March 10th, 2017. Orlando International Airport. 6:00am.
I checked in to my flight the previous morning. I was on my way to Atlanta, GA from Orlando, FL. I had never been to “Hotlanta” before. I also had never used frequent flyer miles – or in this case, Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards points – to take a flight essentially for free. For less than $10 in fees I was in the air. The journey wasn’t long as I was originating from only one state away. This wasn’t just a trip to a new place for the sake of travel. No, my friends, this was a trip to a new place for the sake of seeing my favorite band of all time perform. Green Day. But let’s backtrack a bit…
It was in August of last year when the band first announced their newest album – Revolution Radio – for release that October, which of course included a tour to support it. At the time that the tour was announced there were no dates taking place anywhere in the state of Florida. The closest stop to me on the Spring 2017 leg of the tour was in Duluth, GA… just outside of Atlanta. So when tickets when on sale in January, I joined the official fan club – lovingly known as the Idiot Nation – and got a ticket for the Duluth show when it went on pre-sale. The travel arrangements were a bit unique as I do not have a driver’s license – or any driving experience at that point – so I was flying in but riding as a passenger back home. My roommate at the time was participating in her last day of an internship at a school to earn her bachelor’s degree in the education field. She wasn’t getting out of class until around 4 in the afternoon. If I would’ve ridden up with her I never would’ve made it to the show in time. So I would fly in and she would drive up after class and meet me after the show ended, then we would check into a hotel for a couple of nights before making the drive back home to Florida.
I land at ATL, the main airport for Atlanta. I catch an Uber directly to the venue. My Uber driver was this really nice lady. The ride from the airport to the venue was about an hour so we had time to talk. I was telling her about my traveling from Florida to see my favorite band. When she asked who it was, I proudly proclaimed “Green Day.” Her voice and face then lit up as she was explaining that she used to love them back in the ’90s when she was in high school and going into college. This Uber ride was fate… it had to be. It was also my first time using the ride sharing service. After a few minutes of me telling her how this would be my second time seeing them since I first saw them back in Orlando in 2009, I started talking about the new album. She asked me if I had it on my iPhone, which of course I did. I told her that and without hesitation she holds up the auxiliary cable connected to her car’s stereo and asks “Can we aux it?” This confirmed that this particular “hitched ride” was fate. For the rest of the ride to the venue we blasted the album, getting almost all the way through it thanks to the Atlanta traffic.
I got to the venue a little after 8:00am. There was a handful of folks already in front of the Infinite Energy Center. One guy, presumably the first person to actually show up before the sun rose, was offering to number those who continued to arrive by way of numbering their hands with a sharpie marker. I believe I was in the low 20’s if I remember correctly. The venue security had earlier stopped by and informed those who were camped out that they would not allow anyone to line up before noon. We waited anyway. All rebellious and shit. Eventually as more and more “idiots” began to form a larger group of bodies in front of the venue, security came back around and enforced the policy. They said we were fine to wait about 20 feet away in the parking lot, but not on the actual premises of the venue itself. So, annoyed and disheartened, the fans did just that. Some went back to their cars to wait, while others – most of them – set up camp in the parking lot across the way.
I’m rather socially awkward and a bit shy in person, and I had no vehicle to return to since I was from out of town and took an Uber. I also hadn’t eaten anything all morning. So I decided to kill some time by walking across the street to a Panera Bread spot. I got my usual, half of a turkey bacon bravo sandwich and half a bowl of their delicious broccoli cheddar soup. Along with a cup of Mountain Dew, I devoured my meal and headed back to the parking lot of the venue. More fans had gathered. Before long it was noon. The security informed us of it being time that we can go ahead and form a line at the doors. We all followed instruction and safely crossed the street from the parking lot to the venue where we once were all camped out. By now there were far more fans to the point of the previous numbering system was out the window. However, when you’re in line all day for your favorite band with like-minded fans, you’re really just at a family reunion with people you’re meeting for the first time.
