Wednesday morning, I left for work kind of late, around 10. The Cure's "Pictures of You" was ending, and then Madden started talking about Green Day in Oakland, so I assumed he meant the Fox show the night before. But no. They were playing another surprise show that night! At Uptown! And there would be no advance tickets; you just had to get in line! And tickets were only $20! Holy shit, I had to try to go. My Wednesday plans included a trip to the comic book store and Lost, but I could change them! OKCupid says I'm Less Spontaneous than others. Take that!
When I got into work, I started obsessively monitoring Twitter feeds to see if there would be any updates from the line or people who had gone to see. The venue was right by 19th St. BART, and the website said it held 575 people. I feared that there were enough crazy Green Day fans who would take off work and get in line right now, and I wanted to know whether it was worth making the effort. I was going to try to get out of work as early as I could, but I'd just gotten a bunch of cases dropped on my desk.
I called incidentist to see if he was interested, and he was! and then he wasn't because he decided to be responsible and take care of work stuff. Alas. I was hoping someone could go and stand in line earlier than I could. I updated my Facebook status, but no one bit.
As expected, my car was ready to be picked up from the shop (some loose grounds in the transmission?), and the place was just a few blocks from Uptown, so I could swing by and see whether I had a chance. And I could also determine the best transportation option: the show was scheduled to start at 10, so I assumed it wouldn't be done before the last BART. There was a bus, but it ran every hour, and I hate buses anyway. It seemed like the only option to get home that late, though. Yes, I was obsessing about transportation and making plans for my spontaneous concert outing. Fine, OKCupid, you win.
I skipped out of work at 3 and dropped off my rental and picked up Caprica. As I was leaving, Live105 had a giveaway for tickets to the show, but you had to tell them what two other bands Green Day have performed as. I knew about Foxboro Hot Tubs, and I had learned earlier in the day about the Network from a Green Day messageboard I was scouring for any more information about the show or its status. But all the lines were busy.
It was about 4. I drove past the Uptown...and there were only like 50 people there!! I totally had a shot at this shit! I needed to get back home and get my camera and change my shirt. I actually came across a parking spot on Telegraph a couple blocks away, but the sign said there was no parking between 2 and 3. I didn't want to risk the show's starting late and going long, and I also maybe didn't want my new car in downtown Oakland that late at night?
At my apartment, I kept my awesome green corduroys (now appropriate!) and put on I Listen to Bands. I grabbed my camera. And because I felt a little bad about leaving so early (especially after showing up late), I logged into work remotely and sent a few reports. I wrestled back and forth on whether to bring a book to occupy myself in line. I decided that I didn't want it flopping about during the show, and I would make line friends like I always do.
The bus took forever to show up. During the interminable ride down Broadway, I called ellric, realizing that he would totally be into this, although I suspected he was busy. My suspicions were confirmed later.
I got to the line at about 5. The line had turned the corner and grown in an hour, but it wasn't even close to 575 people yet, so I figured I was safe. I talked to the guy in front of me, Myron, who had been to many Green Day shows in his time and said they had a lot of energy and always put on a great show. My only other major interaction with him was giving him a piece of my Odwalla bar, so let's discuss the people behind me, who became my line buddies.
Zack looked sort of like Chris Evans with his sunglasses on but less so with them off. His friend and co-worker, the Tyler Labine-esque Rob, arrived later, and later still arrived their friend/co-worker Metta with her black-and-blonde mohawk. Behind them was a cute redhead named Caitlin (spelling unknown, so let's name her after the one stuck in an alternate future) who was eventually joined by her Michael Pitt-esque boyfriend. Of course, all these names were gathered piecemeal, as we talked for many minutes before introducing ourselves or overhearing other introductions.
Soon after Rob arrived, he trekked to Walgreens for some sunscreen (it was pretty hot, and he had just come from a baseball game). Meanwhile, Zack realized he needed a quarter to feed the meter. He asked me if I had change for a dollar. I told him I had three quarters.
"For a dollar? Sure."
I said that I needed them for the bus back since they only took exact change. Unless he could give me a ride home; I was only up the street twenty blocks and generally on his way. Sure, he could do that! So I gave him a quarter. "You're my new best friend," I said. I held his place in line until he returned. We chatted about our respective jobs. He was a software engineer.
When Rob returned, he surfed some Green Day boards on his or Zack's iPhone and mocked someone's five favorite bands. 1. Green Day. 2. Paramore.
"I like Paramore!" I said.
They gave me strange looks. I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE FOR LIKING PARAMORE.
"I love Incubus!"
4. Someone else, maybe someone they liked. 5. Alter Bridge.
Alter Bridge was Creed minus the lead singer. And a very strange companion to the other four bands.
On that note: a girl whose name I later heard was Jessica liked my shirt. Her boyfriend said it reminded him of a shirt he designed that read, "I Like Their Earlier Stuff Better." I described the appropriate Diesel Sweeties strip.
People were saying that there were 200 people ahead of us, but I didn't buy it, so I went up to the front to do a count. When I got to Myron, it was about 115. Caitlin was afraid that everyone ahead of us had people coming (as Zack had). Even if they all had one other person coming, we would be fine. I counted to the back of the line and only got to 167. It was long past 5 now; I had expected there to be a huge influx after work got out. But there was a lot of traffic, so maybe it would take longer for people to get there.
As it appeared that the box office was not going to be selling tickets and they were, in fact, going to make us wait until the doors opened at 8 to pay, I munched on an Odwalla bar for sustenance. I offered Caitlin a piece, but she declined, as did Zack and Rob. Rob thought my Odwalla bar was made of hippies. He really was like Sock, the more I thought about it.
When Metta arrived, she browsed Green Day forums on her iPhone as well. I mentioned that I'd been looking at messageboards earlier and reading all the complaints from people in other countries who were so jealous of us. And also angry that we got all these secret shows!
"Yeah, fuck California!" said Rob.
Metta showed him the post that was on her screen that very moment: "FUCK. CALIFORNIA." Frickin' Green Day!
"Yeah," I said, "how dare they play a secret show in their fucking hometown?"
Rob said, "'They should play a secret show in Charlotte, North Carolina. For me.'"
Some girl was passing out flyers for future punk shows. As she handed me some, she remarked, "Hey, you listen to bands that don't exist yet, that's cool! So underground!" Seriously, this shirt was made to be worn at concerts.
It was 6:30 or so, and the smell of pizza down the line was getting to us. I asked the pizza eaters where they'd gotten the pizza. SF Pizza at Telegraph and Broadway. I relayed the information back to my line buddies. Rob gave me a quizzical look, and I realized that the name was a bit of a misnomer. Caitlin's boyfriend suggested this place down the way that did "box meals," sandwiches made to order. That sounded healthier than the pizza.
Zack and I went off in search of food. We walked down Telegraph but didn't see the place Pitt had been talking about, but we spied SF Pizza in the distance. Zack called Rob and asked him to get more information. The place was called Just for You and it was between 17th and 18th. No, we didn't see...wait, how about Catered for You?
Yeah, that seemed like the place. It was a very small place with just one black woman and no one else; as far as I could tell, she was the owner and sole employee. The menu looked promising, and I settled on the ground chicken patty burger, as I'd never seen a ground chicken burger in a restaurant before. Zack ordered for Rob and Metta as well. As our food was cooking, in walked Caitlin! Heh. Once she smelled our food, she got excited for the dinner that we'd be eating before she got back. The fries had a special seasoning!
She said she'd been open for almost a year. Zack remarked that she was in the perfect spot for hungry concertgoers; most everything else on the block was closed.
As we left, the woman realized that although Caitlin was with us, we hadn't ordered for her; she admonished us on our way out and took her order.
Back in line, we excitedly ate our burgers. Mine was very tasty; she had done something I'd never seen before, which was to spread the mayo on the bun and then put it on the grill, and that seemed to give it a very nice flavor. Jessica pointed at my food and asked where I'd gotten the burger. I told her. Although she closed at 7, we figured that if people showed up with money, she wasn't going to turn them away. We thanked Pitt for the recommendation.
One of our pastimes was making fun of the people in line for Franz Ferdinand at the Fox Theatre across the street. If they'd known Green Day was going to be playing a show right across the street, would they have spent their cash on Franz Ferdinand?
Caitlin identified a trio of freaky blonde kids, two girls and a guy with unnaturally colored hair. She thought the girls would seduce their victims into a secluded area so the guy could kill them.
A snack cart passed by, selling candy and water and— "String cheese?" exclaimed Rob. "You just said the magic word."
Metta was talking about some friend of hers who went to Doctor Who conventions even though he hadn't seen the show. Why would he do that, I asked.
"They've got some awesome parties," said Rob. "You haven't partied till you've partied with Daleks."
Zack said, "You open them up, and you touch [their little squishy insides], and you get high."
"INEBRIATE! INEBRIATE!" I said.
Metta said that in exchange for something, she'd gotten that friend to agree to watch "Rose."
"Hm?" said Zack.
"The first episode," I said.
"Ah, we have a geek!" said Metta.
"Of course he's a geek," said Zack. "He's still talking to us."
As it was nearing 8, I recounted. Very quickly, I noticed that things had changed drastically; the front of the line was much denser. They had been saving quite a few spots. Our spot, which had previously been 115, was now 208. I continued back. Someone noticed me counting and asked how many so far; I was in the 300s. I wondered whether they thought I was taking an official count for the club. I got to the back of the line and informed them that they were 467. I didn't know how many people they'd let in, but the website said capacity was 575, so they should be okay.
Finally, 8:00 rolled around. Doors open! Or...not? The line was not moving. Then it moved! A bit. We waited longer. It moved! Several yards! We waited longer. It moved! A few yards! Sheesh.
We were almost to the corner. "I'm really tired of this block," said Caitlin. "I've been on this block for hours. I'm ready for a new block." I pointed out that we did have some new scenery in the form of a restaurant to look into.
We turned the corner, and Zack was talking about, presumably, having seen Twilight, and Caitlin was appalled. "True Blood," she said. "That is the only vampire thing worth talking about."
"And Buffy and Angel," I said.
She considered. "Acceptable," she offered. MORE THAN ACCEPTABLE, LADY.
Almost there. My camera was in my back pocket to avoid detection, even though, as I suspected, the battery was low. I missed my stupid camera that took AA batteries; with a low lithium batter pack, you have no recourse! You're just screwed! Dammit.
I showed my ID. It was a 21-and-up show, which excluded the baby teenagers who were barely fetuses when Dookie came out. I was patted down, and they found no weapons or drug paraphernalia. I paid my twenty damn bucks, and, boom, I was IN.
I GOT INTO THE GREEN DAY SECRET SHOW.
Inside, I high-fived Metta, who had been very anxious and afraid we wouldn't get in, despite my assurances. She and Rob and Zack had gone to the Fox show the night before, so it would have not been as big a loss for them as it would have been for me, who had never seen Green Day live before. The entrance put us in the narrow bar area; we made our way to the stage, which was tiny, as Caitlin—whom I never saw again—had said. I mean, the stage and accompanying room was about as wide as my apartment. Maybe not as wide. There was a balcony up top.
Metta took a place by a table in the wall. Zack and Rob joined us soon after. It was not going to be a good day for our personal space. They left to get drinks, however, and the empty space was filled by several other girls and boys. Zack and Rob took their spots back, however.
One of the girls was a hot, bitchy-looking blonde. She turned out to be a hot, bitchy blonde. "You've got a Wolverine thing going with that hair," she said to Rob.
