Saturday, October 8, 2016

Down at the Rock N Roll Club

There's a great documentary called The Other F Word that chronicles prominent punk musicians (which I know is probably an oxymoron) as they navigate the world of fatherhood. Matt Freeman and Lars Frederikson from Rancid, the lead singer of Everclear, one of the Blink-182 guys, Tony Hawk, and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo and musical score fame are some of the dads featured. I saw this documentary a few years ago on Showtime (of all places). It's a great documentary for many reasons: some of these guys came from single parent homes (mostly raised by mothers) or dealt with abusive or absent fathers and their music is an output of those experiences. Aggression, anger, and pain fuel some of their best songs. Then add their own entry into fatherhood into the mix and it's fascinating to see each one deal with having children and what that means as a punk. I can't remember if it's Tony Adolescent from the band The Adolescents or someone else, but I remember a part of the movie where one of the guys talks about having to decide on curfews and rules knowing that A. he had none of those things and B. he did a lot stupid and illegal things when he was kids' ages. Was he being a good parent, a narc, or something else entirely?

This particular documentary popped into my head as I was standing in line and later standing in the 9:30 Club waiting for the Green Day show to start. I go to a lot of concerts; it's one of my favorite things to do. The types of bands I go see tend to be the types of bands that have fans of all ages. Some of that is the appeal of their music; some of it is younger people coming to see bands they like that their parents introduced them to and they get to share in the concert experience. I think the last time I was at a show with only people my own age was The Strokes show I went to in Honolulu in 2002. That might have had more to do with the venue than anything else; it was at a hidden club in an office park that is popular for karaoke when live bands aren't playing. I half wonder if some random business men wandered in for karaoke and instead stumbled on to an unimpressed Julian Casablancas singing some songs.

But I digress.

Anyway, I was surrounded by all ages both outside in line and once I settled into my spot in the standing room only club. When I go to the 9:30 Club I always stand in the back by the sound booth. This is the best place to stand because no one is behind me to push me forward and I can lean on the booth (very important when standing for four or more hours). The only "problem" with this spot is late comers always stand right in front of me and then I have to wait until they decide to worm their way forward to get out of my line of vision. To my right were two friends, a boy and a girl, in their early twenties who, as far as I could tell, should be dating but are not because they're very good friends but I could see that the dude is super into the girl. I also learned that they're Green Day fanatics and knew all the words and danced liked no one/everyone was watching. Also, we were all wearing the same shoes (as were most of the people in the audience). On my left, at first it was a couple, around my age who were possibly on a date night away from their children. They did not seem like a couple who would be into Green Day but I then remembered they were in high school in 1994, the last time Green Day played at the 9:30 Club so they are exactly the type of people who would be Green Day fans. A little while later they would be joined by an older gentleman, maybe in his late 50s or early 60s. I'm pretty certain he picked standing next to me as a choice since A. people have a hard time determining how old I am so that B. if he hit one me, it would be with an appropriately younger woman rather than a teenager. This is how rock show logic works.

To the front - a sea of humanity, spanning from a dude my dad's age wearing an Offspring t-shirt to a smattering of children in their early teens to the legion of people in the early to mid-30s who were probably all thinking to themselves "my feet are going to hurt so bad tomorrow and I have to go to work, but fuck it all, I want to rock out at the Green Day show!" There were a surprising number of people I will describe as "business men" (you know what I mean). I have no idea if they were there from work or were in some way connected to the bands. They spent the show looking official and out of place even as they got into songs. It was strange. My favorites where the kids, mostly around 12 or 13, accompanied by their parents who were wearing Green Day shirts from the 90s. One of the kids, the one who made it on stage to sing the last verse of "Longview", looked like a mini Billy Joe Armstrong. He did an epic stage dive and crowd surfed his way back to where his mom was waiting for him (not joking about any of this). Another kid I saw in line could have been Joey Ramone's little brother. There were a couple of kids in the upstairs section who looked in awe of what was going on around them; I'm guessing it was their first concert. It's the multi-generational nature of shows like this that make me a proud rock fan.

I can say, hands down, this is one of the best concerts I've ever been to. Part of it was the venue; the 9:30 Club is small and intimate. I think its capacity is around 1200 for standing shows and the Green Day show sold out in a record five minutes. I was one of those people who logged on at 8:30 in the morning the day the tickets went on sale. When I refreshed at 10 am, I had my ticket in 2 minutes. Apparently, I'm the only one who had that experience (sorry guys who didn't get tickets...but not really). This was my first Green Day show and I don't know if I can ever see them again after this. The opening act, Dog Party, was great. For the Riot Grrl in me, they were the perfect start to the evening. A few minutes before Green Day was set to start, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" started playing and incited an epic audience singalong for the entirety of the song. If you've never been in a rock club with a thousand of your closest friends singing along to this song, you have not lived. This was followed by The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" and a person in a bunny suit taunting the audience and getting everyone ready for the big show.

Green Day hit the stage and started with "Know Your Enemy" off of my favorite of their albums (although not my first Green Day album) American Idiot. I've been obsessed with this album since it came out and love the Broadway musical version equally. It was one of those albums that was so timely when it was released and has remained so, especially if you think of where we are now in the current election cycle. I've been in some very enthusiastic crowds at concerts but never anything like this. The energy, both from the band and the audience, was on from the start and never stopped even through a few songs from the new album people weren't as familiar with (because the new album came out four days after this concert). A big part of this is the band; they have the energy of a band half their age and enjoy performing. They're talented and still have that mischievous quality about them that made Green Day famous (and/or makes them sellouts depending on which camp you belong to). The look on the kid's face when Billie Joe Armstrong told him to stage dive was amazing; that kid will never forget that moment. He'll probably start a band if he hasn't already.

I could feel the music. You know when you go to a concert and you can actually feel the music? Like the drums hit you in the sternum and the bass sits in your stomach and the rest of it takes over and your totally immersed in each song? That was what this concert was like. None of it is because the music is loud but it's because you know the songs and the band and the fans. It's because each person is part of the creating the moment of that show. I wrote a scene much like this at the end of novel (the one that is almost done and I hope to soon self-publish). As I leaned back against the booth in a quieter moment (not many of these throughout the evening), I realized how right I got that scene. There is, in that time before a band comes on stage or in the silence between songs, a second where the crowd relaxes, regroups after dancing or moshing around, and then sucks in a collective breath and waits for the next song to burst into the world. When it does, the organized chaos of a rock concert continues and no one can help but get swept up in the moment.

We weren't supposed to take pictures but I snuck one. I'd say I'm sorry but I'm not since there were people filming the show who shouldn't have been. Green Day will have to forgive us all.

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