The doors didn’t open until 7:00pm, with the opener – Against Me! – taking the stage at 8:00pm for a 30 minute set that was packed to the brim with punk rock songs spanning their entire catalog. As frontwoman Laura Jane Grace promised the crowd before Against Me! began to play, they played “as much punk rock music in 30 minutes as humanly possible.” It was a perfect punk rock primer to get the Green Day crowd riled up for their punk rock idols. As with every Green Day show on their recent tours, thousands of fans sang along to Queen’s masterpiece “Bohemian Rhapsody”, then original punk rockers The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” along with the infamously drunk, and pink bunny who adorned the stage albeit staggeringly so to get the crowd one final push over the edge before we hear the theme to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as the band took the stage.
The next two and a half hours were packed with 28 songs from Green Days eclectic catalog. Ranging from songs of their early underground days to hits from Revolution Radio and many songs in between. As always with a Green Day show – and how I always explain it to anyone who never has had the absolute pleasure of attending one – it is not a concert but a fucking party. Complete with some surprise fans-on-stage interactions that usually end in enthusiastically terrifying stage dives. That’s why I’m writing this series of blog posts. At this particular show strangers became friends, and fellow idiots became part of the ever-growing Green Day fan family. With the opening of their set, Green Day played their hit “Know Your Enemy” from their 2009 album, 21st Century Breakdown. During this song, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong began his hunt through the pit of fans going ape shit to find someone to come up on stage to help sing the song. A fellow Florida resident, Danielle, was chosen. Danielle and Billie shared the same moments of enthusiasm and laughter as the pyrotechnics synced with the beating of drummer Tré Cool’s drums went off. Upon nearing the final chords of the song Billie Joe instructed the crowd at the end of the catwalk to prepare for Danielle’s inevitable stage dive. She put on a brave face, was ready, set, and off she went with grace. The crowd obliged to Billie’s previous instruction and caught her with ease.
Later in the set came time that everyone with a pit ticket and any musical inclination, and… knowledge… of how Green Day concerts go anticipate for most of the night. Another fan-on-stage interaction. This time the lucky soul who went crazy enough, and – thanks to her bright blue hair – stood out from the rest of the crowd was Kade, a contributing writer over at the site Concert Hopper. This interaction wasn’t for a sing-a-long moment like Danielle’s (and earlier a young man who got to sing Green Day’s hit song Longview). No, this was to play guitar. Yes, that’s right. Billie Joe and crew actually pick a random folk out of the crowd to come up and jam to the Operation Ivy song “Knowledge”… which, for all intents and purposes, is a fairly simple three chord song. Even if you haven’t picked up a guitar in years – or ever – Billie instructs the fan on where to place their fingers with the three basic power chords that repeat for the entirety of the song. Kade fucking rocked the shit out of that song.
Be sure to check out her pieces over at Concert Hopper as she is as good of a writer about music as she is a fucking rock star! Not only did she get to jam with Green Day, but she got to keep the guitar. Not only did she get to keep the guitar, but it was signed by Billie, Mike, and Tré too! So you now may be asking yourself what the fuck is this a prologue to, exactly? Well now that I’ve gotten a bit of that concert experience out of the way, I would like to introduce to you the main focus of the rest of the “Riding in Vans with Idiots” series of posts that will be happening over the next few weeks. Billie Joe once said something along the lines of September somehow always ends up being a bad month for a lot of people. 2017 is a completely different story, folks. This September, next month for those keeping track, will be one hell of a Green Day party. Danielle of “Know Your Enemy” fame has organized a get together of sorts where a few of us from the show will be crashing at her place for the week of September 2nd – 6th. We are calling it a “Green Day Slumber Party.” Green Day is actually coming to Florida for the second leg of their North American summer tour in support of Revolution Radio and they are actually hitting both coasts. The first show takes place at the (newly named) Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, FL on September 3rd. The second show is at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, FL on September 5th. The plan is to rent a 15-passenger van and follow the band from the home base in Orlando to both coasts to see both shows. I’ve already got my tickets purchased. Unfortunately I’ll be on the lawn for the first show, but I’m sure I’ll still have the time of my life… pun intended. Then for Tampa I was able to afford a pit ticket. There will be more posts in this series as the days draw nearer and of course reviews of each show and the shenanigans (also pun intended) that will undoubtedly take place between them. Stay tuned for more “Riding in Vans with Idiots!”