"No one has told me that," said Rob, "today." He asked if she played some sport, I forget, and she said she played lacrosse. "I'm not a nice girl," she declared.
Later on: "Hair!" she addressed Rob. "What's your name?" Rob. Her name was Zorian(n)a. But we'll call her Syriana, since that's what I thought she said at first.
She left to get drinks or something, and her friend Anne-Marie saved the space with her arm. Zack and I joined in, extending our arms to the table to protect the space not taken up by anyone yet. Anne-Marie thanked us for helping. When Syriana returned, she did not.
Syriana believed your personal space was her personal space and that, by God, it was an honor and a privilege to be touched by her. She was rubbing up against me, dancing to the warm-up music, not because she fancied me in any way but because I was not insubstantial and my matter happened to be in her way.
"You know you like it," said Anne-Marie, who was nice and not bitchy. Zack and Rob advised me to go along with it and complement her movements. I tried my best, but I'm not really comfortable in such situations. I don't want to touch too much.
In her exuberant gyrations, Syriana pushed me forward a foot or so, so I resisted and playfully pushed back with my hip. She immediately turned around and thrust a finger in my face. "Don't push back," she said. And from that moment, I had zero interest in her existence. It was good times.
Instead, I talked to Anne-Marie, for whom I volunteered to be an exit buddy, whatever that was.
She noticed me bouncing a little to "I Love Rock 'N Roll."
"You like the song?" she said, smiling as if I ought to be embarrassed to like a Joan Jett song.
"It's a good song!" I shrugged.
We waited and waited and waited some more. Every time a roadie came onstage to adjust something, there was cheering in hopes that the waiting was almost over. But no. Ten o'clock rolled around, and still nothing.
I said to Metta, "I resent that I am being forced to expend my energy dancing to music that is not by Green Day."
"At this point," Rob said, "I have spent half my week waiting for Green Day to play."
Rob joined a few others in giving the stage the finger. Zack suggested I illuminate it with my keychain flashlight, so I did, and it was funny. Then Rob asked us both to add our own fingers, so we gave the stage three middle fingers. Zack told me to hit the disco ball above, so I lit it up. My keychain flashlight was pretty damn powerful, especially in such a small, dark space.
Then Rob had a great idea. He told me to point the light at his hands.
AND THEN HE MADE SHADOW PUPPETS ON THE WALL.
It was pretty fucking hilarious, and I think some people noticed and laughed. We high-fived.
Finally, at 10:27 or so, "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" by the Ramones came on (on an obviously different sound system from the warm-up music), signifying the beginning of the show. Rob and I made some more shadow puppets during the song.
And then out came Green Day!! "Thanks for coming! Come on, bring it in," said Billie Joe, because we just weren't packed tight enough yet. I don't know how many people they actually let in; it didn't seem like 575 people would fit. Someone had said they were only letting 500 in, but even that seemed like a lot.
You may notice some guy's big honkin' head. There were three or four tall people in our vicinity, which made it hard for me to ever get a clear sightline. That sucked, honestly. To be so close and yet unable to see.
I put in my ear plugs. Or my ear plug. I had borrowed a pair from Rob earlier—or had moved closer to him when he was offering them to other people so that Metta would point out that I had moved nearer and given him a puppy dog look—but one of them must have fallen out when I had taken out my keys. Metta had a spare one from the night before, so, luckily, I was set.
And then Green Day launched into playing their entire new album, 21st Century Breakdown. (After a couple songs, Billie Joe said, "We haven't decided whether or not we're going to play the whole album. Should we play the whole thing?" Lots of cheers. So they did.)
Green Day have been rocking out for over a decade and a half, but they don't appear to have lost their energy. Billie Joe trounced around the stage lifting his guitar, and during one song, Mike stage-dived multiple times, even climbing up onto speakers on the side before jumping. They sprayed the audience with beer. I'll bet they were even crazier last century.
