air guitar next to Mike, I even stole a page from the band’s book and laid down on stage. In fact, to get a real idea of what happened you really need to watch it:
I admit, my singing in that video was terrible and I sound incredibly tone deaf. To be fair though, I did not have an ear-piece so that I could hear myself, and that music is pretty damn loud. I assure you, I can sing it much better than that when I can hear myself sing. Now you may notice that at one point in the video it looks like Billie and I are having a conversation. He was actually just trying to tell me “Do more air guitar”, but since I had just lain down next to a very loud monitor, my ear was ringing and I was having a very hard time understanding him. I wish now that I had maybe talked with him a bit, but considering how lucky I was to have made it on stage at all, I can hardly complain. Being up there on stage with the entire crowd cheering my name and Billie right next to me had to be one of the best moments in my life. There are few things that can compare with the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that you feel after successfully entertaining an audience.
After leaping off the stage, and landing on the other side of the barricade, I was once again met by the Green Day body guard who had helped pull me out a few minutes earlier. Not knowing that I had a photo pass, he immediately began questioning me angrily about why I had a camera with me (its case was strapped to my belt). After about a minute of trying to find it in my pant pocket he gave up on waiting for me to show it to him and escorted me to the side. I ran into Janell there, and we excitedly gave each other a hug, still amazed at our good luck. I didn’t chat long though because I was now incredibly tired and thirsty, and needed a chance to catch my breath. As I headed up the stairs to go out into the hall, a number of people congratulated me and gave me high-fives. I spent the next ten minutes in the hall re-hydrating and calming down a bit, but I was still on an incredible adrenaline rush. Several more people stopped me to tell me how awesome my performance had been and to give hugs, fist bumps, and high-fives. The sudden attention made me fell like a complete rock star, and I loved it!
When I finally rejoined the crowd at back on the floor, they were just finishing up King for a Day. The rest of the concert was a blurry mix of rocking out to the remaining songs and talking to the numerous people that came up to me. Before I knew it, Billie was playing the final song, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) in a shower of white and purple confetti. Once he was finished and the band had left the stage, I scooped up some of the confetti and headed out into the hall to find my mom. I talked to a more people, even being asked to pose for pictures with several. Once we left the arena, we headed over to the Verizon bus for a few more photos. During one of them, a random girl walked right up to me and began kissing me (which I did not resist). I also ran into Chris again there, who by chance had seen my stage performance and congratulated me. After I had finished talking with everyone, we headed over to the place where my mom had parked. As sad as I was that the show was over, I was content knowing that it had been one of the best days of my life, and that I would see them again on the next tour.
You can view Justin’s pictures in the gallery below: