Thursday evening started out like any other. A show was in town that night that I had been looking forward to seeing. I grabbed a couple drinks with a good friend I hadn’t seen in awhile, and then we began our walk over to the venue. On the way, I ended up running into a couple of other longtime friends. We chat for a while, and then one of them drops some huge information on me about a show that coming weekend. It was supposedly a “secret” and I wasn’t allowed to say anything, but he wanted to pass the news to me. The alcohol had hit me, so I wasn’t exactly in the most reflective state of mind, but I smiled and said I’d check it out.
Several hours go by. It’s about 12:30 AM. My phone starts to blow up with notifications, referencing the same show that I was told about earlier. Holy shit, I thought. This isn’t a rumor anymore. This is really happening. The ticket link was inboxed to me, and I was on my own, praying that the “Special Guests” on the bill were exactly who I thought they were. And if they were, I prayed that hundreds of other people didn’t know about this yet.
I wake up on Saturday morning at 8 AM to make sure that I am up well before the 9 AM on-sale time. I refresh the computer over and over again at 8:55 AM until the clock strikes 9. I’m in. I buy my ticket. I’m set. Whether or not these “special guests” really are playing, I’ve got a ticket for a fun show. I print my confirmation. Out of curiosity, I go back to the box office page about 15 seconds later just to see if there’s any other tickets available. Maybe I can bring a friend. It becomes very apparent that this wouldn’t be an option, as the tickets sold out in 15 seconds flat. Bots were blamed as the cause of this, but the venue posts a notification that the show is indeed sold out. All tickets will be held at Will Call.
I drive to the venue on Sunday afternoon. I see the gear outside. A massive sign that says “Sold Out” is strewn across the top of the venue where it usually reads “924”. I still don’t believe any of it. It’s too surreal. But it becomes more likely at every passing second. Two bands later, I have my feet planted firmly in a spot at the front of the sweatbox that is the crowd. Prior to the show, nobody even murmurs their name. People would just say, “I can’t believe we’re about to see them play.” Them.
They walk out, and I freeze up. I can’t say anything. I can’t believe it. But it’s true. Twenty-one years later, after being banned from the club that gave them their start in the first place, Green Day have returned to 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California. I’m about to see my favorite band play in a place that I never thought I’d ever see them get to step foot in again.
The last time I saw Green Day, they were headlining the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California. They sounded fantastic, but something was very off. For a while, I thought it was because the show began during the daytime, thus throwing off the atmosphere. But I determined later that it was Billie Joe Armstrong’s stage presence. That Greek Theatre show was the band’s very first hometown event since the charismatic vocalist kicked alcohol. If you were returning to your hometown to play your first completely sober arena show, for the first time in your life, and you had that kind of pressure mounting on top of you, wouldn’t you want to piss yourself as well?
This time though, he was the same front man that I have known and loved, one hundred percent. Everyone in Green Day was on their game, and showed full confidence out on that stage. You’d think this would be the show that they might seem a little bit worried to play, but their attitude and energy was fun, carefree, and serious whenever the situation called for it.
Once the initial disbelief wore off and I became fully engaged in the atmosphere, Billie Joe gave a short little speech about his love for the venue and what it means to the band (you can view a small portion of it in the video below). The band immediately jump into “99 Revolutions”, the second to last track on their most recent album, Tre! Not a single person is standing still. “Holiday” followed, and proved to be an incredible song in that small of a club. While the set list posted on the wall did say that “Welcome To Paradise” would be next, the band decided to launch into “Know Your Enemy” from 20th Century Breakdown before launching into track five from Dookie.
What followed was a series of tracks from the band’s first two albums, 39/Smooth and Kerplunk! “2,000 Light Years”, “Private Ale”, “Christie Road”, and “Paper Lanterns” are all winners. Every fan is singing. I guarantee there wasn’t a single voice that wasn’t lost in the club rafters after the show was said and done.
The band then gave a rare treat to the audience by playing “Stuart and the Avenue”, a track off of their fourth album, Insominac, that I’ve never seen them play live. That opening bass lick is still one of the best in the band’s arsenal of songs. “She” and “Going To Pasalaqua” followed with just as eruptive of a response.
Do we take a moment to catch our breath and dry off from all of the sweat that we’re covered in? Hell no! Instead, we’re lead into a quartet of classic Dookie songs: “Burnout” (track one), “Longview” (track four), “Basket Case” (track seven), and “When I Come Around” (track ten).
“Are We The Waiting” leads into “St. Jimmy”, one of my personal favorites of the night. If you’ve never seen Green Day play this song in a small environment, you really have missed out. I’ll always love seeing the American Idiot songs in a theatrical arena production, but this is the kind of setting that where a song as intense and fast as “St. Jimmy” is meant to be played.
The biggest surprise of the night: Armstrong proclaims, “We’re bringing out another friend to help us with this next song. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Tim Armstrong!” The Rancid frontman took the stage to perform “Knowledge” (an Operation Ivy song) and it finally clicked with me why the guitar tech was tuning a beat-up looking left-handed guitar before the show.
“American Idiot”, the song I refer to as “The One That Started It All For Me”, kept the energy level up, leading straight into the nine-minute anthem “Jesus of Suburbia”. The band leave for a minute after this, only to come back and play “Minority” for their encore. The lights finally come up, the band leaves the stage, and that’s that.
It’s possible that Green Day may never play this venue again. Then again, that’s what people said back in 1993. But after Sunday, I’m proud to say that I can now utter the following sentence: I saw Green Day play at 924 Gilman Street, and they were fucking amazing.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.