It's hard to judge a new album on the first listen, especially when it's live and you can't hear all the lyrics well. 21st Century Breakdown is...weird. It's this strange patchwork hybrid of their entire oeuvre, in a way. Most songs felt like they came from older albums, although they were still a little different. Oddly enough, the album it most resembled was Warning. A couple songs were very old-school and Ramones-y. A few ballad-y types. One that Zack described as the "carnie song" resembled "Misery," and to my surprise, there were two songs with that sound. I preferred the catchier, harder songs, like the new single, "Know Your Enemy," "American Eulogy" (or "Mass Hysteria" and "Modern World," if they're separate tracks) and a few others whose names I don't know. American Idiot didn't grab me at first either, but now I love it to holy hell, so who knows.
There was, of course, crazy moshing, and we had to fight to stand up straight and push back. We used the wall for support; Zack and I tried to protect Metta from being completely smushed against it. I was afraid that I would break my elbow if someone piled onto me while I was stiff-arming the wall.
Like I said, I couldn't get a good view of the band to really watch them play their instruments, but they sounded like themselves. I feel like I ought to have been more blown away or starry-eyed, given that Green Day is one of my very favorite bands, but maybe I was too tired by that point to really get into it. I was really there for the experience of it all, being here at this secret show. Seeing Green Day live is just that: it's seeing Green Day live. Any time you see a band live, it completely changes your relationship with the band and their music because it's no longer just sounds coming out of your computer or headphones: it's music played by real people. It just made me happy that they were real, you know?
During one song, Billie Joe pulled a hot redhead up to dance with him onstage. Later on, he asked us, "Did you see that girl dancing up here earlier?" She was in the front row; he asked her name. "Kat. This song's dedicated to Kat; it's about revenge."
I forget why, but at some point, he was just naming cities in California and the Bay Area for us to cheer for. "I'll even throw in Hercules," he said.
Another line: "We're playing here. Across the street is Franz Ferdinand. And Leonard Cohen is at the Paramound. That's how we do it in fucking OAKLAND!" Wooooo!
The majority of Billie Joe's stage banter, however, consists of "ARE YOU READY?" and "Heeeeey oooooh!" Come on, repeat after him, "Heeeeeey oooooh!" Come on, it's still punk rock the thirtieth time.
After they played through the new album, they left so they could come back for the encore set, which began with a song by the Buzzcocks. I think it was after that song that Billie Joe said that this was the last secret show they were doing. Good for me!
Then: "American Idiot"! Finally, a song I could sing along to.
Someone near the front asked for "Geek Stink Breath." Billie Joe was all, "You want 'Geek Stink Breath'?" He looked around at his bandmates to confirm that they could do the song. "Okay, let's do 'Geek Stink Breath.'" Then he changed his mind and wanted to do it after "Jesus of Suburbia."
"How about 'Geek of Suburbia'?" suggested Mike. "Or 'Jesus...Breath'?"
They did "Jesus of Suburbia," and it was, of course, awesome. Although it was around this time that the sound started crapping out and feedback went nuts. "Is there a lot of feedback?" Billie Joe asked. He walked around with his guitar, trying to find the source of the problem. "I think I'm the problem," he declared. "That's often the case."
They were a few seconds into "Give Me Novacaine" when they stopped. "I said I'd play 'Geek Stink Breath,'" said Billie Joe to the fan in the front. He asked for confirmation from the audience that he should play it, and he received it. According to said fan on the forums, they hadn't played that song live in seven years! So I'm special. Although I couldn't really sing along because by that time, I was parched.
After the song, Billie Joe decided that, fuck it, he'd take requests. Various shouting. I was too self-conscious to yell something out since I'm not a superfan and don't know what would be "cool" for everyone to hear live or what they always play so it's not special. For the record, my first thought was to yell, "'Platypus'!" And then I remembered that, hey, "Reject" is my theme song. But I kept my mouth shut.
"'86'?" said Billie Joe. He would go for that; apparently he was in an Insomniac mood. Except he started the song and then stopped a few seconds later because he couldn't remember the fucking song. "Hey, you try writing more songs than John Lennon!" he said. After a few comments from the audience, he said, "I didn't say they were good."
He asked for some more requests. Someone suggested "Brain Stew." "'Brain Stew'? Nah." He'd probably played that a million times already. I couldn't even hear what all the requests were, but Billie Joe apparently didn't like any of them and declared, "You're wrong! You're all wrong! Fuck it, I'm just gonna play 'Novacaine.'" So he did, which was fine, since I love that song.
Next, they started to play some song and then stopped again. "I can play 30 seconds of any song," Billie Joe said. He again solicited requests, this time for covers. I had no idea what would be a good suggestion. "Cheap Trick?" he said. "We can do Cheap Trick. But it's going to be a medley. A Midwest Medley. Because the Midwest is the best." Booooo! And then he went into this hilarious list of all the great bands from the Midwest, which I think started out accurate but then became suspect. "The Beatles. Were from Oklahoma." In any case, they did "Surrender," but I don't recall a medley.
Then they took us back with "Basket Case"! Every person in the club knew the words, and we were all singing along such that, as bands are wont to do, they cut out on the second "It all keeps adding up, I think I'm cracking up" for us to sing a cappella.
Then came "King for a Day," always a fun song.
Followed by..."Shout." Which someone caught on video! The video includes the immortal line, "Who the fuck wears fucking Nikes?" The video does not include, however, the random cracked-out assortment of songs Billie Joe sang in the middle. Which ranged from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to Elvis to "California, Here We Come" to a showtune. It was a very strange medley, but it's the sort of fun shit you only get at concerts.
The closer was "Minority." At one point during the song, he said, "Stop. Stop stop stop," and the band stopped. He addressed someone in the front. "Watch your fucking hands. She's just trying to get through. Watch your fucking hands, man." Aw, Billie Joe, looking out for the ladies. They went back into the song right where they left off.
"Tre Cool, ladies and gentlemen!" He singled him out twice during the show but never introduced himself, Mike, or the band ("WE ARE
And then the show was over! It was Green Day in a tiny little club! Holy fucking shitballs, you guys!
I took out my ear plugs and was amazed at how loud everything was. Zack said I'd be deaf the next day if I hadn't had them in.
We went out to the back so Metta and Zack could have a smoke. Even with all the smokers, fresh air was welcome. I had been unable to get a sip of water from anyone. One girl just shook her head for whatever reason, and another was sick. She had been taking notes; she was a journalist or something, writing up the show for something.
Metta had talked to her a bit and told us that she actually wrote for a British magazine.
Amusingly, she was not actually familiar with Green Day, and she asked for Metta's help in identifying songs. And she wondered why no one was singing along to the first set. Well, because most of us had never heard the songs before! She'd left during the "Shout" medley.
I asked them how the show compared to the show at the Fox Theatre, which had been taped and was a whole big spectacle with programs and stuff. Rob said they played a lot better the night before. Metta said last night had been more polished, and tonight's show was more raw, so she preferred it. Zack thought last night's show was better. Rob liked the first set better last night but the second set better tonight because it was more spontaneous and unique with the audience interaction, and he had to give an edge to that once-in-a-lifetime shit.
We were beat, so we made our way to the exit. Outside, a guy passed by me and said, "We think you have a cool shirt." We? Who's we? ARE YOU A REPRESENTATIVE OF GREEN DAY? I had no idea who he was, but he and at least one other person thought I had a cool shirt and thought it necessary to inform me of this fact! Aw.
I shook hands with Rob and Metta and said it was nice to meet them. I think Rob said something like "Stay cool" or something in that vein, which was nice. And then Zack drove me home. It was a little after 1.
Today at work, Capitulation said I was in a good mood. She could tell because I was talking a lot. "You know why I'm apparently in a good mood?" I said. "I saw Green Day last night."